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

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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

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