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Showing posts from February, 2015

Want 'The Cure'? Here's Robert Smith!

The Robert Smith that springs to a lot of people's minds when the words 'The Cure' are mentioned is probably this chap.... Being the blog of the RCSI Heritage Collections you can imagine that the lead singer of the 1980s gothic rock band is not who pops into our minds. Instead the man being referred to here is Robert William Smith, FRCSI. A surgeon so revered that his obituary from The Lancet on 8 November 1873 begins with the sentence 'Not Dublin only, but every medical school throughout the country has sustained a severe loss by the death of this able and highly accomplished pathologist'.   Robert William Smith was born in Dublin on 12 October 1807. His father died when Smith is still quite young but his mother, Isabella, went to great lengths to ensure her son's education. Smith began his medical studies in Trinity College Dublin graduating with a B.A in 1828 and an M.A in 1832. He continued his studies by being apprenticed to Richard Carmichael

Meat Juice for your Valentine?

Is there anything more romantic than giving your loved one a bottle of Valentine's Meat Juice this Valentine's Day?  A bottle of Valentine's Meat Juice still sealed and containing juice (RCSI/MI/1544) There is if you use it to disguise the taste of arsenic as Florence Maybrick did in 1889! But first what is Valentine's Meat juice? 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 Medical Journal . Its inventor, Mann S.Valentine, told of its origins in his   A Brief History of the  Production of Valentine’s Meat Juice, together with  Testimonials of the Medical Profession   (1874). A family member, thought to be his wife Anna Maria Grey Valentine, was in great danger from ‘ a severe and protracted  derangement of the organs of digestion .’ She could not take normal food, yet none of the available invalid preparations could

Amputation? Pass the Ether!

Nowadays when you go in for a minor or major operation, there is no question over anaesthetic being used. That wasn't the case for patients until the 1840s, poor devils. Up until then the patient was, in some cases, restrained to stop them thrashing around and putting the surgeon off his work. If lucky the patient was given alcohol or opium to help ease the pain. In other cases a piece of wood or leather was given to bite down on or, if you were a soldier, a bullet. Illustration of a patient ready for surgery in the 16th century Taken from The History of Ophthalmology   On 16th October 1846 John Collins Warren undertook the first surgical operation using ether as an anaesthetic in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Less than three months later an Irish surgeon would carry out the first amputation under the influence of ether ever preformed in Ireland. John McDonnell, father of Robert McDonnell who has featured previously in this  blog , was born in Belfast on 11t