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About the book
  • Published: 15 October 2019
  • ISBN: 9780552175456
  • Imprint: Corgi
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $28.00

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine




Horrible histories for adults, these gruesome, bizarre and often hilarious medical case histories trace the evolution of modern medicine and the astonishing resilience of human life, both in body and spirit!

"Delightfully horrifying."--Popular Science
One of Mental Floss's Best Books of 2018
One of Science Friday's Best Science Books of 2018


· A mysterious epidemic of dental explosions…
· A teenage boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick...
· A remarkable woman who, like a human fountain, spurted urine from virtually every orifice...

These are just a few of the anecdotal gems that have until now lain undiscovered in medical journals for centuries. This fascinating collection of historical curiosities explores some of the strangest cases that have perplexed doctors across the world.

From seventeenth-century Holland to Tsarist Russia, from rural Canada to a whaler in the Pacific, many are monuments to human stupidity – such as the sailor who swallowed dozens of penknives to amuse his shipmates, or the chemistry student who in 1850 arrived at a hospital in New York with his penis trapped inside a bottle, having unwisely decided to relieve himself into a vessel containing highly reactive potassium. Others demonstrate exceptional surgical ingenuity long before the advent of anaesthesia – such as a daring nineteenth-century operation to remove a metal fragment from beneath a conscious patient’s heart. We also hear of the weird, often hilarious remedies employed by physicians of yore – from crow’s vomit to port-wine enemas – the hazards of such everyday objects as cucumbers and false teeth, and miraculous recovery from apparently terminal injuries.

Blending fascinating history with lacerating wit, The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth will take you on a tour of some of the funniest, strangest and most wince-inducing corners of medical history.

  • Pub date: 15 October 2019
  • ISBN: 9780552175456
  • Imprint: Corgi
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $28.00

About the Author

Thomas Morris

Thomas Morris worked for the BBC for seventeen years making programmes for Radio 4 and Radio 3. For five years he was the producer of In Our Time, and previously worked on Front Row, Open Book and The Film Programme. His freelance journalism has appeared in publications including The Times, The Lancet and The Cricketer. In 2015 he was awarded a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for non-fiction. He lives in London.

Also by Thomas Morris

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Praise for The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine

“Delightfully horrifying.”

Popular Science

“A delightful romp through a myriad of entertaining, arcane and obscure medical anecdotes. Fascinating and entertaining... a curious window into a vitalistic era of medical practice.”

Adrian Woolfson, Wall Street Journal

“A witty account of bizarre medical tales from history. Read it, weep and be very grateful for modern medicine.”

Daily Express

“Blending fascinating history with cutting wit, surgical historian Thomas Morris mines the medical journals and explores some of the strangest cases that have perplexed doctors across the world.”

Big Issue

“A Ripley-esque collection of 'compellingly disgusting, hilarious, or downright bizarre' medical oddities... accompanied by the author's witty and often humorous, colloquial commentary.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Replete with tales such as "the human pincushion" and "suffocated by a fish", The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is a bewildering walk through medical history that will astonish readers. This book proves that truth is indeed stranger--and more stomach-churning--than fiction. Between the toasting forks projectiles and deadly dentures, there are lessons a-plenty on how not to die.”

Lydia Kang, MD, author of Quackery

“This delightfully bizarre compendium of medical mishaps will certainly tickle you--what's not to love about exploding teeth?--but something deeper is at work. Morris offers a wryly generous view of the fallibilities of the body and psyche (read: the sailor who wouldn't stop swallowing knives) and doctors' inventive, often heroic attempts to remedy same, as medical science developed. At heart, this is an exploration of our humanity, in all its absurdity and valour.”

Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

“The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is such a weirdly wonderful tour through the history of medicine - from wandering bullets to apparently evil cucumbers - that on one level it's just pure fun to read. But Thomas Morris' intelligent story telling also makes it a fascinating look at medical history with all its mistakes, superstitions, and eventual understanding of the ever mysterious human body.”

Deborah Blum, author of The Poison Squad

“A wonderfully gruesome tour of inexplicable illnesses, questionable remedies, jaw-dropping operations and recoveries that defy logic... a fascinating window into the world of medical oddities... This tour of strange and unbelievable medical cases from history is funny and terrifying in equal measure.”

Shelf Awareness

“A particularly fascinating reminder of medical advancement… Morris has combed through old medical journals and compiled a trove of the most bizarre, disgusting — and compelling — cases from the early 17th to the turn of the 20th century. It’s like medical rubbernecking.”

New York Post

“The clinical cases Morris has collected, creating what amounts to a medical version of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, are often intriguing, occasionally disgusting, sometimes tragic, but always weird… Morris offers a most peculiar jaunt through medical history.”

Booklist

“A gruesome but weirdly compelling trip through several centuries of quack cures, horrific operations, and bizarre accidents.”

New York Daily News

“[A] series of case studies from our research past that will remind you that we are never as smart as we think. Morris uses images of old documents, and citations from physicians of the past, in way that makes the book both real, grounded—and a lot of fun.”

Science Friday, Best Science Books of 2018

“Morris repeatedly encountered the intriguing and the bizarre. The human aspects of the cases Morris describes are as important as the strictly medical. As well as many self-inflicted tribulations there are a number of hair-raising emergencies.”

Anne Hardy, Times Literary Supplement

“Morris repeatedly encountered the intriguing and the bizarre. The human aspects of the cases Morris describes are as important as the strictly medical. As well as many self-inflicted tribulations there are a number of hair-raising emergencies.”

Anne Hardy, Times Literary Supplement

“Brilliant, hypnotic, compelling. A great book.”

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