A revealing account of a time, a place, and an unfortunate individual depicted here as his own worst enemy.

THE DOCTORS’ PLAGUE

GERMS, CHILDBED FEVER, AND THE STRANGE STORY OF IGNAC SEMMELWEIS

In the first of Norton’s New Discoveries series on scientific breakthroughs, NBA-winner Nuland (How We Die, 1994, etc.) puts into proper historical context the achievements of a pioneering obstetrician.

The author has turned his considerable narrative talents to a signal moment in the history of medicine. Nuland (Surgery/Yale School of Medicine) opens with the dramatic account of a young woman’s death after delivering her first child at a hospital in mid-19th-century Vienna. He then turns to the cause of her death, childbed fever, vividly showing its horrific effects on the body and detailing several erroneous, now laughable theories doctors had come up with to explain its origin. Enter Ignac Semmelweis, an outsider from Hungary with a poor accent who had turned to obstetrics after failing to win appointment to his first- and second-choice positions at the hospital. A trained observer, Semmelweis analyzed obstetric procedures and claimed that childbed fever was caused by the transfer of invisible “putrid cadaver particles” from the hands of students and attending physicians. To prevent the disease, he insisted that every medical attendant wash in a chloride solution before examining a woman in labor. Nuland provides enough medical history to show how Semmelweis’s 1847 accomplishment reflected the revolutionary teachings in scientific logic then being introduced by the hospital’s chief of surgical pathology and how these were opposed by the old guard. When Semmelweis was refused reappointment to his position, he fled Vienna for his native Buda-Pest, having failed to perform experiments substantiating his claim, to make use of the microscope, or even to explain his work in a medical journal. He left support of his theory to others, though in 1861 he published a confused, angry, and essentially unreadable defense of his ideas that was largely ignored or rejected. Dementia preceded his death a few years later.

A revealing account of a time, a place, and an unfortunate individual depicted here as his own worst enemy.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-05299-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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