THE TORCH by Wilder Penfield


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No Other Gods (1954) revealed Wilder Penfield as gifted in breathing new life into old bones. That was a story of Abram of Ur. The Torch does the same thing with the story- half legendary, half history, as archaeology has proved it today- of the beginnings of medicine as a science, with Hippocrates as the central figure. The island of Cos in the Aegean Sea provides the setting for his story, and when it is devoted to his increasing concern with a novel approach to healing and to the study of the patient and the symptoms, it is of lively interest. Some of the source material stems back to Cos' other famous figure- Herodotus, the historian; some to the speech of Hippocrates which prepared the way for the formulation of the Oath known to every medical student. But chiefly it is a biography in story form, stressing the tensions, the conflicts caused by a semi-mythological and pagan belief at odds with findings of the then new and widening world. Where Penfield seeks to liven his story with romance and adventure, it deadens it instead, for the other figures, the wholly fictional ones, never come quite alive. Nonetheless, the story supplies yet another segment in the widening pattern of the ancient past revivified in modern literature.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1960
Publisher: Little, Brown