Historic Medical Records Released in U.K.

LONDON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — More than 1,000 medical journals of Britain’s Royal Navy have been made public following a two-year cataloguing project at the National Archives, officials say.

The journals of ships doctors on ocean voyages between 1793 and 1880 reveal details of treatments of sailors, officers, emigrants and transported convicts, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.


They record patients being administered turpentine, toxic laxatives, barley water and brandy for almost any complaint or symptom.

Cures were attempted for scorpion, tarantula and shark bites, scurvy and many different forms of sexually transmitted diseases, the journals show.

In January 1802 one James Calloway, a 40-year-old seaman, fell overboard and was only revived when tobacco smoke was blown into his lungs, one journal entry says.

In June 1825, 12-year-old Ellen McCarthy, sailing from Cork, Ireland, to Quebec, Canada, coughed up three 7-foot-long intestinal worms that her mother took to the ship’s surgeon, who wrote of treating the child with a range of syrups and injections.

The remedies prescribed seem harsh to modern eyes, but the doctors of the time were often pioneering treatments that would later be refined, Dan Gilfoyle, the National Archives’ diplomatic and colonial records specialist, said.

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