Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome
Robert E. Adler
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 29, 2004)
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
From Publishers Weekly
In this cursory though delightful companion to his previous Science Firsts, Adler ably combines good storytelling, clear and cogent scientific explanations, a respect for science over superstition and a love of what he sees as one of humanity's "finest and most difficult" arts: "the application of medical knowledge to individual human beings like you and me." Through short, chronologically arranged histories of individuals who have defined medicine, Adler presents a compelling narrative arc from Hippocrates' dream of "human mastery of health and disease" to current efforts to "decode, understand, and manipulate genetic information." Adler vividly portrays the heroic efforts of such greats as Herophilus, who "discovered and described the prostate, the spermatic duct, the Fallopian tubes, and the ovaries" in the fourth century B.C.; Abu Bark al-Razi, whose 10th-century A.D. description of smallpox reads like "a modern diagnostic manual"; and Johann Weyer, who fought against the "paranoia, cruelty, and hatred of women" in the "Malleus Maleficarum," the bible of witch-hunters throughout Europe during the Inquisition. Adler also cogently presents more recent individuals such as Margaret Sanger, who championed the development and use of the first oral contraceptive, and Carleton Gajdusek and Stanley Prusiner, who worked to solve such illnesses as mad cow disease.
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In this slim but powerful volume, science writer Adler chronicles two-and-a-half millennia of medical history in all its fits, stalls, and starts. More than that, with lively narrative and numerous illustrations, he breathes life into each of the giants who laid a stepping-stone in medicine's path from cave drawings and charms to sophisticated, computer-assisted diagnoses. The contributors to the annals of medical knowledge he cites include the most famous names--Hippocrates, Pasteur, Freud, Alexander Fleming--and some not so commonly known, such as pioneering gynecologist Soranus (first century C.E.); Ibn al-Nafis (ca. 1210-88), credited as the first to understand and describe pulmonary circulation; and John Snow, an important figure in the war on cholera. From the parental background of Galen (130-200), the self-proclaimed "Prince of Physicians," to the social issues and political turmoil surrounding Margaret Sanger's fight for birth control, Adler discusses each figure's personal, social, and political history as it affected his or her contribution. A handy, highly readable reference. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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