The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine

Author:

Hardcover, Pages: 400

Genres: Nonfiction, History, Science, Health

Language: English

Reads: 42

Downloads: 2536

Rating: Rated: 1380 timesRate It

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Book Summary

A mysterious epidemic of dental explosions,
A teenage boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick
A remarkable woman who, like a human fountain, spurted urine from virtually every orifice

These are just a few of the anecdotal gems that have until now lain undiscovered in medical journals for centuries. This fascinating collection of historical curiosities explores some of the strangest cases that have perplexed doctors across the world.

From seventeenth-century Holland to Tsarist Russia, from rural Canada to a whaler in the Pacific, many are monuments to human stupidity – such as the sailor who swallowed dozens of penknives to amuse his shipmates, or the chemistry student who in 1850 arrived at a hospital in New York with his penis trapped inside a bottle, having unwisely decided to relieve himself into a vessel containing highly reactive potassium. Others demonstrate exceptional surgical ingenuity long before the advent of anaesthesia – such as a daring nineteenth-century operation to remove a metal fragment from beneath a conscious patient’s heart. We also hear of the weird, often hilarious remedies employed by physicians of yore – from crow’s vomit to port-wine enemas – the hazards of such everyday objects as cucumbers and false teeth, and miraculous recovery from apparently terminal injuries.

Reader Reviews
  •    Nikoktilar Kastal
    2020
    I am not certain how this book manages to be both bizarrely interesting and, at the same time, mildly boring. The eleven pages of citations testify to thorough research into the medical literature of Europe and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. Antique medical terms are helpfully explained. The writing is clear and at times humorous. In the end, however, there are only so many ways to describe the survival of gruesome accidents, the catastrophic results of putting objects where they do not belong, or the laughable-if-they-were-not-so-lethal treatments of the time. The book reads as if it were a super-extended column of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I longed for a context in which to place the anecdotes. What do these tales of illness and treatment tell us about the people and society of two centuries ago? Without context the stories are but freak shows. By the end I had enormous appreciation for what human bodies can sometimes overcome, gratitude that medicine today is not quite so misguided, and a whisper of fear that it may, in fact, be.
    Reply
  •    Vum Hipsley
    2020
    "Trying to impress your friends while under the influence of industrial quantities of alcohol is more often than not a really terrible idea. And more importantly, the correct answer to the question 'Can you swallow more knives?' is never 'All the knives aboard the ship.'"

    I love reading about weird medical stuff. And this book has a lot of weird stuff. From a young man in 1724 who had a fork lodged in his anus to a man who survived, and recovered fully, other than having a stiff knee, being shot and stabbed with a bayonet. Most of the odd medical cases or dubious remedies offered here are from the 1700's to the early 1900's, and make you extremely thankful that you live in an age of hand-washing and medical care that does not contain leeches or crow bile.

    I really enjoyed that this book isn't overly scientific. While there's nothing wrong with being scientific, this book is fun to read instead of feeling like homework for high-school biology. It also isn't full of irrelevant anecdotes that draw you away from the hilarious medical anomalies that presented themselves to old school doctors.

    Also, as a side note, apparently the human yearning to stick things into your butt that don't belong there is not a new thing. People have apparently been fascinated by, and getting things lodged into, the anus for the entirety of medical history.
    Reply

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