The Rapid Rise and Spectacular Fall of London’s Greatest Bonesetter – Atlas Obscura

Coloured etching by G. Cruikshank, 1819, after W Hogarth
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

IT WAS ALONG THE OLD Kent Road, somewhere between the town of Epsom and London, that a mob of 18th-century rabble rousers thought they spotted one of King George II’s hated mistresses riding in a carriage, and decided to harass her. But as the crowd gathered around…

via The Rapid Rise and Spectacular Fall of London’s Greatest Bonesetter – Atlas Obscura

People with Disabilities in Jane Austen’s England, a Guest Post by Elaine Owen | ReginaJeffers’s Blog

York Vs York: Changing Attitudes in Regency England In April, Elaine Owen shared this piece on Austen Authors. I thought it worthy of a second look.  Jane Austen did not write about disabled people…

Source: People with Disabilities in Jane Austen’s England, a Guest Post by Elaine Owen | ReginaJeffers’s Blog

Volunteer Nurses in the Great War: 1914 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

The fashionable women of England are very anxious to help. At least they say they are, and never would we doubt a lady’s word. But their good intentions are thwarted on every side. Lord Kitch…

Source: Volunteer Nurses in the Great War: 1914 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

Scurvy, Vaccination and Hospitals

Citrus fruits perfect for treating Scurvy

As this week saw the celebration of International Nurses day, on 12th May, this weeks blog takes a look at some medical history. During the 18th Century there were many innovations in medicine and …

Source:  Scurvy, Vaccination and Hospitals

Revisited Myth #51: Wearing tinted eyeglasses meant the wearer had syphilis. | History Myths Debunked

Come on, do you really think that if that nice young man in the portrait had syphilis, he would advertise the fact with tinted eyeglasses?

Tinted eyeglasses are not new. In the eighteenth century, some people wore blue, green, amber, and amethyst lenses to protect their eyes from the sun’s glare. They did not indicate a medical problem.

Medical books of the time make no mention of colored lenses in treating syphilis. In Treatise of the Venereal Disease (1789), the author notes correctly that syphilis could cause eye inflammation but offers no specific treatment. In his Observations Concerning the Prevention and Cure of the Venereal Disease (1796), William Buchan recommends blistering plasters applied to the…

Source: Revisited Myth #51: Wearing tinted eyeglasses meant the wearer had syphilis. | History Myths Debunked.

German Sausages and Flying Ambulances

When I first saw the term “flying ambulance” I thought it was something that had originated in Africa, or in the Australian outback, a vehicle for flying doctors. In fact it goes back much further than that. To the Napoleonic Wars, as I discovered only recently.

I was researching the Battle of Waterloo for my book, A Lady for Lord Randall, and it was impossible not to think about the casualties. More than 40,000 soldiers died on the battlefield and given the state of medical knowledge at that time, it is debateable which was worse, to be killed outright or seriously wounded. Dr Howard Martin has written two wonderfully detailed books on the subject (Wellington’s Doctors and Napoleon’s Doctors) if you want to find out a lot more fascinating details. One thing that became clear to me is that in the treatment and care of injured soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars the French had the advantage. Bonaparte was very forward-thinking when it came to the health of his army. He preferred prevention to medical treatment, he advocated good food, good hygiene, fresh air and high morale. He also supported the use of quinine and…

Source: German Sausages and Flying Ambulanc

Ingeborg Rapoport to Become Oldest Recipient of Doctorate After Nazi Injustice is Righted – WSJ

Originally posted on WSJ.

Ingeborg Syllm, later Rapoport, as she looked shortly after she left Nazi Germany for the U.S. in 1938. PHOTO: DR. SUSAN RICHTER

Ingeborg Rapoport was 25 when she wrote her doctoral thesis, but she had to wait until Wednesday to defend it before an academic committee—77 years later.

Ms. Rapoport, a 102-year-old retired neonatologist who lives in Berlin, submitted her thesis to the University of Hamburg in 1938, five years after Adolf Hitler took power. Her topic was diphtheria, an infectious disease that was then a leading cause of death among children in the U.S. and Europe.

Ms. Rapoport’s professor, a one-time Nazi party member, praised her work, she recalled. But that wasn’t enough. “I was told I wasn’t permitted to take the oral examination,” she said.

Academic authorities in Berlin cited “racial reasons” for the ban: Ms. Rapoport, née Syllm, was raised as a Protestant, but her mother was Jewish, making her “a first-degree crossbreed” in Nazi parlance. Officials marked her exam forms with a telltale yellow stripe and deemed her ineligible for academic advancement.

