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Seeking the Cure: A History of Medicine in America

Ira Rutkow.
Publisher Scribner  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 1.1 inches
ISBN 9781416538288
Pages/Publication Date 356/2010
Daedalus Item Code 21224
This item is not available.
The author of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year Surgery: An Illustrated History, surgeon and historian Ira Rutkow here chronicles American medicine through stories that underscore the ongoing struggle of physicians to shed unsound beliefs and practices and adopt new treatments, often in the face of vitriol and scorn. Among the many historical personages here are Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington (whose timely adoption of a controversial medical practice probably saved the Continental Army), Benjamin Rush, James Garfield (who was killed by his doctors, not by an assassin's bullet), and Joseph Lister.

"Surgeon and historian Rutkow (Bleeding Blue and Gray) takes on an ambitious survey of 'the events of medicine within the full tapestry of the American experience.' It's a daunting piece of terrain, and Rutkow traverses it with ease through the stories of an array of fabulous physicians. Among them is William Morton, the self-taught dentist who in 1846 demonstrated ether's effectiveness in relieving the pain of surgery. Also present are William Welch, the 'dean of American medicine,' who emphasized the novel idea of the importance of laboratory research to medicine. Abraham Flexner was a muckraker about the failings of medical training in the vein of his contemporary, Upton Sinclair. By the mid-20th century, Rutkow writes, 'Science had finally vanquished the bugbears of superstition and tradition.' Physicians turned a once-suspect profession into a respected one. America, as well, had achieved prestige as a place where new treatments were found. The trends in the late 20th century are just as exhilarating, Rutkow finds, albeit far more complex and troubling: 'Modern medicine has become an arena of trade-offs, a balance between costs, organization, expectations, and ethics.' Rutkow reminds us just how satisfying history can be in the hands of a good storyteller."Publishers Weekly

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