I’m a voracious reader of everything from history to fiction, biographies to science, art to philosophy. I’m reading now Under the Knife by Arnold Van De Laar. He tells the story of 28 memorable operations through history along with the medical science (or lack of same) surrounding them. It is superb.
For example, he demonstrates why there was no second shooter on any grassy knoll when John Kennedy was shot. It simply took two different surgeons in two different places out of the shadow of the frantic Secret Service to compare notes. The bullets’ trajectories then made sense originating from one shooter.
In an age of knee and hip replacements, we tend to take for granted what an extraordinary capacity our bodies have to fight trauma and to recover if in the right medial hands. And I love any books that dispel myths. Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz—some people think the name is the same as mine, but he did once store his equipment in a garage my father subsequently bought for his painting business) did not die from someone punching him in the stomach, but from acute appendicitis, which can’t be caused by such a punch.
This is an educational romp. It involves barbers and surgeons, popes as philanderers, and royalty as vengeful against poor medical results! It’s a good thing consultants can only be sued for malpractice and an “eye for an eye” is no longer enforceable!
Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided. —Paracelsus