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Topic: The Best Medical History books

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Subject: The Best Medical History books
Date Posted: 9/5/2008 4:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,930
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I always really enjoy medical histories, although I've only read a few.  What are the best medical history books? 

My favorites so far have been

 

Date Posted: 9/5/2008 6:43 PM ET
Member Since: 11/24/2005
Posts: 5,638
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Last Edited on: 2/21/10 4:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 9/5/2008 7:11 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,930
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Thanks! Great Mortality is on my WL & TBR pile, and I'm adding the others.

Date Posted: 9/5/2008 7:48 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
Posts: 4,955
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I uneasily suggest Stiff by Mary Roach----which is a non-fiction account of what happens to the dead who are donated to medical science.  I found  parts of it fascinating, but other parts extremely difficult to get through.  It's not for the squeamish.  But, well, maybe it's what you're looking for...?

Date Posted: 9/5/2008 8:02 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,930
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I actually just finished Mary Roach's 3 books, Stiff, Spook & Bonk.  Stiff was the best of the three IMO, but I'm looking for more plague/vaccine related books.

Date Posted: 9/5/2008 8:10 PM ET
Member Since: 11/24/2005
Posts: 5,638
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Last Edited on: 2/21/10 4:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/5/2008 8:14 PM ET
Member Since: 11/24/2005
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Last Edited on: 2/21/10 4:44 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 9/6/2008 12:50 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Marilyn - thanks for the compliment! :)

I PMed a list but thought I'd repost here for everyone:

From my WL, TBR and BIR list:

  • The Great Plague: The Story of London's Most Deadly Year
  • The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of Black Death
  • Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson (history of child abuse prosecution) - I enjoyed this very much but the subject matter is difficult
  • AIDS Doctors: Voices from the Epidemic - very good
  • The Demon Under the Microscope - very good
  • Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire
  • The Great Plague (Porter) - a bit dry
  • Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia - very good
  • The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis
  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

 

Not in the genre, but a good book for those who like medical/science history: The Children's Blizzard

ETA: The Speckled Monster was very good, BTW.  Also a fiction book (Young Adult) Fever 1793

I am assuming you have read Year of Wonders (fiction)



Last Edited on: 9/6/08 1:00 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2008 8:20 AM ET
Member Since: 11/24/2005
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Last Edited on: 2/21/10 4:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 9/6/2008 9:39 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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Have you heard of Five Patients by Michael Crichton?  It is nonfiction and interesting from a historicl standpoint.  He goes through a brief history of hospitals in the first section.  The irony is that he wrote the book around 1970, so a lot of the 'modern' stuff is history by now :p 

Date Posted: 9/6/2008 9:58 AM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2008
Posts: 87
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These, I think, are tangential possibilities rather than books that exactly fit into this area:

Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg (fiction, set partially during the U.S. influenza epidemic)

Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder (modern-day biography, obviously more about Paul Farmer than anything, but also including a lot of information about Farmer's work in Soviet gulags and in Haiti, where multiple-drug-resistant tuburculosis is a large problem)

Date Posted: 9/6/2008 4:46 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
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This is a historical fiction mystery but it contains a lot medical history. The Anatomy of Deception by Lawrence Goldstone.  The main character is a Dr in Philadelphia in the 1880's.  There's a lot in there about how autopsy's and surgeries were performed at a time of great change in medicine-like scrubbing, wearing special clothing, gloves etc...,

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 9/7/2008 2:27 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Catherine, have you read Wickett's Remedy?  I happened to pick it up on a whim at the FOL sale because my great Grandfather was a patent medicine man.  I happliy discovered it has reference to the plague. :)  Just wondering what your thoughts are on it, if so.

Date Posted: 9/7/2008 10:37 AM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2008
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Yes, I have read WR, and I really recommend it, as well as Myla Goldberg's previous novel Bee SeasonWR is especially good if you like postmodernism, because there's the main narrative, but the dead also provide their own comments in the margins.

Date Posted: 12/14/2009 4:04 PM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2008
Posts: 87
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This is an old thread, but I thought of it immediately when I saw the review for this new book that will be published in February 2010:

The Poisoner's Handbook:  Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum.

Looks good!

Date Posted: 12/14/2009 4:19 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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Thank you for reviving this old thread - what a facinating list of books!

Another wonderful fiction book is Andrea Barrett's story collection, Ship Fever.  Her writing is lovely, and her science is spot on.

Date Posted: 12/15/2009 6:09 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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I read one of my granddaughter's medical textbooks a couple-three  years ago.  By so doing, I  learned a lot about the development of the medical profession in this country.  The book is entitled The Social Transformation of American Medicine,  and it was published in 1982.  The author is Paul Starr.  Now, after reading it,  whenever  I read in the print media or hear on radio and/or television about health care in the USA and the effort to improve it, I feel that I have a pretty good grounding in the history of Medicine in the USA.



Last Edited on: 12/15/09 6:15 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/16/2009 8:39 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I rescued an old book someone was throwing out at work called Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, compiled by two doctors named Gould and Pyle.  I thought I'd take a look and chuck it, but it turned out to be quite fascinating.  It was first published in 1896, which seems to have been an era right in between foolish old superstitions and modern medical science.  My copy was a reissue from the 1950s, but I looked it up and it has been reprinted only a few years ago.

Date Posted: 12/17/2009 12:17 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2009
Posts: 611
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HI! If you love books relating to the age of sail, i.e., tallships and the like....try Medicine Under Sail by Zachary B. Friedenberg. It isn't a huge book, but is written by a surgeon to trace the history of medicine on early ships, and is pretty interesting.

Date Posted: 12/20/2009 4:38 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Great thread! I designed my college major in many ways so that I could take all the random classes that touched on this topic. . .

A couple I enjoyed that haven't been mentioned yet are:

The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco, by Marilyn Chase

Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections, by Madeline Drexler

Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health, by Laurie Garrett

Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox, by Jonathan B. Tucker

And of course, though it ranges more widely than just the medicine, there's always Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond.

Date Posted: 12/21/2009 9:54 AM ET
Member Since: 10/20/2009
Posts: 13
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I recently finished Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluger and thought it was great.  The mix of medical imformation wound around Dr. Salk's personal story was a great balance. 

Date Posted: 2/22/2010 10:02 AM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2008
Posts: 87
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I didn't think I read much in this genre, but apparently I do.


I just finished Mad Travelers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illness by Ian Hacking, about fugue and why it showed up in late-nineteenth-century France and then effectively disappeared. It's more academic than popular in style, but as a non-professional, I still found it very accessible.

Date Posted: 2/22/2010 1:11 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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In Chapter 15 of Middlemarch, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) gives some background on the character Dr. Lydgate, who is a recent arrival in the community. In so doing, she gives several pages to the status of the profession of Medicine, and of medical education, at the time (the early 1800s). In particular, she mentions Edward Jenner (1749-1823), discoverer of vaccination, and Francois Bichat (1771 - 1802), one of the pioneers in anatomical pathology. She also alludes to the passing of the Apothecaries' Act in 1815. A footnote to the chapter says that Scottish medical schools were much better than the English, while Paris was the great center of post-graduate medical studies.

If you'd like some history ofmedical education and the practice of medicine mixed with some lusty, earthy action and romance, read Noah Gordon's novel, The Physician.



Last Edited on: 2/22/10 1:12 PM ET - Total times edited: 1