‘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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The most uncanny look

 IRRESISTIBLE EYES MAY BE HAD BY TRANSPLANTING THE HAIR. a story from The Dundee Courier, 6 July 1899 If your eyes are unattractive you may make them irresistible by transplanting the hair. Transplanted eyelashes and eyebrows are the latest things in the way of personal adornment. There are specialists who make …

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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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They’ll never notice

An unusual medical case takes a grisly turn in 1881:   EXTRAORDINARY MEDICAL CASE A week ago, a man was brought to the hospital at Pesth, where he soon died, from the result of an accident. The usual autopsy took place, when the doctors discovered, to their astonishment, that the …

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Bailey’s Rubber Complexion Brush

  A harmless alternative to the arsenical preparations then in vogue for improving the complexion, Bailey’s rubber brush was intended to improve the circulation, clear the pores and allow the blood to free itself of impurities. Charles J Bailey of Newton, Massachusetts, invented the product in 1887, immediately patenting it …

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Armbrecht’s Coca Wine

Between now and Christmas (and probably beyond) I’ll be taking a different tack with the Quack Doctor and posting more frequently but more briefly, showing just pics of medical adverts, snippets about strange cases, and occasional photos of health-related objects from the past. For the time being I don’t have …

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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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Valentine’s Meat-Juice

  The Quack Doctor is not a hearts and flowers kind of person, so was interested to learn of a dark side to this product’s history. Brought into production in Richmond, VA, in 1871, Valentine’s Meat-Juice became popular with orthodox physicians and was advertised in professional publications, including the British …

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Anti-Stiff – strengthens the muscles

  Anti-Stiff – a name contrary to the philosophy of today’s email spammers – appears to have been a boon to the athletes of the 1890s. It was a muscle rub intended to ward off aches and fatigue during a variety of sporting endeavours, and its promoter claimed that ‘some …

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