Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Great Discoveries in Medicine by Bynum (eds)

When William and Helen agreed to edit Great Discoveries in Medicine, one can imagine that they wondered how to maintain the reader's interest in 70 essays on topics like cell theory, immunology, defibrillators, polio, quinine,  and pap smears. They accomplished this by enlisting experts in each of the areas, going so far as the get the Nobel laureate responsible for the cure of peptic ulcers to write about his research. The result is 70 essays, lavishly illustrated, that each proclaim that this discovery is the greatest ever. Wonderful reading from start to finish.

This British-produced volume takes a more international purview than I imagine would have been if it had been produced in the United States. The pictures are as well chosen with medical illustration supplemented with popular culture items such as historical posters from public health campaigns. If anything is missing, I'd suggest the public health triumph for clean water could have had it's own section. I've heard that clean water might have saved more lives than all the other discoveries in this book.

In addition the the science history, there are also small talk nuggets like "skirts were shorten to avoid picking up germs" and almost one million hip replacements performed in 2010. A recommended read for science teachers, doctors or anyone with an interest in Science.

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