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Royal Society of Medicine celebrates IK Brunel's 205th birthday

Historic paper details Sir Benjamin Brodie’s struggle to dislodge a gold coin stick in Brunel throat.

To celebrate Isambard Kingdom Brunel’ 205th birthday this week, the Royal Society of Medicine has published a paper in its Journal detailing royal surgeon Sir Benjamin Brodie’s struggles in 1843 to dislodge a gold coin accidentally swallowed by the great engineer.

The paper describes the Brodie’s original 1843 account of how he was called upon to assist effort to recover the coin, which was infamously and near-fatally inhaled during an after dinner stunt.

Brodie’s efforts included the use of a swivelling table and a variety of tools and forceps until he successfully dislodged the coin a gold coin from Brunel’s windpipe six weeks later.

“On the 3rd April 1843, Mr B being engaged immediately after dinner in amusing some children, placed a half-sovereign in his mouth,” wrote Brodie. “By some accident it slipped behind the tongue, and a violent fit of coughing, in which he had the appearance of being nearly choked, was the consequence.”

To read the full paper in all its Victorian splendour, with graphic descriptions of the various apparatus employed, visit

Image courtesy of the library of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Royal Society of Medicine celebrates IK Brunel's 205th birthday
    - found the headlining of this story somewhat misleading as Brunel himself had made the swivelling table when Brodie's attempts, with special forceps, failed. This in fact is mentioned in the actual article.
    Stephen K. Jones

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