A biography of the paradoxical, uneven life of James Marion Sims, the 19th century surgeon and gynaecologist who drifted into medicine with neither enthusiasm nor any particular aptitude but was to become one of the most brilliant innovators of his time. Southern born and educated, Sims soon realized the limitations of his chosen profession at a time when this science was vague rather than precise but his love for and marriage to Theresa? provided the incentive which carried him on into surgery for which he had a native gift. Specializing as a woman's surgeon in Montgomery, Alabama, his first major work was in the repair of fistulas caused by childbirth. Ill for years with a dysentery which almost killed him. Sims was finally forced to the move to New York where a period of great financial and physical depression was finally ended by his founding of the first Woman's Hospital. Driven to Europe by the Civil War, his fame increased, but after his return to his hospital, a display of tactless temper (justified) forced his resignation. And although his fame continued, it was not until his death that universal tribute was paid. a subdued, careful biography of a life of many achievements and reversals, the interest here is chiefly medical but has its human values.