An exploration, festooned with period images, of the ways medicine and medical technology have historically healed, restored, and strengthened us.
Newquist kicks off the Smithsonian Invention & Impact series with a blindingly sunny picture of medicine’s advance: “Truth be told, science has done a pretty good job of repairing just about everything in our body.” As cases in point he traces the histories of prosthetics, aids, and transplants for six body parts from eyes to limbs. He then highlights the benefits of soap, aspirin, and antibiotics—but not vaccines, which are considered in a rather arbitrary third section along with old-time surgical practices and the invention of medical devices from microscopes to MRI scanners. The author juices up his inspirational tales of progress with anecdotes about such researchers as Jenner and Semmelweis who were ahead of their times, as well as plenty of gruesome references to amputations and injuries. (Some of the many photos and old images, such as a close-up of stitches in an eyeball, are likewise memorable.) But along with occasionally contradicting his own claims, he leaves promising topics from X-ray mania to gene therapy unmentioned, as well as such flies in the ointment as the limited durability of artificial joints or the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
An arbitrary, loosely organized logjam of discoveries and successes, swept along on currents of relentless optimism. (resource list, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)