The Journal "the backbone of the association"

British Medical Journal

October 22. 1859 Page 863

Skinner, T.

Liverpool

Excision of the coccyx is a favourite operation in some parts of Her Majesty's dominions at present....

Note by Jon Miles:

Before Simpson’s paper discussing treatment of coccydynia was published in 1859, the condition was rather obscure. His paper started a wave of interest in the condition, first focussing on coccygotomy and then on coccygectomy.

Less than four months after Simpson published his paper, Skinner (above) wrote “Excision of the coccyx is a favourite operation in some parts of Her Majesty's dominions at present”. Skinner did not intend this to be taken seriously: it was part of a letter accusing the British medical establishment of spinelessness, and the reference to coccygectomy was clearly a joke about doctors losing their backbones. Nevertheless, his comment shows that he expected his readers to be familiar with Simpson’s paper, which was published in a different journal from Skinner’s letter.

The American Journal of the Medical Sciences described coccydynia as ‘the disease made celebrated by the recent admirable researches of Dr. Simpson’. The Hathi Trust digital library, accessed on 31 January 2016, contained 136 volumes published in the ten years after Simpson’s paper which contained references to coccyodynia, coccygodynia, coccydynia or coccygodynie, after removing duplicates. Since not all medical books and journals have been scanned, and bound volumes of journals may contain more than one paper on coccydynia, the actual total of publications with references to the subject in those ten years must be greater.

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