Imagine a time when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When liquefied gold was touted as immortality in a glass. And when strychnine–yes, that strychnine, the one used in rat poison–was dosed like Viagra.


Looking back with fascination, horror, and not a little dash of dark, knowing humor, Quackery recounts the lively, at times unbelievable history of medical misfires and malpractices. Ranging from the merely weird to the outright dangerous, here are 67 outlandish, morbidly hilarious “treatments”– conceived by doctors and scientists, by spiritualists and snail oil salesmen–that were predicated on a range of cluelessness, trial and error, and straight-up scams. With vintage illustrations, photographs, and advertisements throughout, Quackery seamlessly combines macabre humor with science and storytelling to reveal an important and disturbing side of the ever-evolving field of medicine.


Written by Dr. Lydia Kang, a practicing physician, and Nate Pederson, a journalist and historian, it’s all here — the leeches, the arsenic drops, the water cures and radium spa hotels, the prefontal lobotomies.

Do no harm? As if!