New book: The History of Medicine in 100 Facts

The History of Medicine in 100 Facts book

The history of medicine is a vast subject, encompassing the whole of humanity in every region of the globe. For millennia, our ancestors have sought to combat disease, relieve pain and postpone the Grim Reaper’s inevitable victory, doing so with a fortitude and humour that makes their experiences resonate with …

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A Patent-Medicine Song, 1892

Some of the most famous patent medicine brands of the late Victorian era found their way into this humorous song by John Johnston, MD, in 1892. Originally from Dumfriesshire, Johnston settled in Bolton in the 1870s and worked as a general practitioner, also devoting time to literary pursuits. During the …

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The sparkle of perfect health

ADvent Calendar Day 12 The Favorite Prescription was just one part of a range marketed by Dr Ray Vaughn Pierce in newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets and on the side of barns across the late 19th-century US. After his death in 1914, his profitable business continued in the hands of his son, …

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An ulcer as big as a hen-egg

Patient testimonials were (and indeed remain) an integral part of the promotion of non-evidence-based health products. While 19th-century newspaper advertising only had room for concise endorsements, promotional books and pamphlets allowed medicine proprietors to give more detailed case studies of those who had supposedly benefited from their products. This one …

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Don’t be gulled by misleading advertisements

This 20-page booklet from about 1927 appears at first glance to be an official publication intended to raise public awareness of the ‘preposterous claims concerning so-called “patent” medicines, which are a disgrace to any civilised nation and a bar to human progress.’ The cover’s references to the Home Office and …

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No glister-pipe, bum-peeping apothecary

The following speech appeared in a comic 18th-century booklet called The Harangues or Speeches of Several Famous Mountebanks in Town or Country, which makes fun of high-profile medical salesmen by attributing to them wild claims about their remedies. Later editions (under the title The Harangues, or Speeches, of Several Celebrated …

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Paul Gage’s Tonic Antiphlegmatic Elixir

Source: The Liverpool Mercury, 30 December 1851 . Phlegm is generally white, greyish, or of a yellow colour, with streaks of black; its consistency varies from the limpidity of water to the thickness of jelly. This vivid description is from Parisian chemist Paul Gage’s Treatise on the Effect and Disorders …

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Gordon’s Vital Sexualine Restorative

STRENGTH, VITALITY, MANHOOD. ­A Valuable Treatise on Nervous Exhaustion, Loss of Strength, Mental Depression, Exhausted Vitality, and all special diseases and weaknesses of man; their causes, and means of cure. This book not only contains valuable remarks on how to preserve strength and retain the powers to an advanced age, …

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The Famous Montpellier Venereal Little Bolus

Source: The General Advertiser, 6 March 1744. Click here for transcript. I wonder if this advert looks familiar to regular readers. The writing style and capitalisation, and even the medicine’s name, are reminiscent of Mr. Burchell’s Famous Little Sugar Plums, and here again we see a proprietor tempting punters with …

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Swaim's Panacea – part 1

SWAIM’S PANACEA.—This Medicine has acquired a very extensive and established celebrity in Europe and America, and its virtues are known and acknowledged by many of the most respectable physicians of both countries. As an alterative, and in various diseases, particularly in cases of inveterate corruption of the blood descending to …

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