(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘medical history

“Intoxicated? The word did not express it by a mile. He was oiled, boiled, fried, plastered, whiffled, sozzled, and blotto”*…


The expanded fifth edition of Glaswegian surgeon Robert Macnish’s The Anatomy of Drunkenness (1834) examines inebriety from a wide range of angles.  Though alcohol is the main focus, he also explores the use of opium (popular at the time), tobacco, nitrous oxide, and of various (real or reputed) “poisons,” like hemlock, “bangue” (cannabis), foxglove, and nightshade.  Macnish’s examination includes wonderful descriptions of the different kinds of drunk according to alcohol type, methods for cutting drunkenness short, and an outlining of the seven different types of drunkard (Sanguineous, Melancholy, Surly, Phlegmatic, Nervous, Choleric and Periodical).

The seventh chapter of the book examines the phenomenon of “spontaneous combustion” which, Macnish reports, tends to strike drunkards in particular.

Page through at Public Domain Review.

* P.G. Wodehouse, Meet Mr. Mulliner


As we ask for a club soda, we might consider just how far we have– and haven’t– come, as it was on this date in 1859 that Charles Darwin published The Origin of the Species.  Actually, on that day he published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life; the title was shortened to the one we know with the sixth edition in 1872.

 Title page of the 1859 edition


Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

“My mom made two dishes: Take it or Leave it”*…


In the course of an hour on the Saturday before the summer solstice, contestants in Dorset’s annual World Nettle Eating Championship cram as many feet of stinging nettles down their throats as they can…

The notion of ingesting nettles in some form isn’t odd, given the ubiquity and touted health benefits of teas, infusions, and even beers made from the weed. But eating the plant straight is another matter. Spiny stalks aside, each nettle leaf is tipped with thousands of microscopic hairs that, when brushed, detach as needles and inject a cocktail of irritating chemicals into whatever flesh tries to disturb them. The tongue and throat are abraded. The mouth turns black. And sometimes the nettles start to ferment in the gut with an audible gargling noise…

The competition takes place every year just before the summer solstice, the keystone event of a larger beer festival at the thatched-roofed, 500-plus-year-old Bottle Inn pub. On Saturday evening, comers and takers from all over the world (and an attendant crush of local, national, and international spectators and media) pay a varied pittance of a fee to consume 20-inch segments of nettle stalks and leaves. They have one hour to strip from the stalk as many stinging leaves as they can eat. No nettles from home, no bathroom breaks, no numbing agents. Only swigs of beer (or sometimes water) are allowed to lubricate the process. The prize is a small trophy and, usually, £100 ($166)…

A stinging nettle- Urtica dioica– is basically just a green pole with thousands of tiny knives attached to it.

For the contestants, coming back is a matter of skill and pride, of honing one little corner of personal greatness. But as for the audience and press, they’re no longer coming or covering the event because of the novelty. In fact, nettle eating wasn’t that novel to begin with when you look at some of southern England’s other traditions. Up the road in Gloucestershire, they have an onion-eating competition in Newent, and a cheese-rolling competition on Cooper’s Hill. To the northeast, in Whittlesey, Peterborough, men dress up as animate straw monstrosities and galumph about. And just down the road to the southwest, in Ottery St. Mary, East Devon, folks race through the night hoisting flaming wooden barrels of tar over their heads

Learn more at “English Idiots Hold Annual Stinging-Nettle Eating Contest.”

* Stephen Wright


As we reach for the Zantac, we might recall that it was on this date in 1819 that Dr. John Bostock delivered a paper to the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society meeting in London with the first clinical description of an allergy (what was later classified “allergic rhinitus”). Bostock’s paper, published in the society’s Transactions, was titled “A Case of the Periodical Affectation of the Eyes and Chest.”  It was, in fact, a description of his personal sufferings during hay season– hence the vernacular name “hay fever.”

Pollen grains from a variety of common plants– including stinging nettle– can cause hay fever. Enlarged 500×,


Dr. John Bostock



Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

When hunger won’t wait…


“For when you need a snack before tonight’s suicide attempt…”

From LiarTownUSA, via the always-riveting Richard Kadrey’s Damn Tumblr.


