In deftly capturing an “epochal moment when medicine and science merged,” the author also offers an important reminder that,...

THE BUTCHERING ART

JOSEPH LISTER'S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE

Medical historian and popular blogger Fitzharris narrates the quest of a tenacious 19th-century doctor to save his patients; in the process, he transformed the world of surgery and medicine.

Joseph Lister’s choice to become a surgeon was not the most obvious or reputable one for a Quaker growing up as the son of an esteemed scientist acclaimed for his improvements to the microscope. In the early 1800s, a surgeon was little more than a butcher, a “manual laborer who used his hands to make a living, much like a key cutter or plumber today.” It didn’t help that surgery was extremely risky for patients. The introduction of ether to British medicine in 1846 was a critical turning point because it afforded surgeons more time to perform procedures. However, patients were still dying of post-surgical infections in high numbers, and Louis Pasteur’s ideas about germs were still academic and not widely disseminated. Lister took up Pasteur’s work and applied it to surgery, experimenting and finally finding an antiseptic and technique that successfully lowered rates of postoperative infection. He made it his mission to share his findings with a medical establishment clinging to old beliefs. It is thanks to Lister’s tenacity and belief in the efficacy of his techniques, despite widespread skepticism, that so many people today don’t have to look at surgery as a possible death sentence. Fitzharris knows how to engage readers in fascinating and shocking details about medical history. She clearly, if sometimes quickly, explains medical and scientific terms and techniques while also using novelistic details and narrative techniques to move the story along.

In deftly capturing an “epochal moment when medicine and science merged,” the author also offers an important reminder that, while many regard science as the key to progress, it can only help in so far as people are willing to open their minds to embrace change.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-11729-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more