The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine

by Thomas Morris


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"Delightfully horrifying."—Popular Science

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524743680
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/20/2018
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 33,416
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 Unfortunate predicaments 1

A fork, up the anus

Swallowing knives is bad for you

The golden padlock

The boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick

Shot by a toasting fork

Mr. Dendy's eggcup case

Broken glass and boiled cabbage

Honking like a goose

Penis in a bottle

The colonic carpentry kit

Suffocated by a fish

2 Mysterious illnesses 51

A hideous thing happened in High Holborn

The incredible sleeping woman

The dreadful mortification

The human pincushion

The man who fought a duel in his sleep

The mystery of the exploding teeth

The woman who peed through her nose

The boy who vomited his own twin

The case of the luminous patients

The missing pen

3 Dubious Remedies Death of an earl 99

The tobacco-smoke enema

Saliva and crow's vomit

The pigeon's-rump cure

Mercury cigarettes

The tapeworm trap

The port-wine enema

The snake-dung salesman

4 Horrifying Operations 141

The case of the drunken Dutchman's guts

If you can't find a, surgeon…

The self-inflicted lithotripsy

A high pain threshold

A window in his chest

The sad case of Hoo Loo

All at sea, An extraordinary surgical operation

5 Remarkable recoveries 195

The wandering musket ball

The miller's tale

In one side and out the other

A bayonet through the head

An interesting and remarkable accident

The lucky Prussian

A case for Dr. Coffin

The healing power of nature

Severed, replaced, reunited

Give that man a medal

A hit of a headache

6 Tall, tales 241

Sleeping with the fishes

Death of a 152-year-old

The combustible countess

He sliced his penis in two

Half man, half snake

The human waxwork

The slugs and the porcupine

The amphibious infant

The seventy-year-old mother-to-be

7 Hidden Dangers 289

A surfeit of cucumbers

The perils of being a writer

Why children should never wear hats

Killed by his false teeth

Pegged out

The cast-iron stove panic

Brolly painful

A flaming nuisance

Cycling will give you heart disease

Sources 331

Acknowledgments 343

Index 345

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The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
diane92345 More than 1 year ago
If there is a strange medical tale, it is recorded in the Mystery of the Exploding Teeth. With section titles like Unfortunate Predicaments, Mysterious Illnesses, and Horrifying Operations, how could this book be anything but a rollicking ride through the pages of bad choices. In Unfortunate Predicaments, we meet young men who did many ill-conceived things to their nether regions. We also meet a man who ate four knives on a dare and didn’t go to a doctor when only three came out his other end. A lifetime of doing this trick eventually killed him. In Mysterious Illnesses, a woman makes herself a human pin cushion and a boy vomits up his own twin. Horrifying Operations makes the reader impressed by the fortitude of his or her forebears. Before anesthesia, a man held up a candle for the surgeon while his other arm was being amputated at the shoulder. Another used a knitting needle and a tiny file three times daily for weeks to break up his bladder stone. Okay, you either like weird stuff like this or you don’t. As someone who used to gobble Ripley’s Believe It or Not books in my youth, I love it. If you do too, you’re in for a treat with the Mystery of the Exploding Teeth. 4 stars! Thanks to Dutton Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.