Busted! A medical plagiarist exposed

The index for Volume 5 of The Lancet, published in 1824, contains this intriguing entry: Indexes are not often used to pursue feuds, but the story behind this entry was a bitter rivalry which lasted for several years.  So who was ‘Simon Pure’, and why had he aroused the wrath of the editor of The … Continue reading Busted! A medical plagiarist exposed

A painful way to ‘cure’ a stammer

On April 1st 1841 Thomas Young, a labourer at a forge, walked into the Metropolitan Free Hospital in London and asked to be cured of his stutter.  Now aged 21, he had been unable to articulate clearly since early childhood.  Dr Bennet Lucas, who examined him, noted that when he attempts to pronounce any word, … Continue reading A painful way to ‘cure’ a stammer

A dissertation on pus

In 1785 the great English surgeon John Hunter and his Scottish colleague George Fordyce set up a medical society, the Lyceum Medicum Londinense.  Its members met every fortnight in Hunter’s anatomical theatre, and the rules were fearsome: attendance was compulsory, every member present was obliged to present a paper, and there were fines for arriving … Continue reading A dissertation on pus

Centipedes in your bacon

Some truly bizarre goings-on were reported at the Exeter meeting of the Provincial Surgical and Medical Association in 1842.  A Dr Davis, of Presteign, made this report: A boy, fifteen years of age, the son of a labourer named Griffiths, living in the village of Bucknill, near Knighton, had for some months complained of pain … Continue reading Centipedes in your bacon

Catching a disease through an electric wire

Here’s something to get unnecessarily worried about: apparently it’s possible to catch a disease through an electric wire! As reported in the Medico-Chirurgical Review for 1833, a doctor treating a patient for a persistent case of ague (malaria) decided to try the fashionable galvanic therapy.  This entailed a regular course of electric shocks administered to … Continue reading Catching a disease through an electric wire

In event of drowning, blow smoke up bottom

Samuel Auguste André David Tissot was an eminent Swiss physician of the eighteenth century, best known as the author of one of the first scholarly studies of migraine, and for his much-cited work on the evils of masturbation, L’Onanisme. In 1761 he published Avis au Peuple sur sa Santé, a little book aimed at the … Continue reading In event of drowning, blow smoke up bottom

Death of a 152-year-old (or was he?)

William Harvey is deservedly one of the most famous physicians who ever lived.  His demonstration that the heart is a pump which circulates blood throughout the body was a triumph of early modern science, a discovery that revolutionised medicine. In addition to De Motu Cordis, the treatise in which he details the sophisticated experiments and … Continue reading Death of a 152-year-old (or was he?)

The combustible countess

Spontaneous human combustion became a fashionable topic in the early nineteenth century, when a number of sensational presumed cases were reported in the popular press.  Charles Dickens even killed off Krook, the alcoholic rag dealer in Bleak House, in this manner. Sometimes the body of the victim was the only thing that had been burnt, … Continue reading The combustible countess

At least it got rid of the tapeworm…

On the 14th of May, 1867, Dr Jewett of Summit County, Ohio, was called to see Joel Lenn, 27, a French coal miner, who had suffered a serious injury. While blasting coal in the works of Messrs. Cross & Payne, near this village, the blasting barrel (a 5/8 inch gas pipe four feet in length) … Continue reading At least it got rid of the tapeworm…