Weird Medicine: Alchemy & History Meet in Sawbones

If you like history, weird stories, and a little bit of grossness, I have the podcast for you—Sawbones. Their website provides an enticing description: “Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin welcome you to Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. Every Friday, they dig through the annals of medical history to uncover all the odd, weird, wrong, dumb and just gross ways we’ve tried to fix people over the years. Educational? You bet! Fun? We hope!”

And fun it is. They banter as Sydnee tells her stories and Justin asks all of the questions we non-medical persons want to know. I look forward to every episode that pops up into my playlist. They take a topic like face wrinkles and make it intriguing.


Medical history has a special place in my heart. Unlike many other history podcasts that focus on the serious and tragic, medical history as told through Sawbones is shocking, thought-provoking, and humorous.

One of their more recent episodes, The (Maybe) Real Dr. Frankenstein, tells the story of Johann Conrad Dippel. A dabbler in philosophy, medicine, alchemy, and anatomy, Dippel helped create the color Prussian blue. Oh, and he lived in Castle Frankenstein.

Like many alchemists at the time (in the 16-1700s), Dippel worked on an elixir of life that became very popular. This “medicine” was so gross it was later used as a chemical weapon—as it made water undrinkable. He also studied soul transference, another common scientific pursuit at the time that attempted a form of resurrection. Dippel may or may not have inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and you’ll enjoy the story of his life and medical research.

Every episode of Sawbones features the best and worst of humanity—how far we’ve come and the crazy things we used to do in pursuit of cures.

What medical podcasts do you like to follow? Are you working on any medical-themed knits?

Sarah Rothberg
Assistant Editor, Interweave Knits

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