The heroics and melodrama that together won an earlier generation to Paul de Kruif's Microbe Hunters turn up again in this roster of 19th- and 20th-century self-experimenters. Among the tales of medical wisdom and foolhardiness, there is the hapless Horace Wells, father of painless dentistry, whose suicide ended a life of drug dependency and glories denied (in the acrimony and rivalry among nitrous-oxide-ether-chloroform innovators). There is the rise to eminence of Max Pettenkorfer, the Bavarian hygienist--or last ""miasmatist""; he too was a suicide, convinced that all those beasties of Koch and others were not the sole agents of disease, but needed the mix of foul air and soil to unleash their virulence. (He drank cholera-bacteria-laden water and didn't get sick.) Jesse Lazear died, movingly, of the yellow fever he had self-inflicted. Peruvian doctor Daniel Carrion--another sad story--died proving that ""Oroya fever"" and ""Peruvian warts"" were one and the same insect-borne disease. Others include John Hunter (syphilis), Werner Forssman (heart catheterization), Bill Harrington (platelet disease), and John Paul Staff--whose rocket-sled trials on the salt fiats of the southwest were the first human encounters with high G-forces. The telling is novelistic, with invented thoughts and dialogues; the prose sometimes purples and the clichÃ‰s rise (""Terror gripped the city and there was panic in the streets""). Still, the deeds have the potential to grip and inspire.