Cover image for The mystery of the exploding teeth : and other curiosities from the history of medicine / Thomas Morris.
Title:
The mystery of the exploding teeth : and other curiosities from the history of medicine / Thomas Morris.
ISBN:
9781524743680
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Dutton, [2018]

©2018
Physical Description:
xiii, 351 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
Abstract:
"This wryly humorous collection of stories about bizarre medical treatments and cases offers a unique portrait of Victorian medicine in all its grisly weirdness. A puzzling series of dental explosions beginning in the nineteenth century, with the most recent case in the 1960s, is just one of many strange tales that have long lain undiscovered in the pages of old medical journals. Award-winning medical historian Thomas Morris has assembled the stories thematically so readers will witness Mysterious Illnesses (such as the Rhode Island woman who peed through her nose), Horrifying Operations (1635: A hungover Dutchman swallows a knife, which is then surgically removed from his stomach), Dubious Treatments ("Take twelve young swallows out of the nest . . ."), Unfortunate Predicaments (such as that of the boy who honked like a goose after inhaling a bird's larynx), and many other marvels. Read together, these entertaining stories amount to far more than a series of anecdotes. They are worth reading for their entertainment value alone, but they also tell us a great deal about the evolution of modern medicine. Some show the medical profession hopeless in the face of ailments which today would be quickly banished by modern drugs; but others are heartening tales of recovery against the odds, patients saved from death by the devotion or ingenuity of a conscientious doctor. As a collection they allow the reader to learn about the evolution of medical expertise and to understand the rationale behind therapeutic regimes that would otherwise seem inexplicable today.However embarrassing the ailment or ludicrous the treatment, every case tells us something about the knowledge (and ignorance) of an earlier age, along with the sheer resilience of human life"--Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

"Delightfully horrifying."-- Popular Science
One of Mental Floss's Best Books of 2018
One of Science Friday's Best Science Books of 2018

This wryly humorous collection of stories about bizarre medical treatments and cases offers a unique portrait of a bygone era in all its jaw-dropping weirdness.

A puzzling series of dental explosions beginning in the nineteenth century is just one of many strange tales that have long lain undiscovered in the pages of old medical journals. Award-winning medical historian Thomas Morris delivers one of the most remarkable, cringe-inducing collections of stories ever assembled. Witness Mysterious Illnesses (such as the Rhode Island woman who peed through her nose), Horrifying Operations (1781: A French soldier in India operates on his own bladder stone), Tall Tales (like the "amphibious infant" of Chicago, a baby that could apparently swim underwater for half an hour), Unfortunate Predicaments (such as that of the boy who honked like a goose after inhaling a bird's larynx), and a plethora of other marvels.

Beyond a series of anecdotes, these painfully amusing stories reveal a great deal about the evolution of modern medicine. Some show the medical profession hopeless in the face of ailments that today would be quickly banished by modern drugs; but others are heartening tales of recovery against the odds, patients saved from death by the devotion or ingenuity of a conscientious doctor.

However embarrassing the ailment or ludicrous the treatment, every case in The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth tells us something about the knowledge (and ignorance) of an earlier age, along with the sheer resilience of human life.


Author Notes

Thomas Morris is a writer and medical historian. His first book, The Matter of the Heart , a history of heart surgery, was a winner of a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award. He lives in London.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Medical historian Morris (The Matter of the Heart) documents strange, inspiring, and sometimes ghastly tales of treatments that show how the medical field has evolved in the past three centuries. What were once standard, "validated" practices will seem absurd to modern readers. Organized by general illness type, the first chapter explores "unfortunate predicaments" of peculiar situations, from those with various kitchen utensils lodged in bodily canals to people having swallowed knives. Other sections focus on mysterious ailments, or drownings. The stories reveal the pathos and earnest intent of physicians treating their patients based on then-current beliefs. However, the author also discusses charlatans, including one doctor who claimed to revive patients who spent weeks underwater. The vast amount of material from diverse sources will amuse readers and leave them shaking their heads, while Morris's attempts at humor occasionally make it seem as though he does not recognize the real suffering patients endured. VERDICT This informative, fascinating look at the history of medicine will be of interest to general readers.-Aaron Klink, Duke Univ., Durham, NC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.