People Died From Weird Stuff in London in 1632

There's a list that went viral recently called "The Diseases and Casualties this year being 1632," and it is, for the most part, fairly hilarious. The list purports to be the causes of death in the city of London 392 years ago.

It shows that while the American healthcare system may be a dumpster fire, at least we didn't live in the early part of the 17th century when you could die from some of the worst or dumbest ways imaginable. It also shows the terms they used for modern diseases, and how they tried to understand diseases of the body that actually make no sense today.

Like Purples, which referred to widespread bruising and could be caused by many different reasons. Even today, Doctor Google says there are many reasons why someone could have extensive and unexplained bruising.

According to the chart, 38 people died of Purples and "Spotted Feaver" (which is typhus or meningitis).

But this is not nearly as silly as dying from "Planet," which refers to a sudden severe illness or paralysis that was caused by a planet. Thirteen Londoners died from Planet that year.

To understand this, let's consider that on April 1, 1976, a BBC Radio 2 astronomer told listeners that Pluto and Jupiter would align in a way that would temporarily reduce the Earth's gravity. He said that if they jumped at that time, they could feel lighter, which people did and called in saying they could feel the effect.

Given that the British people once believed they could die from Planet, I'm not surprised that they thought Pluto and Jupiter would cause a gravitational flux, which is dumb. Everyone knows it needed to be an alignment of Jupiter and Venus.

"Teeth" was a serious problem, killing 470 Londoners in one year. This wasn't a 17th-century name for something else, like appendicitis or a tumor.

No, people actually died from their teeth. 

It was caused by dental infections leading to death, so if that doesn't make you want to floss every day, nothing will.

According to a 2013 study, only 66 people in the entire U.S. died of a dental infection that year, out of 61,000 people hospitalized for it. That means .1848% of Americans were hospitalized for a dental infection.

Compare that to 350,000 people living in London in the early 1600s, where the death rate for Teeth was .1342%.

This means that either dental health has gotten better over the last four centuries, or antibiotics have. I really hope it's the former, but I worry that it's the latter. How many people would die from Teeth today if we didn't have antibiotics?

Still, I think I would rather die from Teeth than be that one person who died from Piles.

Out of everyone who lived in London in 1632, exactly one of them died from hemorrhoids. That's quite an accomplishment because medical experts all agree that a person cannot die from hemorrhoids, no matter how painful and itchy they are.

There were 628 people who died of Aged, 1,797 died of Consumption (tuberculosis), and 1,108 died of Fever, which is not that surprising. Those are all still killing people today.

No, it's the single deaths that intrigue me, like Piles; the ones where only one person died from that particular cause.

Like Affrighted, Bit With a Mad Dog, Canker, Sciatica, and Vomiting.

Compare that to the seven people who died from Quinsie, which is nothing more than tonsillitis or inflamed tonsils. They can become abscessed and obstruct breathing, which now that I think about it, makes me wonder about the guy who died from Piles.

Twelve people died of what the British and Germans called "French pox," which is another word for syphilis. The French called it the "Neapolitan disease," while the Russians called it the "Polish disease," and the Polish called it the "German disease."

It's like that meme where a bunch of Spider-Men are pointing at each other.

Fifteen people Made Away Themselves (the polite term for suicide), but only seven people were Murthered (murdered), which I find hard to believe. Only seven people were Murthered, but nine more died of Scurvy and Itch? Come on, 17th-century London, we're smarter than that.

Five people died of Gangrene, and four died of Gout. Two died of Lethargie, and three died of Bleeding. (What are the odds that three Bleeders were Murthered?)

And 80 people died of Measles, something that seems so preventable and avoidable in the 21st century.

I'm glad we live in a time when many of these diseases can be cured or even prevented with a simple antibiotic or vaccination. Imagine dying of Quinsie only to find out that a few hundred years later, they can pop out your inflamed tonsils with a simple operation and you get lots of ice cream afterward.

Or that basic brushing and flossing could have prevented 470 deaths.

Or that a simple childhood vaccine could have saved 80 people from death by respiratory and neurologic complications.

Yep, it makes me glad that modern people aren't simple-minded goobers who let superstitious quackery replace basic science and medicine.

Of course, Murthers have gone way, way up, so maybe it's not a fair trade after all.

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.