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Penguin: Dutton Trade Fall 2019

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The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth
And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine
By (author): Thomas Morris
9781524743703 Paperback, Trade English General Trade MEDICAL / History Nov 12, 2019
$23.00 CAD
Forthcoming 5.5 x 8.25 in 368 pages Dutton
“Delightfully horrifying.”—Popular Science

This wryly humorous collection of stories about bizarre medical treatments and cases offers a unique portrait of a bygone era in all its jaw-dropping weirdness.


A puzzling series of dental explosions beginning in the nineteenth century is just one of many strange tales that have long lain undiscovered in the pages of old medical journals. Award-winning medical historian Thomas Morris delivers one of the most remarkable, cringe-inducing collections of stories ever assembled. Witness Mysterious Illnesses (such as the Rhode Island woman who peed through her nose), Horrifying Operations (1781: A French soldier in India operates on his own bladder stone), Tall Tales (like the “amphibious infant” of Chicago, a baby that could apparently swim underwater for half an hour), Unfortunate Predicaments (such as that of the boy who honked like a goose after inhaling a bird’s larynx), and a plethora of other marvels.

Beyond a series of anecdotes, these painfully amusing stories reveal a great deal about the evolution of modern medicine. Some show the medical profession hopeless in the face of ailments that today would be quickly banished by modern drugs; but others are heartening tales of recovery against the odds, patients saved from death by the devotion or ingenuity of a conscientious doctor.

However embarrassing the ailment or ludicrous the treatment, every case in The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth tells us something about the knowledge (and ignorance) of an earlier age, along with the sheer resilience of human life.

PERENNIAL MARKET FOR STRANGE MEDICAL HISTORY: From Dr. Mutter’s Marvels to the more recent The Butchering Art, books such as these are a strong frontlist and backlist category.

AWARD-WINNING MEDICAL HISTORIAN: This is not a collection of urban myths; all the stories appeared in medical journals, and the commentary Morris provides gives real insight into how we learned about the human body and the troubles that can afflict it.

AUTHOR’S POPULAR BLOG is all about medical history, attracts thousands of visits every week, and is read in more than a hundred countries worldwide. It has been featured by outlets including National Geographic, Vice, and BBC Future. Reminiscent of The Darwin Awards.

BEAUTIFUL DESIGN: Morris has collected dozens of historic illustrations that decorate the text throughout, enhancing a gifty decorative design.

Thomas Morris is a writer and medical historian. His first book, The Matter of the Heart, a history of heart surgery, was a winner of a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award. He lives in London.

Author Residence: London, UK

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Author Website: www.thomas-morris.uk

Author Social Media: www.twitter.com/thomasngmorris

Praise for The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth

“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

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