On Friday 14 November, 1856, the chief cashier of Dublin’s Broadstone railway terminus failed to arrive for work. George Little was regarded as one of the company’s most reliable employees, and his unexplained absence was completely out of character. His worried colleagues broke down the door to his office, and found a scene of horror within.
George Little lay dead … Read more
In my last post I wrote about an impressive operation performed in 1888 by the American surgeon George Ryerson Fowler, who successfully removed two bullets from a patient’s brain. Shortly after publishing that story I came across another of Fowler’s cases which, although not well known, deserves a place in the history books. It represented a significant milestone in … Read more
At the age of 14, George Ryerson Fowler ran away from his parents’ home in Jamaica and stowed away on a ship to New York. The Civil War had just begun, and Fowler dreamed of joining the Union army as a drummer boy; but after a sleepless night in the rat-infested basement of a derelict house in Manhattan he seems … Read more
Henry Fryer was a surgeon from the market town of Stamford in Lincolnshire. When he died in 1823 he left £7,500 in his will for the foundation of a new hospital – and almost two centuries on, the Stamford and Rutland Hospital is still very much open.
Fryer was in his early thirties and near the beginning of his career … Read more
One of the most famous of all medical marvels is the case of Phineas Gage, the American railroad worker who somehow survived having a large metal rod driven straight through his head. It’s a truly amazing story, but has been written about so often that you might be led to think that it was the only interesting thing to … Read more
Things have been quiet here for the last couple of months. I’ve been busy with a few other projects, including putting the final touches to my latest book The Dublin Railway Murder, which will be out later this year. My publishers Harvill Secker have done a wonderful job with the cover design, which I am delighted to be able … Read more
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
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) acetate… Read more
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
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