PERFECTING THE WORLD: The Life and Times of Thomas Hodgkin, 1798--1866 by Amalie M. & Edward H. Kass Kass

PERFECTING THE WORLD: The Life and Times of Thomas Hodgkin, 1798--1866

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A meticulously researched but overly detailed biography of one of 19th-century Britain's most eminent physicians and social reformers, from husband-and-wife Kasses (he: Medicine/Harvard Medical School; she: a medical historian). Although the authors do an admirable job of pulling together every known fact about Hodgkin's life and medical career, they unfortunately tell us everything they know. The result is one of those ""laundry list"" biographies where the subject is obscured by the minutiae that have been dredged up to give meaning to his or her life. Admittedly, Hodgkin is a tough subject to bring to compelling life. A decidedly un-Byronic figure, he was a small, unprepossessing man, a devout Quaker whose life was almost entirely devoted to medicine and to philanthropic activities involving oppressed peoples such as the Jews, American blacks, and Indians. His life is of main interest to physicians, for it was Hodgkin, in 1832, who first described seven fatal cases of a rare disease, resembling both cancer and inflammation, that involved enlargement of the lymph nodes. The Kasses' writing is most vivid when they describe this and other medical discoveries--Hodgkin also described several cardiac conditions and appendicitis. Sadly, the rest of the book, which contains laborious accounts of hospital politics, of which Hodgkin was the victim, does not measure up. Doctors with time to spare will undoubtedly glean much interesting historical information about their profession from this massive biography; others with an urge to learn about Hogdkin would do better to check the encyclopedia.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1988
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich