Painfully obvious

This spectacular case was published in the Medical Press and Circular, a leading Irish journal, in 1866. The author Dr Thomas Geoghegan was an eminent Dublin physician, particularly well known for his expertise in forensic medicine. (Dr Geoghegan makes a brief appearance in the book I’ve just finished writing, a true-crime thriller about an extraordinary Dublin murder case, … Read more

The cabbage catastrophe

In 1803 a surgeon from Dumbarton in Scotland, Alexander Hunter, wrote to the London Medical and Physical Journal to report this remarkable lucky escape:

An apprentice of William Ewing, a cooper, in this neighbourhood, had an ulcer on the fore-part of the tibia with considerable inflammation, for which he was ordered a poultice with acetate of lead.

Lead (II) acetateRead more

The carrot cataplasm

Pretty much any substance you care to mention has, at one time or another, been touted as a cure for cancer. The historic medical literature is littered with unsuccessful specifics for the disease. Many of them were deadly poisons such as arsenic or belladonna – indeed, the use of poisons has persisted, in a more sophisticated form, in contemporary chemotherapies.… Read more

The perils of a sneeze

A few months ago I wrote about the criminal who was lucky to recover after inhaling a fake gold earring. By chance I’ve just come across another case report written by the same Victorian surgeon, Bernard Pitts. Not a well-known figure, principally because he wrote little and shunned publicity. But he seems to have been a very good … Read more

A late arrival

Charles Delucena Meigs (1792-1869) was an American obstetrician of some eminence. His textbook Obstetrics, the Science and Art was influential and remained in print for many years.

Perhaps the most notorious passage of this work is a section he added to the 1856 edition, explaining his opposition to the use of anaesthesia in childbirth. Chloroform (and, in the US, ether) … Read more