Another rousing, pull-no-punches piece from a physician set on educating the public about the fallibility of scientists.



Tales of scientific errors whose unintended consequences have been disastrous.

Offit (Vaccinology and Pediatrics/Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine, 2015, etc.), a doctor with a mission, once again does not hold back. In each chapter, he tells a different story of science gone wrong, beginning with the war on pain, stretching from opium through heroin to the addictive opioids now in the headlines. Then the author takes on scientists’ mistaken belief that margarine, with its partially hydrogenated vegetable oils containing trans fats, was a heart-healthy alternative to butter. It was quite the opposite, writes Offit, and the process for converting unsaturated fats to trans fats “has probably caused more disease and death than any other man-made chemical reaction in history.” The author then tells of Fritz Haber, the pesticide and fertilizer chemist behind the gas warfare of World War I and supervisor of production of Zyklon B, the gas used to kill millions of Jews. Haber won a Nobel Prize, as did Egas Moniz, the inventor of lobotomies. Offit’s acidic comment: “At this point, it seems reasonable to wonder whether Nobel Prizes awarded in the first half of the 20th century came in Cracker Jack boxes.” The author also takes up the eugenics movement, with its malicious notion of a master race, the erroneous banning of DDT following Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring—in Offit’s words, she was not a scientist but a polemicist—and the fallacious notion of the highly respected and double Nobelist Linus Pauling that megadoses of vitamin C could cure diseases. Each chapter concludes with a crisp take-home lesson, such as “beware the zeitgeist” and “beware the quick fix.” Finally, Offit applies these lessons to a number of contemporary concerns, including e-cigarettes and cancer-screening programs, providing advice on how to think clearly about these issues and how to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Another rousing, pull-no-punches piece from a physician set on educating the public about the fallibility of scientists.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4262-1798-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...


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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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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