Innocent tumours

Dalrymple profiles a noted physician-author in the British Medical Journal (subscription required):
Sir John Bland-Sutton (1855-1936) was a most remarkable man. The force of his personality emanates almost palpably from his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography and its accompanying photograph. He was a small man who was said to have resembled Napoleon. As a surgeon he was dextrous and decisive. He had a ferocious—but constructive—determination to succeed, and he was generous to his juniors.
Two things puzzled me about Bland-Sutton’s Tumours (his double-barrelled name, incidentally, was assumed by deed poll, the union of his middle name and his surname): firstly, the dramatic nature, or grossness of the pathology, of the cases illustrated; secondly, the recognisability of the people who suffered from that pathology.
As artistic artefacts, the illustrations, though of the ugliest possible phenomena, are beautiful, and of enormously skilful draughtsmanship. But do such extreme cases, does such gross pathology (for example, of chondromata), exist nowadays? If not, is it because it does not occur in the first place, because surgical alleviation always attenuates it or because we hide it away, as the Victorians were supposed to have hidden piano legs?

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