Samuel Auguste André David Tissot was an eminent Swiss physician of the eighteenth century, best known as the author of one of the first scholarly studies of migraine, and for his much-cited work on the evils of masturbation, L’Onanisme.
In 1761 he published Avis au Peuple sur sa Santé, a little book aimed at the general public and … Read more
This promising headline appeared in an issue of the Philosophical Transactions published in 1755. ‘Success’ is an interesting choice of word, since all the patients died, some within a matter of hours. One wonders what ‘failure’ might have looked like.
Early medical writers made frequent reference to a condition they called dropsy. By this they meant a swelling caused by … Read more
Dr G.G. Brown of Bath writes to the Annals of Medicine in 1799:
If you have a vacant page in your Annals of Medicine for the present year, may I request you will, for the benefit of unfortunate individuals, insert the following simple method of cure in the apoplexia mentalis, or delirium fine febre.
Dr Brown believes he has struck … Read more
Mercury has a long history as a therapeutic drug. Used by Arab doctors in the Middle Ages to treat skin disorders, it became the most popular treatment for venereal disease after the major outbreak of syphilis (thought by some to have been brought back from the New World by Columbus’s crew) in the late fifteenth century.
Until the nineteenth century … Read more
Leeches were one of the most commonly prescribed medical treatments until the late nineteenth century. They were a convenient way of taking blood from a patient in days when this was believed a beneficial procedure, and 20 or 30 were often applied at a time: in one case a woman with bowel problems had no fewer than 400 attached to … Read more
On the first day of the Ashes Test at Lord’s, here is a cricketing curiosity – a Romantic poet picking up an injury in the winter nets. And evidence that the team physio of the early 19th century always kept the leeches handy.
On Sunday 14th February, 1819, the poet John Keats sat down to write to his brother … Read more
One of the things that all first-aiders should know is that blades or other penetrating objects should never be removed from a stab wound. Extraction should only be attempted by medical professionals in appropriate surroundings, since catastrophic blood loss may otherwise occur.
Those with a background in emergency medicine would doubtless wince at the treatment given to a patient in … Read more
We’ve already established that skipping ropes should be avoided at all costs, but it’s not all bad news for those who enjoy childish pursuits.
James Wardrop’s On the Nature and Treatment of the Diseases of the Heart (1831), written in an age when most forms of cardiac disease were essentially untreatable, contains some advice which reflects the frustration felt … Read more
In September 1762 Ann James, a fifty-five-year-old woman from Boughton Monchelsea in Kent, came to the attention of Josiah Colebroke, FRS. For some years she had been in chronic pain:
She complained of most excruciating stabbing pains in both breasts, which prevented her having any rest in the night, and made her so very miserable all day, whether she lay … Read more
Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689) was one of the most celebrated English physicians of the seventeenth century. His Observationes Medicae (Medical Observations, 1676) contains a chapter which – perhaps optimistically – is entitled ‘Complete Methods of Curing Most Diseases’. This is his remedy for conjunctivitis:
Take ten ounces of blood from the arm, and next day exhibit my common purging … Read more