Up the spout

Puncture of the brain by the spout of an oil canOne of the things that strikes me every time I look at a medical journal published between about 1850 and 1900 is quite how dangerous the early railways were. More or less every issue contains a report of a major accident in which passengers were killed, or railway workers maimed or injured after wholly avoidable mishaps. Safety standards were non-existent, … Read more

Evacuated with a spoon

intestinal obstruction from raw wheatIn 1836 a doctor from rural Ireland, J.L. McCarthy, encountered a highly unusual case which he then reported to The Lancet.  The journal deemed it worthy of publication, although it is unlikely that many of its readers would ever need to know how to treat a patient suffering from this particular complaint:

On Thursday, the 8th instant, I was Read more

She cut off her nose with a carving knife

The image above shows the Jardin Royal (Royal Garden) in Paris – misleadingly named, since although it included a botanical garden it was primarily an educational institution. In addition to botany, it offered classes in chemistry, anatomy and surgery.

One member of its faculty was the surgeon Pierre Dionis (c.1643-1718), who taught there for many years. He was also a … Read more

A nineteenth-century hacking scandal

Rugby and its football

In November 1870 a London surgeon took the unusual step of writing anonymously to The Times to complain about his son’s headmaster. The son in question was a boy at Rugby School, and the letter was headlined ‘Rugby and its Football’:

Sir,–– I use the expression because to my mind the game as it is played at Rugby differs from Read more