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

A dissertation on pus

A dissertation on pusIn 1785 the great English surgeon John Hunter and his Scottish colleague George Fordyce set up a medical society, the Lyceum Medicum Londinense.  Its members met every fortnight in Hunter’s anatomical theatre, and the rules were fearsome: attendance was compulsory, every member present was obliged to present a paper, and there were fines for arriving late or leaving early.… Read more

Centipedes in your bacon

Millipedes discharged from the human stomachSome truly bizarre goings-on were reported at the Exeter meeting of the Provincial Surgical and Medical Association in 1842.  A Dr Davis, of Presteign, made this report:

A boy, fifteen years of age, the son of a labourer named Griffiths, living in the village of Bucknill, near Knighton, had for some months complained of pain in his stomach, which did Read more

Catching a disease through an electric wire

Galvanic operationHere’s something to get unnecessarily worried about: apparently it’s possible to catch a disease through an electric wire!

As reported in the Medico-Chirurgical Review for 1833, a doctor treating a patient for a persistent case of ague (malaria) decided to try the fashionable galvanic therapy.  This entailed a regular course of electric shocks administered to the patient’s body.

The Read more

In event of drowning, blow smoke up bottom

Advice for treating the drownedSamuel Auguste André David Tissot was an eminent Swiss physician of the eighteenth century, best known as the author of one of the firstTreatise on Onanism scholarly studies of migraine, and for his much-cited work on the evils of masturbation, L’Onanisme.

In 1761 he published Avis au Peuple sur sa Santé, a little book aimed at the general public and … Read more

The Swiss disease

News of a strange malady, unique to the inhabitants of a single country, comes from the edition of The Medical Museum for 1764:

The Swiss are subject to a disorder, which is called by some Nostology, by others Nostomany, and by some again Philopatridomany.  

As any medic with a working knowledge of ancient Greek will tell you, ‘philopatridomany’ means ‘ardent … Read more

Death of a 152-year-old (or was he?)

HarveyWilliam Harvey is deservedly one of the most famous physicians who ever lived.  His demonstration that the heart is a pump which circulates blood throughout the body was a triumph of early modern science, a discovery that revolutionised medicine.

In addition to De Motu Cordis, the treatise in which he details the sophisticated experiments and subtle reasoning that led … Read more

The combustible countess

Spontaneous human combustion became a fashionable topic in the early nineteenth century, when a number of sensational presumed cases were reported in the popular press.  Charles Dickens even killed off Krook, the alcoholic rag dealer in Bleak House, in this manner.

BH combustion

Sometimes the body of the victim was the only thing that had been burnt, suggesting that the combustion … Read more

At least it got rid of the tapeworm…

head injuryOn the 14th of May, 1867, Dr Jewett of Summit County, Ohio, was called to see Joel Lenn, 27, a French coal miner, who had suffered a serious injury.

While blasting coal in the works of Messrs. Cross & Payne, near this village, the blasting barrel (a 5/8 inch gas pipe four feet in length) struck him near the external Read more