Mass delusions

Observations on scurvyAn article published in The Lancet in 1848 contains a remarkable and early example of the power of the placebo effect.  James Turnbull, a doctor at the Liverpool Northern Hospital, wrote an article about the history and effects of scurvy, the condition caused by a lack of vitamin C, for many centuries the scourge of sailors. It includes this gem:… Read more

Champagne ad libitum

Morning sickness is a common affliction which affects the majority of pregnant women. A few suffer a far more debilitating form known as hyperemesis gravidarum, in which vomiting is so severe that dehydration and weight loss can occur. The Duchess of Cambridge required hospital treatment for the complication while pregnant with Prince George.

In September 1842 Charles Meigs, Professor … Read more

A head of wheat in the bladder

Wheat in the bladderIn December 1871 Dr B. B. Leonard, a general practitioner from West Liberty, Ohio, was summoned to examine ‘J.J.’, a 41-year-old farm worker from a neighbouring village. This is what he subsequently reported to the Cincinnati Lancet and Observer:

On the 3rd of July, Mr. J was binding wheat in the field, and when about half way through his Read more