Wash Your Hands

Epidemiology, Famous Victorians, Medicine

While working in Vienna General Hospital in the 1840s, Ignaz Semmelweis noticed a curious thing – the mortality rate of new mothers was a lot higher in wards supervised by doctors 👨‍⚕️compared to those supervised by midwives 👩‍⚕️. After some investigating, he found the source of the problem – only doctors had access to both maternity wards and autopsy tables. Semmelweis quickly developed a theory of what he called “cadaverous particles” 🧟‍♀️🧟‍♀️ and introduced rigorous handwashing 🧼 in his clinics. Unfortunately, even though his method worked spectacularly well, he was ridiculed by most of the medical professionals until his death in a lunatic asylum. 💀

Original John Snow

Epidemiology, Famous Victorians, Medicine

John Snow was an English physician, 👨‍⚕️ best known for finding the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho,1854. By putting all known cholera cases on a map, he found the source of all troubles – a contaminated water pump. 💦 Why was it such a big deal? This discovery not only led to shutting down the pump, but also worked in favor of the budding germ theory of disease. 🦠🦠🦠 Even though Snow himself didn’t know that at the time, he contributed to the birth of epidemiology. 🔬

The third episode of the newest Victoria season talks about the Snow’s cholera investigation, so check it out! (the series doesn’t always stick well to the facts, though, you’ve been warned) 😀

Mad as a Hatter

Everyday Life, Medicine

Erethism, more commonly known as mad hatter disease, 🎩 is caused by mercury poisoning and can cause a variety of symptoms including tremors, timidness, anxiety, and even hallucinations. 🧚‍♀️It was quite common among hat-makers as they were exposed to mercury used in the manufacturing of felt hats.

Even though the Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 🐛doesn’t display all of these symptoms, his creation might have been inspired by erethism. We know that Lewis Carroll’s uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, was a Lunacy Commissioner supervising Pauper Lunatic Asylums. To keep patients busy, these asylums often organized group activities such as … tea parties. 🧐☕️

On a related note, check out this video about the “mad as a hatter” expression 🙂

Wax Noses

Cosmetics, Everyday Life, Medicine

The Edwardian Era brought a new craze in plastic surgery – paraffin wax injections.🕯 The promise of a perfect nose👃or chin quickly faded, when it turned out that wax could wander beneath the skin causing infections, blood clots, and even cancer. ☠️

For reference, I learned about upper class women fixing their wax noses in a great BBC documentary series Blood and Guts (there’s also a book available) 

Mary Shelley

Everyday Life, Famous Victorians, Medicine

After her husband’s death, Mary Shelley kept his calcified heart 💛 in a desk drawer. And even though some modern scholars believe it was just his liver, Mary herself was convinced that she had Percy’s heart. Quite a suitable keepsake for the author of Frankenstein! 🧟‍♂️

Interesting article on the subject: http://assets.press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7985.pdf

Mole

Everyday Life, Medicine

Laudanum 😴, lead 🤪, alcohol 🥂… all your tips under the last post were great! And yet, there is something else you might add to your healing arsenal… ☠️

“To ease the pain of teething, hang a dead mole around the neck of your baby.” – find even weirder treatments in this handy booklet: Hints on Health from the Victorians.

Phossy Jaw

Cosmetics, Everyday Life

The harrowing conditions in match factories, including the use of highly poisonous ☠️ white phosphorus ☠️, were not a secret in the Victorian times. However, It was not until the matchgirls’ strike of 1888 🗣 that the situation started to get better.

Find out more about the matchmakers in “Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History” (book fragments are available on Google books)

Shopping for Arsenic

Everyday Life, Medicine

There were no regulations on buying and selling arsenic until 1851, and even then it could be relatively easy purchased by anyone who didn’t cause any suspicion. 

You can read more on arsenic and other poisons in The Secret Poisoner: The Victorian Age of Poisoning.