Cover image for Medical firsts : from Hippocrates to the human genome
Medical firsts : from Hippocrates to the human genome
Adler, Robert E., 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, [2004]

Physical Description:
vii, 232 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Hippocrates: a principle and a method -- Herophilus and Erasistratus: the light that failed -- Marcus Varro: the germ of an idea -- Dioscorides: the herb man of Anazarbus -- Soranus: the birthing doctor -- Galen of Pergamon: combative genius -- The enlightened mind of Abu Bakr al-Razi -- Ibn Bal-nafis, Glen's nemesis -- Fracastoro: the poet of pestilence -- Paracelsus, renaissance rebel -- Andreas Vesalius, driven to dissection -- Ambroise Pare(/), a man for all seasons -- Johann Weyer--a voice of sanity in an insane world -- William Harvey and the movements of the heart -- Edward Jenner, a friend of humanity -- Such stuff as dreams are made on: the discovery of anesthesia -- Antisepsis: awakening from a nightmare -- The quiet Dr. Snow -- Pasteur and the germ theory of disease -- Out of the corner of his eye: Roentgen discovers x-rays -- Sigmund Freud's dynamic unconscious -- Beyond bacteria: Ivanovsky's discovery of viruses -- The prepared mind of Alexander Fleming -- Margaret Sanger and the pill -- Organ transplantation, a legacy of life -- A baby's cry: the birth of in vitro fertilization -- Humanity eradicates a disease--smallpox--for the first time -- Cannibals, kuru and mad cows: a new kind of plague -- Self, non-self and danger: deciphering the immune system -- Discovery can't wait--cracking the human genome -- Into the future.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R133 .A43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
R133 .A43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An exploration of medical discoveries-from the ancient Greeks to the present
""Always help, or at least do no harm."" Following this simple yet revolutionary idea, Hippocrates laid the foundation for modern medicine over two millennia ago. From the Hippocratic Oath to the human genome, from Pasteur's germ theory to the worldwide eradication of smallpox, Medical Firsts brings to life 2,500 years of medical advances and discoveries. Organized chronologically, the book describes each milestone in a vivid capsule history, making it a fascinating and wonderfully readable resource for anyone interested in medicine's past progress and future promise.
Robert E. Adler, PhD (Santa Rosa, CA) has worked as a psychologist and science journalist. He writes about a wide variety of scientific and medical topics for New Scientist, Nature, and other publications and is the author of Science Firsts (0-471-40174-9).

Author Notes

ROBERT E. ADLER, PhD , is a psychologist, science journalist, and author of the critically acclaimed Science Firsts. He writes about a wide variety of scientific and medical topics for New Scientist, Nature, and other publications.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

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 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This is a useful, brief review of the history of human medicine. Mildly reminiscent of Friedman and Friedland's Medicine's 10 Greatest Discoveries (CH, Jun'99), the book has some topics in common with the earlier one. Adler (an independent scholar) stumbles early, confusing cerebellum and cerebrum (p.15), but recovers with some insightful chapters. Chapter 10, "Johann Weyer: A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World," speaks loudly to readers, with residues of doctrinal constraints on the human spirit. Chapter 21, "Margaret Sanger and the Pill," shows the value of inspired scientific intelligence applied to major world health problems. Chapter 24, "Humanity Eradicates a Disease--Smallpox--for the First Time," claims a false achievement, for repositories of the virus have not been destroyed; chapter 27 captures the drama of the genome project. Adler makes no judgment on the point, but James Watson was right to oppose patents for genomic sequences. (Omitted is the idiosyncratic fact that the principal source of Venter's DNA sample was himself.) On the valuable contributions of early Islamic physicians Abu Bakr al-Razi and Ibn al-Nafis, chapters 6 and 7 are good. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. D. R. Shanklin University of Chicago