THE RELUCTANT SURGEON by John Kobler

THE RELUCTANT SURGEON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unusually interesting biography of the 18th century John Hunter, the founder of scientific surgery, whose extension and coordination of related knowledge in many fields enabled him to establish many principles of modern medicine- anything from the psychosomatic basis of illness to artificial insemination. Also interesting is the character of the man who was ill educated (""I turn over the page of nature"") but intensely curious and observant, unworldly, to an extent churlishly asocial, but deeply dedicated. And again interesting is the background against which his story is told- a trial and error era in which investigation could only be effected by snatching bodies from the hangman or the grave, in which the evils of the hospital wards often outdistanced the benefits, etc., etc. One of ten children, Scottish born, John followed his older brother William to London where William became a successful accoucheur and the Physician Extraordinary to the Queen. Whereas William helped to train John, and in the early years collaborated on their major investigations, the brothers drifted apart and John, for many years unsuccessful, was forced to join the barbers. But he pursued his many fields of inquiry, experimented with venereal disease and was a casualty of syphilis, taught- and Jenner was his ultimately more famous pupil, operated- only when necessary-when amputation was the likeliest procedure, and built up a museum of curiosa and phenomena (for which he grabbed the corpse of an eight foot giant). His last years were harried by the break with his brother, the rancor of his colleagues, and debts.... Kobler has done full justice to his subject- but admittedly he needed little help to provide a portrait with many phases of interest.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1959
Publisher: Doubleday