The human pincushion

HIstory of a patient from whom four hundred needles were extracted

This extraordinary tale appeared in The Medico-Chirurgical Review in 1825:

Rachel Hertz had lived in the enjoyment of good health up to her fourteenth year; she was then of a fair complexion, and rather of the sanguineous temperament. In August 1807, she was seized with a violent attack of cholic, which induced her to apply to Professor Hecholdt, and this Read more

Cycling will give you heart disease

Cycling as a cause of heart diseaseMarch 1895, and in the pages of The Lancet, Dr George Herschell is worried.  Very worried.

Cycling, rationally pursued, is one of the most health-giving forms of amusement; but when indulged in to excess, or under improper conditions, one of the most pernicious. I have been led to choose this subject for my paper from the fact that my Read more

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