Lively and clean on the palate

Report on cheap wineIn 1865 the Medical Times and Gazette published a series of articles entitled ‘Report on cheap wine’.  There was some concern that the increasing availability of inexpensive wines and spirits was not simply due to increased supply, but that unscrupulous producers were cutting corners or selling counterfeit goods, with serious implications for public health.  A ‘Special Empirical Commissioner’ – today … Read more

The child with Bonaparte in his eyes

Child with Napoleon Bonaparte written in his irisAt least twice a year one or other of the newspapers prints a story about one of those mysterious apparitions in which the likeness of Jesus is burnt on to a piece of toast, or can be seen (if you squint) in the seeds of a watermelon.  In 1828 the London Medical Gazette reported a strange Napoleonic equivalent – thirteen … Read more

An exercise in futility

The steam carriageThis blog usually deals with medical matters; but I couldn’t resist reproducing this article from the first number of the American Medical and Philosophical Register, published in 1814, even though it was contributed to the non-medical section of the journal. An engineer called James Sharples – holder of a patent relating to steam engines – contributed an essay about … Read more

Sand, to be taken twice daily

The use of sandThe Annals of Medicine for 1799 contains a letter from a Dr Guthrie, an Scottish physician then working in St Petersburg.  At the invitation of the journal’s editor, he related a series of interesting cases he had encountered in his practice there.  One of them came from a former housemaid, who had visited his study to tell of a simple … Read more

The perils of toast

An account of the extraction of a foreign body from the rectumA cautionary tale from the Medical Facts and Observations, published in 1795:

On Tuesday, the 25th of March last, a French gentleman was sent to me by an Apothecary in this neighbourhood, complaining of a pungent, hot, and irritating sensation in the rectum ; which was considerably augmented during every evacuation per anum. These painful symptoms had commenced on Read more

Hard to stomach

Hospital reportsIn 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 on the preceding Read more

Heal thyself

Dr Lower's remediesA curious book of remedies was published in London in 1700, entitled Dr. Lower’s, and several other Eminent Physicians, Receipts, Containing the Best and Safest Method for Curing Most Disease in Human Bodies.  It was aimed at those without easy access to medical services – a compilation of home remedies which could be prepared by those without any pharmacological expertise.  … Read more