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So I’m reading Michio Kaku’s new book, The Future of the Mind, and among its many fascinating tidbits, I came across this passage:

“Curiously, the use of electrical probes on the brain was first recorded a couple of thousand years earlier by the Romans.  In the year A.D. 43, records show that the court doctor to the emperor Claudius used electrically charged torpedo fish, which were applied to the head of a patient suffering from severe headaches.”

This reminded me of another example of crude, but technically effective early medical practice.

For example, the first rhinoplasties were performed in India during roughly the 6th century BCE (I know, I was surprised too).  Apparently, getting your nose lopped off in battles or duels or other violent activities was not an uncommon problem.  And then you’re left with the problem of being nose-less (but don’t tell Gogol, never know where it’ll end up if he gets a hold of it).

Now, it seems to me, an easy solution would have been to wear a prosthetic nose – perhaps made of clay or wood (peg-nose?).  But then some clever doctors came along…

They discovered that one could cut a flap of skin from the forehead and fold it over down onto where the nose should be.  There it would be shaped (sort of) and attached to the face – creating a new, living, nose.  Meanwhile, the missing patch on your forehead would eventually heal over.

This was quite a breakthrough in the transplant/reconstructive field of medicine – especially at the time.  Although…while medically fascinating, I imagine the aesthetics left something to be desired.

Not to mention one hell of a headache.

Nurse, apply the fish.


Hamilton, D. (2012). A History of Organ Transplantation.  Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Kaku, M. (2014). The Future of the Mind. New York, NY: Doubleday