In times past, curiosities were often arranged in cabinets for display: a dried mermaid next to a giant's shinbone, the skeletons of conjoined twins beside an Egyptian mummy. In ten essays, the author brings a physician's diagnostic skills to various unexpected and unusual aspects of the history of medicine: spontaneous human combustion, colonies of snakes and frogs living in a person's stomach, kings and emperors devoured by lice, vicious tribes of tailed men and the Two-headed Boy of Bengal. Bondeson tells the story of Mary Toft who gained notoriety in 1726 when she allegedly gave birth to 17 rabbits. King George I, the Prince of Wales and the court physicians attributed these monstrous births to a "maternal impression" because Mary had longed for a meal of rabbit while pregnant. Bondeson explaines that the fallacy of maternal impressions, conspicuous in the novels of Goethe, Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, has ancient roots in Chinese and Babylonian manuscripts. The author also presents the case of Julia Pastrana, a Mexican-Indian woman with thick hair growing over her body and a massive overgrowth of the gums which gave her a simian or ape-like appearance.
Called the Ape Woman, she was exhibited all over the world. Following her death in 1860, Julia's husband, who had also been her impresario, had her body mummified and continued to exhibit it throughout Europe. Bondeson tracked the mummy down and managed to diagnose Julia Pastrana's condition as the result of a rare genetic syndrome.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 517 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 23 mm
Edition: New edition