This frequently gruesome history of American medicine, from the Colonial era to the late 1800s, makes a convincing case that the worst thing a sick person could do is seek medical treatment; it could very well be lethal.
In the Colonial era, the word “physician” was used far more loosely than it is today. “At the time of the American Revolution, only 400 out of the approximately 3,500 practicing physicians held medical degrees,” and those degrees could be purchased without need of apprenticeships or formal education. Education and training standards improved in the decades to come, but methods remained stubbornly primitive as the profession was slow to recognize new discoveries and adopt new approaches. In grimly vivid detail, Younker describes such common practices as amputation, bleeding, leeching, purging, trepanning, and uroscopy. She also introduces influential, notable, and infamous practitioners of the times: Samuel Morton, a phrenology enthusiast and collector of skulls; John Morgan and William Shippen, who co-founded the first Colonial medical school in Philadelphia; Thomas Dent Mütter and his vast collection of medical curiosities; and Benjamin Rush, a proponent of extreme bloodletting.
An engrossing, entertaining history of medicine for those who enjoy it told with a heavy dose of blood and guts. (photos, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-18)