|General Claude Martin by Renaldi, 1794|
For those of us who adore telling historical tales, the medicine of ages past is always a fertile ground for material. Regular visitors to the salon will have heard me tell of the estimable Doctor Dillingham before, known to the Hanoverian court and the denizens Versailles alike for his surgical skills, and once again he has shard with me a story from Georgian medicine. I will warn at this point that it is possibly not suitable for the faint of heart!
Major General Claude Martin, who died on this day in 1800, was a man who knew no obstacles, only challenges. From humble origins he rose to the highest ranks of the British East India Company's Bengal Army, leaving behind a rich philanthropic legacy. Adventurer, educationalist, scientist and architect, this remarkable man lived a colourful and exciting life and when ill health threatened to slow him down, he was not about to surrender.
Martin suffered from bladder stones that blocked his urinary tract and, whilst trekking in the tropics in 1782, the pain grew so unbearable that he decided to take drastic action. Martin performed a self-lithotripsy, using a thin, sharpened metal file break the stones up. Half a dozen times a day for a number of months he inserted the device into his urethra and filed away at the stone until it was small enough to pass out of his body. When the treatment proved successful, he sent a report on the procedure to London for the attention of the Company of Surgeons.
Martin lived on for many years following this stomach-churning treatment and died a rich and celebrated man, larger than life to the very end.