An unfortunate couple

extraordinary cases in surgeryJohann Georg Steigerthal was an eminent German medic of the early seventeenth century. In 1715 he was appointed court physician the Elector of Hanover Georg Ludwig – otherwise known as George I of Great Britain. Steigerthal was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1720 he contributed this striking case history to the society’s journal, the Philosophical TransactionsRead more

An unwelcome visitor

leech found in the vaginaA short news item published in 1843 by the Gazette Médicale de Paris contains the sort of case that would give a hypochondriac sleepless nights. It was submitted by Jean Guyon, an eminent military surgeon who spent much of his career studying tropical diseases, in particular yellow fever and cholera. Another of his interests was the leech – not … Read more

The boy who choked on his gold

I came across this interesting story in the Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Surgery at Paris, a collection of cases published in English in 1750. Until I looked into it more thoroughly I didn’t realise that this is not just a curiosity but a genuinely pioneering operation. It was documented in a treatise published in 1620 by the … Read more

The colonic carpentry kit

foreign correspondenceThe ‘foreign correspondence’ pages of one 1861 issue of the Medical Times contain an eclectic selection of stories. The first concerns the ‘sucking apparatus of infants’ (i.e., babies’ mouths). But the following case was the one that caught my eye – headlined Foreign Body in the Transverse Colon:

A very curious case of this affection occurred a short time Read more

The healing power of nature

Gunshot wound from navel to backAt the annual meeting of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association in August 1844, a doctor from Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, Edward Daniell, presented this unusual case. He prefaced his account with the observation that it would ‘perhaps be interesting more from its novelty than for its value in a surgical point of view’. He wasn’t just being modest: as … Read more

The slugs and the porcupine

According to an old journalistic adage, if a newspaper headline contains a question the correct answer is always ‘no’. For instance, ‘Could x offer a cure for cancer?’, to which the answer is always ‘no’, whether x is ‘green tea’, ‘mushrooms’ or ‘snake oil’.

This reliable rule of thumb, sometimes known as Betteridge’s Law, applies in spades to the … Read more

The 43-year pregnancy

In years gone by, it was quite common for a doctor to pass on his practice to one of his children: successive generations of medics might serve their local community for decades. The Watkins family, originally from the Northamptonshire town of Towcester, is an extreme example of such a dynasty: Timothy Watkins (1755-1834) was the first of seven generations of … Read more