The Scottish surgeon Archibald Blacklock is chiefly remembered today for the events of the night of March 31st, 1834, when he was one of a small group who entered the family mausoleum of Robert Burns in order to make a plaster cast of the poet’s skull.
In 1867 The Medical Press and Circular published a series of articles by the physician Dr John Chapman on a subject in which he was a world authority: flatulence. To be fair to Dr Chapman, he was also an influential publisher and an expert in psychology specialising in ‘neurotics’ – those we would now describe as suffering from anxiety disorders. … Read more
The English physician Samuel Merriman (1771-1852) was a leading authority on midwifery and the diseases of pregnancy. His best-known work, published in 1814, was Synopsis of the Various Kinds of Difficult Parturition, a treatise on the dangers of childbirth which was translated into several languages. In an engaging section on multiple births he includes a couple of wonderful anecdotes.… Read more
On December 6th 1848 the distinguished American surgeon Dr Valentine Mott read a paper at a meeting of the New York Academy of Medicine. It was subsequently published in the academy’s journal; and perhaps no more remarkable article ever appeared in that – ahem – organ.
The affection to which I refer has been humorously styled a fracture of … Read more
In 1840 an American physician, Dr Pliny Earle, visited the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. He wrote an account of what he saw there, subsequently published in The American Journal of the Medical Sciences. It’s a document of great value, not least because he describes a number of exhibits which were destroyed when a … Read more
Today’s surgeons are quite adept at reattaching parts of the body when they have been severed. Fingers, hands and even entire arms have been successfully reunited with their owners. You might think that such feats were only made possible by the paraphernalia of the modern operating theatre: microscopes, superfine suture materials and so on. That’s not entirely true – here’s … Read more
Mr. Henry Smith showed a portion of tobacco pipe, nearly two inches in length, which he had extracted from behind the ear of a boy who, between two and three years previously, had fallen down whilst holding a long … Read more
A short story, this one, but it packs quite a punch. In 1855 the Western Lancet published a letter from an anonymous army officer serving in the Crimea:
A curious thing occurred yesterday. A sapper was brought from the trenches with his jaw broken, and the doctor told me there was a piece of it sticking out an inch and … Read more