Conceived by a bullet

veracious chronicle

There are many cases of supposed virgin births in the early medical literature, but few are as wonderfully unlikely as this one published in The Lancet in early 1875: 

The following rich gynaecological contribution is reported in the columns of the American Medical Weekly for Nov. 7th, 1874, by L. G. Capers, M.D., Vicksburg, Mississippi. On the 12th of May, Read more

The mysterious bullet in the heart

Shot in the lungIn 1852 The Monthly Journal of Medical Science published a report from Burma, where British forces had just begun to fight the Second Anglo-Burmese War.  They landed on April 12th and captured the city of Rangoon shortly afterwards, setting up a field hospital in a priest’s house requisitioned for the purpose. Six surgeons travelled with the army, and … Read more

Brolly painful

It’s a great headline, but I can’t take any credit for it.

When I was at school one of my contemporaries suffered an unfortunate injury. As he was bending over to pick something up, a friend thought it would be amusing to prod him in the bottom with a golf umbrella. The joker sadly misjudged the degree of force used, … Read more

The sleepwalker

On somnambulismThose who have first-hand experience of somnambulism will know that sleepwalkers are often capable of surprisingly complex tasks. While most may do nothing more than get out of bed and walk into the next room, others can hold conversations or even drive cars before they regain consciousness. In 1856 The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology published an article … Read more

A saw head

remarkable recovery from injury of headI’ve documented a few extraordinary injuries in this blog, but perhaps none as remarkable as this one. The New England Journal of Medicine for 1869 contains this arresting case, submitted by a Dr Wardwell from New Hampshire:

I was summoned by telegraph March 1st, 1869, to Berlin, New Hampshire, to attend Chester Bean, who had been injured by going under Read more

Rattlesnakes and brandy

Around 7,000 people in the US are bitten by venomous snakes every year. Many of these are rattlesnake bites, but thanks to modern medicine there are only a handful of fatalities. The most important breakthrough of the last century was the invention of antivenin (also known as antivenom) – a remedy made by injecting rattlesnake venom into animals and then … Read more

Like an elastic ball

The great French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren was known to his unfortunate juniors as ‘the Napoleon of surgery’ and ‘the brigand of the Hôtel Dieu’, the Paris hospital where he reigned supreme. While he was a difficult character, he was also very good. His name is mainly associated today with Dupuytren’s Contracture, a condition which causes the fingers to curve … Read more

The man with the wax face

The man with the wax face

In May 1884 The Lancet’s Paris correspondent reported the following: 

There is to be seen at Landrecies, in the Department of the North, an invalid artillery soldier, who was wounded in the late Franco-German War, when he was horribly mutilated by the bursting of a Prussian shell. The man’s face was literally blown off, including both eyes, there being Read more