Cover image for Mavericks, miracles, and medicine : the pioneers who risked their lives to bring medicine into the modern age
Mavericks, miracles, and medicine : the pioneers who risked their lives to bring medicine into the modern age
Fenster, J. M. (Julie M.)
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, [2003]

Physical Description:
xv, 304 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"The companion to The History Channel series Mavericks, miracles, and medicine, created ... by Jeffrey Tuchman"--T.p.
Added Author:
Added Corporate Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
R134.5 .F46 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine brings to life stories of the pioneering geniuses, eccentrics, and freethinkers who moved beyond the conventions of their day at great personal risk - and often with tragic results - to push forward the boundaries of modern medicine. From Werner Forssmann, who was so confident in his theory that doctors could insert a catheter into humans' hearts for diagnostic purposes that he inserted one into his own heart, while watching on a live X ray (and was basically thrown out of the profession, only to be awarded the Nobel Prize just before his death many years later), to Anton Von Leewenhoek, a draper and part-time janitor who discovered the existence of protozoa, bacteria, sperm, and blood cells; from Wilhelm Roentgen, who developed the X-ray machine in his basement with a single cathode ray and some cardboard, to Jean-Baptiste Denis who gave the first-known blood transfusion (with sheep's blood) and was later charged with murder (on manufactured evidence), Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine is populated with the heretics and visionaries who forever changed medical science. This fully illustrated publication is the companion volume to The History Channel mini-series of the same name.

Author Notes

Julie M. Fenster is an author and historian

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fenster, whose previous book, Ether Day, told the story of the discovery of anesthesia, here writes engagingly about the persecuted pioneers behind some of medicine's greatest achievements. Some of the people she chronicles truly did risk their lives (or those of others) with their innovations; some risked merely their reputations, fortunes or careers. All had to fight to be understood, Fenster says, in most cases because their experiments on themselves forced " the innately threatening word 'I' smack in the face of a community of medical research constructed on that more precarious word, 'we.'" Ignaz Semmelweis was shut out of maternity wards for insisting that doctors wash their hands to prevent passing deadly infections to patients. Lady Montagu used a popular Turkish method to inoculate her son with smallpox long before vaccination had even entered the minds of medical researchers in England. Paul Ehrlich was first applauded for introducing a cure to syphilis, then vilified by anti-Semites who thought he was making too much money off his discovery. These stories seem chosen to illuminate the fact that even systems like science, which is supposed to be open to new ideas, can be dangerously intractable. Other tales reveal an even darker side of medicine-many of the people who discovered crucial facts about anatomy and physiology were "flagrant vivisectionists." Fenster offers a peek into the often disturbing nexus between medicine and ego, and she isn't afraid to reveal the ambiguous successes of men like the "X-ray martyrs" whose self-experimentation led to slow, painful deaths. This book is a companion to the History Channel miniseries of the same name. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Choice Review

This is the companion volume to a television series on medical discovery aired on the History Channel. Rather than being organized chronologically, the 20 biographical chapters are loosely arranged by topic. Thus the section entitled "Understanding the Body" includes chapters on the influential 16th-century anatomist Andreas Vesalius; the late-19th-century physicist Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered X-rays; the early-20th-century physician Werner Forssmann, who pioneered the heart catheter; and the living geneticist Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep. Other equally eclectic sections deal with germ theory, drug therapies, surgery, and the mind and brain. The nonchronological arrangement, biographical focus, and the eclecticism of the topics somewhat limit the book's effectiveness as an introduction to the history of medicine. Nonetheless, Fenster (author of the recent Ether Day, 2001, a history of early anesthesiology) is a gifted writer. Her breezy and engaging style will undoubtedly appeal to many readers interested in how important medical discoveries were made. The book is a page-turner, and each chapter can be read comfortably in a single sitting. Fenster provides documentation in endnotes for each chapter. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduates. J. B. Hagen Radford University

Table of Contents

Andreas VesaliusWilhelm RoentgenWerner ForssmannIan Wilmut and Dolly WilmutAntony van LeeuwenhoekIgnaz SemmelweisRobert KochGeorge A. Soper and Mary MallonLady Mary Wortley MontaguPaul EhrlichSelman Waksman and Albert SchatzArne Larsson and Else-Marie LarssonThomas WillisFranz Joseph GallHorace Wells and William T. G. Morton and Charles JacksonDavid Ferrier and Frances Power CobbeJean-Baptiste DenisWilliam HarveyJohn H. Gibbon Jr.Joseph E. Murray and John P. Merrill
Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
I. Understanding the Body
The Art of Medicine: Observation and anatomyp. 3
A Peculiar Light: The first X-rayp. 19
Picture of Youth: The cardiac catheterp. 35
Never Say Die: Cloning a mammalp. 49
II. Germ Theory
Perfect Focus: The microscopic worldp. 61
Too Much Trouble: Hospital cleanlinessp. 75
Public Enemy: The tuberclerosis bacillusp. 91
Trailing Death: "Typhoid Mary"p. 105
III. Magic Bullets
Worldly Wise: Smallpox innoculationp. 123
Tag Ook: Salvarsan for syphilisp. 135
Et Al: A drug for TBp. 149
Battery Operated: The cardiac pacemakerp. 163
IV. The Mind
Organized Brain: Depicting cranial anatomyp. 175
Lost in Thought: Phrenologyp. 187
Ether Frolic: Surgical anestheticp. 199
Human Feeling: Brain localization and the animal-rights debatep. 217
V. Toward Better Surgery
Transfusion of Murder: Experiments in blood transfusionp. 231
Master of the System: Blood circulationp. 243
Long Way to Bypass: The heart-lung machinep. 257
A Bit of Life: Kidney transplantationp. 269
Endnotesp. 283
Indexp. 299