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

A fatal nose job

This dramatic headline from an early edition of The Lancet caught my eye:rhino

It’s a great illustration of the changing nature of surgical risk.  If today a patient died after having a nose job, it would probably be on the front page of the newspapers; death is not an expected complication of a nose reconstruction.  But 1827 was a very … Read more

Roger ‘two urinals’ Clerk

How quacks were treated in the fourteenth centuryIn 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 Clerk professed to be Read more

The mystery of the poisonous cheese

poisoning with cheeseIn 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. in Plymouth, Litchfield county, Conn. Read more

Nutmegs is the best spice for students

HavenIn 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 well as their nutritional … Read more

The supernumerary leg

Before the advent of antenatal screening, birth abnormalities were far commoner than they are today.  Early medical journals had a particular fascination with these ‘monstrosities’, printing regular reports of children born without limbs or with anomalous or absent internal organs.  Reading these reports today, there is often little sense that they were printed for any inherent scientific interest, but to … Read more

Monsieur Mangetout

Account of a man who eats large quantities of raw fleshMedical journals usually pride themselves on presenting cutting-edge research, but in 1851 The Medical Examiner reported a case which was already half a century old.  It’s not clear what they thought it added to contemporary scholarship, but it’s certainly a good story.

Charles Demery, a native of Benche, on the frontiers of Poland, aged 21, was brought to the prison Read more