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28 Sep 2010

I’m Pretty Sure I Know What That Smells Like.

Written by sally @ 3:39 pm — Section: sally

“Schneider, the father of rhinology, mentions a woman in whom the odor of orange-flowers produced syncope. Odier has known a woman who was affected with aphonia whenever exposed to the odor of musk, but who immediately recovered after taking a cold bath. Dejean has mentioned a man who could not tolerate an atmosphere of cherries. Highmore knew a man in whom the slightest smell of musk caused headache followed by epistaxis. There is an instance on record in which the odor coming from a walnut tree excited epilepsy. It is said that one of the secretaries of Francis I was forced to stop his nostrils with bread if apples were on the table. He would faint if one was held near his nose…. There is reported the case of a young woman, rather robust, otherwise normal, who always experienced a desire to go to stool after being subjected to any nasal irritation sufficient to excite sneezing” (483).

Helpful: syncope = fainting; aphonia = the inability to speak; epistaxis = nosebleed.

That’s from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle (1896). Besides this section on idiosyncrasies regarding the sense of smell, there are also sections on the following (wording taken from the table of contents):

Worms in the pregnant uterus
Monstrosities
“Elastic-Skin Man”
Congenital absence of the nose
Absence of the vagina
Fat children
Bloody sweat
The odor of insanity
Injury to the eyeball by birds
Spontaneous retraction of the penis
Elephantitis of the [all body parts listed]

There are photos or drawings of almost everything, which makes this not just a great book, but the best book of all time. Well, gotta go. I have to read about the odor of insanity now. (Update: it’s the smell of field mice. But I also learned about one lucky duck whose perspiration smelled like pineapples.)

One Response to “I’m Pretty Sure I Know What That Smells Like.”

  1. poobou said:

    “Injury to the eyeball by birds” is pretty much one of my worst fears ever. Thanks, Alfred Hitchcock.

    I think we ALL know the odor of insanity. And I don’t think it has anything to do with field mice.