Weird science facts, November 24-November 30

Here are the Twitter #weirdscifacts for November 24 through November 30th!

256. Nov 24: Stubbins Ffirth (1784-1820) sought to prove yellow fever not contagious by drinking undiluted vomit from sufferers. Can I get an “eeeeew”?  He actually began his experiments by rubbing vomit on cuts he made in his arms, progressed to frying it and inhaling the fumes, and eventually drinking it. Ffirth was *totally* wrong, however: he had used… samples… from late-stage patients who were no longer contagious.  In other words, he was lucky not to have killed himself.

257. Nov 25: The Sylacauga meteorite — the first documented extraterrestrial object known to injure a human being.

258. Nov 26: A species of squid comes very near to achieving flight! (Hat-tip to @DrCraigMc)

259. Nov 27: In 1803, Giovanni Aldini performed electrical experiments on an executed criminal that made spectators fear he was alive again! Convicted murderer George Forster’s body was provided to Aldini for experiments in Galvanism (the stimulation of muscles by electric current).  The January 18th, 1803 edition of the Newgate Calendar reports on the hanging of Forster and what followed:

He died very easy; and, after hanging the usual time, his body was cut down and conveyed to a house not far distant, where it was subjected to the galvanic process by Professor Aldini, under the inspection of Mr Keate, Mr Carpue and several other professional gentlemen. M. Aldini, who is the nephew of the discoverer of this most interesting science, showed the eminent and superior powers of galvanism to be far beyond any other stimulant in nature. On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion. Mr Pass, the beadle of the Surgeons’ Company, who was officially present during this experiment, was so alarmed that he died of fright soon after his return home.

Some of the uninformed bystanders thought that the wretched man was on the eve of being restored to life. This, however, was impossible, as several of his friends, who were under the scaffold, had violently pulled his legs, in order to put a more speedy termination to his sufferings. The experiment, in fact, was of a better use and tendency. Its object was to show the excitability of the human frame when this animal electricity was duly applied. In cases of drowning or suffocation it promised to be of the utmost use, by reviving the action of the lungs, and thereby rekindling the expiring spark of vitality. In cases of apoplexy, or disorders of the head, it offered also most encouraging prospects for the benefit of mankind.

The professor, we understand, had made use of galvanism also in several cases of insanity, and with complete success. It was the opinion of the first medical men that this discovery, if rightly managed and duly prosecuted, could not fail to be of great, and perhaps as yet unforeseen, utility.

Emphasis mine!

260. Nov 28: The Centennial Light: a lightbulb that has been burning almost continuously for 109 years.

261. Nov 29: The town that went mad (France, 1951), by Neuroskeptic.

262. Nov 30: c. 1903, chemist Soddy advocated inhaling *radium* as a cure for tuberculosis! To researchers of the time, radioactivity was practically a magical process, one that seemed to provide an almost limitless source of energy.  With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that people would think of it possessing healing power; it is surprising, however, that a chemist was the advocate!  For the record, radium is over 1 million times more radioactive than uranium — inhaling or ingesting it is a bad, bad idea.

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2 Responses to Weird science facts, November 24-November 30

  1. Lowell says:

    Sounds as though Ffirth was inhaling the fumes from a certain plant (before he got the fried vomit idea). Oh, and,”eeeeew…”

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