Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth

From The Telegraph:

Smokingstory_1573052f It is astonishing to think how many of the things that we take for granted today – anaesthetic, immunisation – are not only relatively recent discoveries, but also the result of amazing bravery on the part of researchers. This wonderful book catalogues them and also paints a vivid picture of scientific inquiry and a world in which, most of the time, people were off their heads on laughing gas, laudanum or some other fashionable intoxicant. Even Queen Victoria loved a bit of chloroform.

Trevor Norton, himself a marine biologist, strikes the right mixture of wit and awe in his discussions. Some of the extraordinary feats described include those of John Hunter, surgeon extraordinary to George III, who infected himself with gonorrhoea and syphilis; the layman Frank Buckland, who served guests hedgehog and puppy while meerkats and hares cavorted around the dining room, and was so zealous in his pursuit of dissection that “elderly maidens called in their cats as he passed”. He drew the line at eating stewed mole and earwigs, however – the latter being “horribly bitter”.

More here.