Until the nineteenth century, spider’s web was often used as a folk remedy for superficial lacerations. The great tensile strength of spider silk was probably quite effective at holding the edges of a wound together, although doubtless it also brought the risk of infection. Until I came across an article published in The Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science in … Read more
Month: December 2016
The forty-foot tapeworm
Medical journals do not often publish articles by undergraduates these days, but an 1847 edition of the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal included a short paper by one John D. Twiggs, described simply as a ‘student of medicine’. Mr Twiggs (we cannot call him ‘Dr’) betrays his inexperience in a certain lack of professional scepticism; but he certainly had an … Read more
A festive night in a Victorian emergency department
Christmas is always a difficult time of year for practitioners of emergency medicine. In the UK, accident and emergency departments brace themselves for a flood of injuries caused by alcohol; most years there will be at least one newspaper article about drinking culture in the UK and how it is placing intolerable strain on the health service.
It’s always tempting … Read more
In 1865 a young eye surgeon from Gloucester, Robert Brudenell Carter, sent a series of case reports for publication in The Ophthalmic Review. Carter was an unusually accomplished individual whose achievements went far beyond
surgery. He performed with distinction as an army surgeon in the Crimea, and his dispatches from the conflict were published in The Times.
Carter … Read more
Shot by a toasting fork
This is one of my favourite nineteenth-century cases, which I originally intended to include in my forthcoming book but which didn’t quite make it to the final manuscript. It was written by Dr T. Davis, from the small Worcestershire town of Upton-upon-Severn, and published in the Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association in 1834:
On Saturday evening, January … Read more
A bayonet through the head
In June 1809 a French military surgeon, M. Fardeau, read a paper at a meeting of the Société de Médecine de Paris. I can find little information about M. Fardeau, but he evidently served with distinction in the Napoleonic Wars, being rewarded with membership of the Légion d’honneur for his efforts.
During the War of the Fourth Coalition Fardeau accompanied … Read more
A high pain threshold
In 1878 an elderly surgeon from Birmingham, Dickinson Crompton, was persuaded to write a short article about his early career for Guy’s Hospital Reports, the house journal of Guy’s Hospital in London. He was then 73 and almost completely blind, reporting that
I am now getting cataracts in my eyes, and at the present moment do not see … Read more
Killed by his false teeth
People who wear dentures sometimes lose them, as you might mislay a pair of glasses, but it’s rare to do it in quite this fashion. This case, from the 1842 volume of Guy’s Hospital Reports, was reported by one W.G. Carpenter.
Mr. H., aged 35, the subject of the present case, was an Assistant to Mr. Watts, an extensive … Read more
The venomous boot
Here’s a tall tale from 1856, published in The Medical Times and Gazette:
Some interesting experiments were made at the Society of Arts last week by Dr. Chambers, to test the efficacy of a plant known as Guaco in Central America, or a plant nearly resembling it, as an antidote to the bite of numerous snakes.
The Society for … Read more
Most of the injuries chronicled on this blog were caused by bad luck, and a few by misadventure; but here’s one which can only be attributed to rank stupidity. In 1852 The Half-Yearly Abstract of the Medical Sciences published this report from an Italian surgeon, Signor Riali:
In December, 1848, a peasant was admitted into the hospital of Orvieto, in … Read more