Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dr. Richard Mead - Generous Georgian

I recently got invited to the opening of an exhibition at the Foundling museum.  Your correspondent was doubly excited a) because she has never been taken seriously as a blogger before and b) because it was about a really interesting character named Dr. Richard Mead. 

Also your correspondent really enjoys a good medical history exhibit. 

Unfortunately she ran up against the smallish problem whereby she lives in Australia with a toddler and an obstetric practice and the exhibition is in London. 

The people at the Foundling museum have been kind enough to bring the exhibition to me, and today I am going to bring a little of it to you.  If you are in London, though, please go, tell me how awesome it is and turn me green with jealousy!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rear endings

An enema, where fluid is inserted into the bowel via the rectum, is a very useful tool in a doctor or a nurse's toolkit.

It's also often the butt of many, many a joke.  (Forgive me for that one.  I couldn't help myself).

In modern medicine enemas are most frequently used to help with constipation, clear the bowel out prior to a surgical procedure such as a colonoscopy or to help in imaging, for example in a barium enema. 

However it may surprise you to know that history of human's sticking fluid up their rectums is a long and, well, somewhat obsessed one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shunning the Lepers

To people in Western societies leprosy is usually the punchline of a joke.  To us leprosy is now rare and fairly treatable, although interestingly around 200 people a year are still diagnosed in the USA.

However Leprosy still affects around 180, 000 people worldwide acutely, with up to a million suffering chronic complications most of them in Africa and Asia. It is a disease that has only been controlled in very recent history, mainly due to increased hygiene practices.  Prior to that it has been something that has stalked humanity for almost all of known history.

The earliest recorded account of a disease resembling leprosy appears in an Egyptian papyrus document in 1550 BC. Indian writings also mention a similar illness in 600 BC.  It appears that the army of Alexander the Great may have brought leprosy back from India with them - as accounts of it appeared in their writings around this time.  Similarly it began to be recorded by the Romans around 62 BC when Pompeii's soldiers came back from Asia minor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


It's all over the news.  And it's scary.  The virus without a cure that makes you literally bleed to death.  With a 90% mortality rate.  That's raging out of control in Africa.


But what is it, exactly?  And where did it come from?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An Eye for War.

This wasn't the post I was planning to write, I had one planned about leprosy, - but I can never resist a story about a good Australian doctor, so hopefully you can all wait a little longer for that tale.

Today we are going to talk about the wonderfully named Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan who was born on Killeen Station in Victoria on the 20th September 1853.  He studied at the University of Melbourne and then completed his study at the University of Edinburgh (Australian medical degrees were not wholly awarded in Australia until well into the 20th century - in fact up until very recently, most Australian doctors would complete at least some of their training in the United Kingdom).  He then undertook further postgraduate training as a surgeon in Italy and Austria. 

Sir Ryan at the time of his enlistment (public domain image sourced from the Australian War Memorial Collection)