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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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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