As we contemplate culinary curiosity, we might send prickly birthday greetings to James Bertram Collip; he was born on this date in 1892.  A pioneering endocrinologist, Collip was a leader of the Toronto team that isolated insulin (in 1921) and developed it for clinical use.  Later in his career he isolated the parathyroid hormone and established a bioassay for measuring serum calcium.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

Cabinet of Curiosities…


Satyra altera species

Monstrorum Historia, (Bologna, 1642)

Author: ALDROVANDI, Ulisse (1522-1605)

Aldrovandi was a prodigious writer of natural history. His book on monsters, profusely illustrated with marvellous woodcuts of monsters in the human, animal and vegetable realms, forms part of his great encyclopoedic work on natural history complete in thrirteen thick volumes, of which only four were published during his lifetime. His valuable teratological work is by far the most exahaustive treatise on monsters with descriptions and depictions of all kinds of monstrosities. Even if the woodcuts often are fanciful or largely inaccurate they exceeded a considerable influence and became the prototypes for succeeding illustrators of monsters.

The Hagströmerbiblioteket– the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library— is a treasure trove of unique medical art treasures.  In order to make their holdings more accessible, they’ve created the Wunderkammer (“Cabinet of Wonders”)– at once a glorious collection of historically-important (and often strikingly strange) medical and scientific illustrations , and an homage to the European Renaissance tradition of “The Cabinet of Curiosities.”

Prothesis, artificial leg

Les Oeuvres. Quatrième édition, (Paris, 1585)
Author: PARÉ, Ambroise (1510-1590)

Paré was a French barber surgeon and the official Royal Surgeon for four successive French kings. He is considered one of the fathers of modern surgery, and a leader of surgical techniques. His collective works were published in several editions, a book of over 1000 pages richly illustrated with woodcuts and among them his inventions of both artificial hands and legs.


Physiognomice Pathologica – Krankenphysiognomik, (Stuttgart, 1859)
Author: BAUMGÄRTNER, Karl Heinrich (1798-1886)  Artist: Karl Sandhaas

A remarkable atlas with portraits of patients suffering from various diseases. Baumgärtner, professor of medicine in Freiburg, taught it was possible to make a correct diagnosis with accompanying medical treatment by studying the patient’s physiognomy, the expression of the face, the colour of the skin, the eyes, the lips, etc.

Tour the full collection at The Wunderkammer.  (And for a look at what’s become of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” in our times, check out Joesph Cornell’s boxes (here or here)– better yet, visit the extraordinary Museum of Jurassic Technology… or if L.A. isn’t handy, read Lawrence Wechsler’s extraordinary Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder.)

[Thanks to AH, via EWW]


As we self-diagnose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1878 that Charles Sédillot received approval from the editor of the 1886 edition of the Dictionary of Medicine, Emile Littré, to name certain micro-organisms “microbe”– rather than, say, “microbia”– even though “microbe” is coined from two Greek words that together mean “short-lived” rather than “small life.”




Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 26, 2013 at 1:01 am

Sweet dreams…


PopSci reports from Japan’s International Robot Show:

If you snore, this new pillowbot from Japan will gently brush your cheek to get you to stop — or flip out of bed in terror as its disturbingly slow arm moves toward you.

It’s designed to help people sleep better by stopping chronic snorers and those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing difficulty while sleeping. The robot, called “Jukusui-kun” or “deep sleep” in Japanese, is designed to look like a friendly snoozing polar bear. It is connected to a small glove device (also fuzzy bear-shaped) that measures blood oxygen levels, and a below-the-sheets sensor that detects loud noises. The pillow itself also has a microphone to monitor snore decibel levels. A person’s vital stats are pre-programmed into a terminal, which connects wirelessly so you don’t get tangled up in cables.

When the sensors detect blood-oxygen levels are getting too low, or when snoring becomes unbearably loud (yeah that’s right), the bear-pillow’s paw moves slowly and frighteningly toward the sleeping person’s face. This gentle cheek-brush induces the snoring person to turn over on to his or her side, which stops snoring and restores a more restful sleep…

More at “Japanese Robotic Polar Bear Gently Smacks Snorers in the Face.”

As we consider our overnight options, we might recall that it was on this date in 1846 that physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. coined the word “anesthesia” in a letter to William Thomas Green Morton, the surgeon who had recently given the first public demonstration of the pain-killing effects of ether (allowing for the painless removal by surgeon John Collins Warren of a tumor from the neck of Edward Gilbert Abbott).

Contemporary re-enactment of Morton's October 16, 1846, ether operation; daguerrotype by Southworth & Hawes



Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 21, 2011 at 1:01 am

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