I’m thrilled to reveal the cover for the US edition of my forthcoming book, THE BUTCHERING ART, which will be published by FSG on October 17th. The book delves into the grisly world of Victorian surgery and transports the reader to a period when a broken leg could result in amputation, when giving birth in a squalid hospital was extraordinarily dangerous, and when a minor injury could lead to a miserable death. Surgeons—lauded for their brute strength and quick knives—rarely washed their hands or their instruments, and carried with them a cadaverous smell of rotting flesh, which those in the profession [...]
We don’t know much about her. We don’t even know her name. What we do know is that the woman who wore this prosthetic in the mid-19th century was suffering from a severe case of syphilis.
In Episode 10 of Under the Knife, I hit the road to visit the grave of the infamous American gangster, Al Capone. Learn about Capone’s torturous descent into madness caused by advance stage syphilis, and his eventual death and burial that left his grave exposed to vandals. If you enjoy the series, please consider becoming a patron of my project by clicking here. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel, and like/comment on the video!
Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov (pictured above and below right) knew he was in trouble when he began experiencing intense pain in lower right quadrant of his abdomen. He had been feeling unwell for several days, but suddenly, his temperature skyrocketed and he was overcome by waves of nausea. The 27-year-old surgeon knew it could only be one thing: appendicitis. The year was 1961, and under normal circumstances, appendicitis was not life-threatening. But Rogozov was stuck in the middle of the Antartica, surrounded by nothing but thousands of square miles of snow and ice, far from civilization. He was one of thirteen [...]
At last! A brand new episode of Under The Knife! In Episode 9, I discuss the history of the barber’s pole, and how it relates to a bloody practice from our medical past. Learn how the barber’s pole got its red & white stripes. If you enjoy the series, please consider becoming a patron of my project by clicking here. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel, and like/comment on the video!
It’s been 18 months since I’ve filmed an episode of my YouTube series, Under The Knife. But that ends today! Check out the trailer to the series reboot, which may or may not involve my severed head. A NEW episode is coming next week. If you haven’t subscribed to the channel, please do. You’ll be automatically entered to win macabre little trinkets before the launch of our next video. My team and I have a lot of fun, quirky things planned for the series in the coming months. Under The Knife combines traditional storytelling techniques with animation, special effects, and [...]
The surgical revolution began with an American dentist and a curiously sweet-smelling liquid known as ether.
When the Black Death swept through Europe in the 14th century, it claimed the lives of over 75 million people, many of who were clergymen whose job it was to help usher the dying into the next world. In response to the shortage of priests, the Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) first emerged in 1415. This was a manual that provided practical guidance to the dying and those who attended them in their final moments. These included prayers and prescribed rites to be performed at the deathbed, as well as illustrations and descriptions of the temptations one must overcome in order to [...]
When King Charles II suffered a sudden seizure on the morning of 2 February 1685, his personal physician had just the remedy. He quickly slashed open a vein in the king’s left arm and filled a basin with the royal blood. Over the next few days, the king was tortured by a swarm of physicians buzzing around his bedside. They gave enemas and urged him to drink various potions, including boiled spirits from a human skull. The monarch was bled a second time before he lapsed into a coma. He never awoke. Even without his doctors’ ministrations, the king [...]
I never feel more alive than when I am standing among the rows and rows of anatomical specimens in medical museums around London. In one jar floats the remains of an ulcerated stomach; in another, the hands of a suicide victim. Cabinets are filled with syphilitic skulls, arthritic joints, and cancerous bones. The unborn sit alongside the aged; murderers occupy the same space as the murdered. As a medical historian, I have a professional interest in these collections as part of my ongoing research into the early history of surgery. Occasionally, however, I catch a glimpse of veins and arteries dangling from a [...]