The ear, nose and throat anaesthesia practice of Dr John Snow (1813-58)

News of the first successful public demonstration of general anaesthesia in Boston, Massachusetts in October 1846 reached Britain in mid-December of that year. James Robinson, a London dentist, gave the first anaesthetic in the United Kingdom when, on 19 December,...

Did you ever meet Draffin on your travels?

Draffin’s rods or bipods are a well-known ENT instrument. Before their invention in 1951, the attendant anaesthetist or nurse was obliged to support the mouthgag during tonsillectomy. Their originator, David Alexander Draffin (born in 1917 in Ballybey, Co Monaghan), was...

Erwin Geising and the fall of the Third Reich

It’s mid 1944. The allies have landed at Normandy, the Germans have abandoned Rome and are retreating from the Russians on the eastern front. The Fuhrer was in way over his head and out of his depth. Watching this series...

Erasmus Darwin and the larynx – but why is it where it is and when?

Charles Darwin’s grandfather was not only on to where we all came from by the end of the 18th century, but dared to declare it in verse whilst resident in Lichfield Cathedral Close. This needed exceptional temerity, since not only...

The Dilemma of Beethoven’s Deafness

Beethoven was one of the world’s greatest musicians, and his deafness is well known. Many details of his medical conditions are known, and various theories of his hearing loss have been proposed. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in...

A ‘rye’ tail – the fatal illness of Lord Boringdon, a Regency tragedy

The anonymous privately-printed book, Some Account of Lord Boringdon’s Accident, describes in deferential terms a case of aspiration of a foreign body and its sequelae. Today aspirated foreign bodies are serious but curable injuries; before the invention of the bronchoscope...

Medical Journals and The Journal of Laryngology and Otology

Medical journals have a fascinating history. One early journal, The Lancet, was founded in 1823 and its first Editor, London surgeon Thomas Wakley (1795-1862), had a turbulent life. He lived in an era where quackery was rife and where the...

Vicarious (nasal) menstruation

Hippocrates himself is known to have said that when a woman’s menses are due, but instead of the usual vaginal menstrual flow, she has a haemorrhage from the nose, then this is a sure sign of pregnancy [1]. Artist’s impression...

From Hippocrates to COVID-19: sniffing out the disease

The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, used the ‘art of smell’ to diagnose diseases around 400BC. He also formulated miasmatic theory, which posited that disease is caused by bad smells. Bad air was strongly believed by many physicians to be the...

Themistocles Gluck – the true father of laryngectomy

Most head and neck surgeons and ENT-specialists may know that the first laryngectomy for cancer was performed by Billroth on 31 December 1873. Billroth´s assistant, Vincenz Czerny, had outlined the operation in experimental surgery on dogs in 1870. Three years...

The fatal illness of Frederick the Noble

Sir Morell Mackenzie is acknowledged as the ‘Father of British Otolaryngology’. He was the leading throat specialist of his time and one of the founders of the Journal of Laryngology and Otology in 1887. He studied in Paris, Vienna and...

Not just the scissors: the story of Myron Metzenbaum

Myron Metzenbaum was born in Cleveland, Ohio (USA) in 1876, the fourth of nine children. As a young man, he worked in the family’s linen store, where his father was well known to be very kind to the less fortunate...

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