Wonder-workers and styptics

When your Magic Chicken is suffering from cholera, there’s no need to panic. This bottle for the Magic Chicken Cholera Cure is one of around 195 medicine bottles in the collection of Michael Till, a retired GP from Gloucestershire. Michael became interested in historical remedies after looking into the story …

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‘Come for the skin book, stay for the history!’ An interview with Dr Lindsey Fitzharris

The image of the 18th-century anatomist is a shady one, redolent of midnight forays into graveyards and dissection in front of a rabble of students. The cadavers in these scenes are anonymous and devoid of character; mere objects fuelling a relentless craving for knowledge. But everybody who ended up on …

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‘Set the spirit alight’: Victorian festive science

Ah, Christmas! A time for peace, goodwill, and setting fire to chemicals. I was intrigued the other day by Rupert Cole’s article at the Guardian about the crossover between the cultures of science and Christmas during the Victorian period, so I’ve unearthed some festive scientific amusements recommended by 19th-century newspapers. How …

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Lazy salesmen and popular bachelors

The life of a travelling salesman in the early 20th century US might have involved stuffy railway carriages, soulless hotels and rejection by jaded druggists, but that doesn’t mean there were no lighter moments. The reports of the Illinois Pharmaceutical Travelers’ Association, established in 1903, give a delightful glimpse into the fun …

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The Quack Doctor at Brighton Festival Fringe

If you’re in Brighton on 16 May 2012, come along to the Red Roaster Coffee House on St James Street for an evening of unusual tales from eight writers – including The Quack Doctor! Grit Lit runs twice a year and is a great event with a friendly and vibrant …

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Guest Post – Dickens, Holloway and product placement

. I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Leslie Katz, who has investigated whether Charles Dickens was approached to promote the famous Holloway’s Pills in one of his novels. . For many years during the nineteenth century, the self-styled “Professor”, Thomas Holloway (1800-1883) (shown below), was the most widely known household …

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A Lyrical Interlude

‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ quoted the preface to the 1886 book Lays of the Colleges, being a Collection of Songs and Verses by members of the Æsculapian, Medico-Chirurgical, and Other Professional Clubs in Edinburgh. The book collected together humorous song lyrics sung in these medical clubs …

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Book Review: Shropshire Doctors & Quacks, by Richard Moore

When doctors write about the history of medicine, there’s a danger that the result will be ‘look at me! I’ve just discovered the story of James Graham’s Celestial Bed and shall now proceed to show how clever I am by relating some well-known details about it in an urbane and …

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The tracks of a spider whose legs had been dipped in ink

Doctors’ handwriting has long had a poor reputation, and I was amused to find this specimen, sent in to The Chemist and Druggist by an appalled pharmacist in June 1874. A couple of months later, the magazine reported that the Scientific American had reproduced the prescription, commenting that it: might …

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Book Review: What’s Up With Max? Medikidz Explain Asthma

For a child diagnosed with a medical condition, life can suddenly become confusing and scary. Adults might not be equipped to answer their questions, or might even feel that it’s best to hide the truth. Meanwhile, Google turns up horrific prognoses or theories that the condition is part of some …

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