Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

Walter L. Pyle

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Since the time when man's mind first busied itself with subjects beyond his own self-preservation and the satisfaction of his bodily appetites, the anomalous and curious have been of exceptional and persistent fascination to him; and especially is this true of the construction and functions of the human body. Possibly, indeed, it was the anomalous that was largely instrumental in arousing in the savage the attention, thought, and investigation that were finally to develop into the body of organized truth which we now call Science. As by the aid of collected experience and careful inference we to-day endeavor to pass our vision into the dim twilight whence has emerged our civilization, we find abundant hint and even evidence of this truth. To the highest type of philosophic minds it is the usual and the ordinary that demand investigation and explanation. But even to such, no less than to the most naive-minded, the strange and exceptional is of absorbing interest, and it is often through the extraordinary that the philosopher gets the most searching glimpses into the heart of the mystery of the ordinary. Truly it has been said, facts are stranger than fiction. In monstrosities and dermoid cysts, for example, we seem to catch forbidden sight of the secret work-room of Nature, and drag out into the light the evidences of her clumsiness, and proofs of her lapses of skill,—evidences and proofs, moreover, that tell us much of the methods and means used by the vital artisan of Life,—the loom, and even the silent weaver at work upon the mysterious garment of corporeality.

But where our proper responsibility seemed likely never to end was in carrying out the enormous labor requisite for a reasonable certainty that we had omitted no searching that might lead to undiscovered facts, ancient or modern. Choice in selection is always, of course, an affair de gustibus, and especially when, like the present, there is considerable embarrassment of riches, coupled with the purpose of compressing our results in one handy volume. In brief, it may be said that several years of exhaustive research have been spent by us in the great medical libraries of the United States and Europe in collecting the material herewith presented. If, despite of this, omissions and errors are to be found, we shall be grateful to have them pointed out. It must be remembered that limits of space have forbidden satisfactory discussion of the cases, and the prime object of the whole work has been to carefully collect and group the anomalies and curiosities, and allow the reader to form his own conclusions and make his own deductions.

As the entire labor in the preparation of the forelying volume, from the inception of the idea to the completion of the index, has been exclusively the personal work of the authors, it is with full confidence of the authenticity of the reports quoted that the material is presented.


Genetic anomalies -- Prenatal anomalies -- Obstetric anomalies -- Prolificity -- Major terata -- Minor terata -- Anomalies of stature, size, and development -- Longevity -- Physiologic and functional anomalies -- Surgical anomalies of the head and neck -- Surgical anomalies of the extremities -- Surgical anomalies of the thorax and abdomen -- Surgical anomalies of the genitourinary system -- Miscellaneous surgical anomalies -- Anomalous types and instances of disease -- Anomalous skin-diseases -- Anomalous nervous and mental diseases -- Historic epidemics.
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