Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Odd Showers

George Duncan Gibb - Odd Showers: or, An Explanation of the Rain of Insects, Fishes, and Lizards; Soot, Sand, and Ashes; Red Rain and Snow; Meteoric Stones; and Other Bodies (1870)

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A small Fortean pamphlet from four years before he was born (er, not an out-of-time object - a work from a different author than Fort).  It reports various accounts of falling frogs, fish, soot, rocks and so forth (see the subtitle) from the skies, generally in a straightforward manner with dates and locations in true Fortean fashion.  Gibb ventures a few explanations such as volcanoes for the soot or the familiar waterspouts for fish but mostly doesn't explore those in detail.  And I've never seen any Fortean work that closes with a brief poem in a variant of ballad meter.

Sir Duncan Gibb (1821-1876) was a London physician at Westminster Hospital who wrote a few texts on medical subjects, mostly related to the throat.  None of his other work appears to be in the vein of Odd Showers - even one on "fossil lightning" is about a genuine object usually called fulgurite.  Gibb studied medicine at McGill University in Montreal (some of his papers are in that library), did additional work in Dublin and then arrived in Paris right after the events of June 1848.  In Paris he wrote a paper on gun shot wounds based on his work in those hospitals.  He returned to Montreal briefly to found a medical school that soon closed before finally settling in London in 1852.  In 1867 he became a baron, apparently having pursued the title despite dubious documentation and objections from friends that it was a vain distraction and carried no property.  He wrote a two-volume book to support his claim though it doesn't appear to have been taken very seriously.  (Most of the biographic material comes from the Montreal Medical Journal for June 1876.)