“My medical existence was turned to rubble,” said Ms. Rapoport. “It was a shame for science and a shame for Germany.”

Her treatment was hardly unique: Thousands of “non-Aryan” students and professors were pushed out of universities in Hitler’s Third Reich, and many died in death camps.

She and her family were spared that fate, though the University of Hamburg fervidly embraced the new order. Its dean declared the school “the first national-socialist institute of higher learning in the Reich,” styling himself the university’s Führer-Rektor and setting up new faculties of race biology and colonial law. Among the professors who ran afoul of the Nazis was Ms. Rapoport’s professor, Rudolf Degkwitz, whose expression of outrage over euthanasia…

via Ingeborg Rapoport to Become Oldest Recipient of Doctorate After Nazi Injustice is Righted – WSJ.

The Tango Foot: 1914

Mrs Daffodil Digresses

Tango boots, c. 1895 Tango boots, c. 1895


The following dispatch from Berlin confirms the worst fears, says The Indianapolis News:
“Dr. Boehme, of this city, announces that he has discovered a new disease, which he describes in a medical periodical under the name of the ‘tango foot.’”

For months we have lived in dread of the striking of the evil hour when disease would suddenly stalk among us on the dance hall floor and turn the laughter of our joyous revelry to groans of dismal pain. Dance now as mildly as we may, dip as carefully as we can, Boston, gavotte, grapevine, chasse, kitchen sink and scissors with due caution and restraint, we never again feel the same old thrill and keen delight and blissful abandon. Ever henceforth as we tango, hesitate and Maxie, there will be this grim, grinning, mocking terror of the “tango foot” to obtrude upon…

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“A Rolling Mill for Ladies” Beauty Through Suffering: 1905, 1915

Mrs Daffodil Digresses

vintage exercise machine2


You must suffer to be beautiful, according to a French saying. There seems to be some truth in the statement, if a lady’s maid in Paris is to be believed. She has revealed the secrets of her mistress’ boudoir, or, rather, torture chamber. The lady herself is now beautiful, but one wonders that she is alive. For months she lay flat on her back on the floor, motionless, with her arms close to her side, during several hours every day. This was, it appears, to improve her figure. During the rest of the day, for the same period of time, she sat on a high stool rocking the upper part of her body backward and forward and from side to side unceasingly. By this process she is said to have acquired a statuesque throat and a sylph’s waist. The lady’s nose, having a soaring nature, was corrected…

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Ten Terrifying Knives from Medical History

I’m not particularly keen on the cataract knife as I’m waiting for an operation. Mind you, I believe things have changed a little in the last 100 years or so!

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

I’m excited to announce that I’ve just finished filming the first episode of my new YouTube series, Under The Knife, and will be releasing it very soon (please subscribe to my channel for video updates). Unsurprisingly, that got me thinking about, well, knives. Here’s a list of some rather terrifying knives from our medical past.

  1. VALENTIN KNIFE, 1838. This knife was one of the few able to cut slices of organs and soft tissues for microscopic examination. The double-bladed knife worked best when the blades were wet – best of all when submerged in water. Named after its inventor, Professor Gabriel Valentin (1810-1883), a German-Swiss physiologist, the knife was invented in 1838. This example, however, dates from 1890.
  2. BISTOURY CACHÉ, c.1850. Invented in the mid-19th century, bistoury caché literally translates from the French as ‘hidden knife’. The device was used to cut internal organs or…

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Making Medical Myths – the Case of Maximilien Robespierre, by Peter McPhee

A Revolution in Fiction

Reconstructed face of robespierre acc to Philippe FroeschMassive media interest followed the digital reconstruction in late 2013 of Robespierre’s face and a new medical diagnosis by Philippe Froesch of the Visual Forensic Laboratory (Barcelona), a specialist in 3D facial reconstruction, and Philippe Charlier from the medical anthropology and medico-legal team at the Université de Versailles-St. Quentin, France. Their conclusion, reported in The Lancet in December 2013, was that Maximilien Robespierre suffered from sarcoidosis, a crippling auto-immune disorder in which the body’s defences attack its own organs and tissues.[1] He was dying from within before he was killed from without.

In making their claims Charlier and Froesch rely in large part on the evidence I adduced of his illnesses and their symptoms in a recent biography and article.[2] But they ignored my historian’s caution about the use of such evidence, raising troubling suggestions about the willingness of these medical researchers to sacrifice judiciousness for media publicity.

Some evidence…

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