The worm: a horror story

Sometimes in early medical journals a case history begins conventionally enough, before turning into something startlingly unexpected.  This is from Medical Essays and Observations, 1782:

In February last a young Man was wounded in a Duel with a small Sword, which entred about four Inches below the right Nipple, and a little towards the Back; by probing the Wound, Read more

Curing conjunctivitis with frogspawn

Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689) was one of the most celebrated English physicians of the seventeenth century.  His Observationes Medicae (Medical Observations, 1676) contains a chapter which – perhaps optimistically – is entitled ‘Complete Methods of Curing Most Diseases’.  This is his remedy for conjunctivitis:

Take ten ounces of blood from the arm, and next day exhibit my common purging Read more

Fishing line and marine sponges: the operating theatre of 1888

In 1888 the great American surgeon Rudolph Matas saved the life of a patient who had been shot in the arm.  The operation was a significant moment in the evolution of vascular surgery, since it introduced an entirely new technique for dealing with aneurysm – a condition in which an artery wall is weakened and balloons outwards.

What astonishes me … Read more

That’s one way to give up smoking

The museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, in Dublin, contains the picture of a man whose face was eaten away by a pig, while he was lying in a state of intoxication.  The entire nose, both cheeks, and parts of both ears, in fact, all the most eatable parts of his face, were chewed off by the animal; nevertheless, Read more

Dear oh dear

In 1829 a fifty-year-old labourer, John Marsh, was knocked down and run over by a cart laden with bricks.  He was conveyed to Winchester County Hospital, where the doctor who examined him recorded that

his scrotum, on inspection, was found to be of most enormous size, extending two thirds downwards between the thighs, and measuring in circumference seventeen inches; its Read more

The child that cried in the womb

Remarkable news reaches The Medico-Chirurgical Review (June 1822) from Prussia: 

Crying of the Foetus in Utero.  A lady, during pregnancy, had experienced some distresses of mind, and had had several discharges of the liquor amnii.  In the eighth month of pregnancy while in bed, and while several of her friends and relations were supping in her bed-room, the cries of Read more

Wrong

The Athenaeum tries a spot of prognostication in 1854:

If we may judge by our library table, homoeopathy is not in 1854 what it was in 1851.  However frequently new delusions arise to occupy the human mind, there is a sure and  inevitable law by which the old ones die.

Homoeopathy is evidently hastening towards that limbo of forgetfulness into Read more

Injured by the imagination

imagination

Forget drinking in pregnancy; here’s something far more dangerous.  From the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1695:

A lady was delivered of a girl, with a wound in her breast, above 4 fingers long, extended obliquely downwards, over the whole breast.  I found not only the wound outwardly in the skin, but after a nearer examination, I perceived Read more

Skipping-ropes: the silent killer

April 29th, 1905, and the ‘Minor Comments’ section of the Journal of the American Medical Association has a stark warning:

Skipping rope

Even among the apparently milder forms of children’s athletics there are some that are capable of producing injury or are even deadly at times.  The newspapers have recently reported the death from heart failure of three children in a skipping-rope Read more

A case of hiccups

Hiccups

Towards the end of May 1797 Miss A.B., a young woman from the Isle of Man, was afflicted by a particularly tenacious bout of hiccups.  It sounded

like the panting which occurs after violent exercise, or like an aspirate pronunciation of the interjection Ha!  The pulse, respiration and speech were not in the least disturbed….It was very loud at times, Read more