Hard to stomach

In 1823 The Lancet’s regular summary of goings-on at the London hospitals contained this interesting report of an early public demonstration of the stomach pump.  The experiment documented here took place at Guy’s Hospital: Friday, Nov. 21. At half past one o’clock the operating theatre was crowded to excess, in consequence of its having been stated … Continue reading Hard to stomach

The bird and the bees

In August 1868 the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting in Norwich.  One of the members invited to present a paper was Lydia Becker, an amateur astronomer and botanist; among her accomplishments she could count a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society and the respect of Charles Darwin, with … Continue reading The bird and the bees

Roger ‘two urinals’ Clerk

In 1868 the Corporation of London published a slim volume entitled Memorials of London and London Life in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries.  It contained extracts from the archives of the City of London.  An editor at The Lancet read it, and found an anecdote which remained topical, half a millennium later: One Roger … Continue reading Roger ‘two urinals’ Clerk

The mystery of the poisonous cheese

In 1835 the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal published a series of articles about cheese.  For several months New England residents had been falling ill after consuming the delicious comestible, and nobody knew why.  A Dr Alcott contributed this account of one such outbreak: At the raising of a building belonging to Seth Thomas, Esq. … Continue reading The mystery of the poisonous cheese

Nutmegs is the best spice for students

In 1584 the Tudor physician Thomas Cogan published The Haven of Health, a guide to maintaining health primarily aimed at the student.  The bulk of the book concerns food and the diet, working its way systematically through different types of meat, vegetable, fruit, herbs and spices – and paying attention to their medicinal properties as … Continue reading Nutmegs is the best spice for students