The guillotine – life after death?

On the probable sensations of the head after being severed from the bodyIn 1799, as the French Revolution entered its final phase and Napoleon prepared to seize power, European medics engaged in a pertinent debate.  The Medical and Physical Journal reports:

Among other singular questions lately agitated in France and Germany, the following is not the least curious: Whether the separated head of a person suffering on the scaffold be still, for Read more

The woman who could smell with her feet

Case of catalepsy with transposition of the sensesNews of a curious case reaches London from France:

Mademoiselle Melanie had enjoyed good health up to the age of twenty-one, when she began to suffer from dry cough, with pain in the chest and headache; in January, 1841, she was attacked by pleurisy of the right side, and since then has continued to suffer from pain in that region.Read more

Spiders in her eyes

Case of spiders discharged from the eyesA previous post about the boy who vomited millipedes proved surprisingly popular – so when I came across this tale of a girl who cried spiders it seemed too good to waste.

On February 5th 1840, Dr Lopez, a physician from Mobile, Alabama, visited a young woman in Charleston.  The previous week she had been staying with friends in … Read more

Breaking news: swallowing knives is bad for you

Account of a man who lived ten years after swallowing a number of claspknivesCompulsive swallowers have always featured heavily in medical literature.  There are numerous cases in 19th-century journals – but most of the individuals concerned were obviously suffering from some kind of mental illness.  This, from the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions for 1823, is the first I’ve come across in which the patient was swallowing knives for a laugh.

In the month Read more

The petrol cocktail: a cure for cholera

Petrol in treatment of choleraOn September 22nd 1846, Dr James Tunstall of Bath wrote to Sir Charles Napier, the Governor of Scinde (then part of the Raj; now Sindh Province in Pakistan).  The province had been suffering from an epidemic of cholera, and Dr Tunstall believed he could help:

Sir -The alarming fatality that has attended the progress of the cholera morbus in Read more

Smoking’s good for you – as long as you’re a priest

The editor of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal surely had no idea of the furore that he was provoking in March 1839 when he published an inoffensive little article about parish priests: 

Impaired voice in clergymen

Within less than twenty years a new disease has been developed in this country, which is almost exclusively confined to parish ministers. It is a loss of Read more

Why children should never wear hats

Catechism of health title pageI recently came across a charming little medical book aimed at children, and first published in Germany in the 18th century. Its author, Bernhard Christoph Faust, was personal physician to an obscure German nobleman, the Count of Schaumburg-Lippe in lower Saxony. In 1792 he published Catechism of Health, a short work which uses the question-and-answer form of the Christian … Read more

Busted! A medical plagiarist exposed

The index for Volume 5 of The Lancet, published in 1824, contains this intriguing entry:

piracy

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 Lancet?  ‘Simon Pure’ … Read more

A painful way to ‘cure’ a stammer

Operation to cure a stammerOn 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, he protrudes his tongue, Read more