A Cabinet Of Medical Curiosities / Edition 1

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Overview

"Dr. Bondeson dissects a dozen . . . examples of human credulity with the scalpel of a forensic historian, and the result is a colorful collection of true detective stories." — Richard D. Altick
In this book of amazing oddities, Jan Bondeson explores unexpected, gruesome, and bizarre aspects of the history of medicine. He regales us with stories of spontaneous human combustion; vicious tribes of tailed men; the Two-Headed Boy of Bengal; Mary Toft, who allegedly gave birth to seventeen rabbits; and Julia Pastrana, exhibited around the world as the Ape Woman. Bondeson combines an historian's skill in showing us our timeless fascination with the grotesque with a physician's diagnostic abilities, as he examines the evidence and provides likely explanations for these peculiar events. "Fascinating. . . . Well-researched and extensively illustrated with items from [Bondeson's] personal collection, it covers a wide range of medical monstrosities, and there is something for everyone." — The Lancet "Entertaining in the simultaneously creepy and amusing way of a carnival sideshow. . . . Bondeson is quick to acknowledge absurdity, and his wry humor, along with his strong personal judgments, spice up the book." — Publishers Weekly "Bondeson . . . regards his exhibits with a careful scientist's eye, discovering misinterpreted evidence, tragic genetic mutations, and, occasionally, outright fraud." — Library Journal

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
YAThis clutch of essays covers topics one is likely to see in supermarket tabloids: spontaneous combustion, premature burial, tailed people, and serpents living within the body. Bondeson presents these topics in their historical perspective, based on copious research and illustrated with archival drawings, and then explains the more likely cause for the phenomenon or belief. His dry wit makes for entertaining reading. The remaining essays describe some documented cases of human odditiesa giant, a two-headed boy, an extremely hairy and deformed woman, and a child no larger than a new-born infantand illustrate the physical and emotional baggage carried by these unfortunate people. Notes for additional reading are provided for each chapter; there is no index. Thus, accessibility as a research tool will rely on detailed subject cataloguing, but the book is worth the effort because it provides teens with a source for accurate medical information about some unusual human conditions and ideas.Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Booknews
Bondeson brings a physician's diagnostic skills to 10 examples of extraordinary aspects of the history of medicine, offering modern medical explanations for spontaneous human combustion, frogs and snakes living in a person's stomach, tribes of tailed men, the Two- Headed Boy of Bengal, and Julia Pastrana, the Ape Woman. He discusses the life histories of these human anomalies, and traces past research and speculation on them to draw contemporary conclusions. Includes b&w photos and illustrations. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
Eight history-laden essays on bizarre beliefs, fears, and behaviors, plus two additional pieces on several unfortunate human anomalies—all serving as reminders of human gullibility, mendacity, and cruelty.

Bondeson, a London-based physician who specializes in rheumatology and internal medicine and has a Ph.D. in experimental medicine, appears to have a genuine love for the weird: Many of the illustrations in this odd little work bear the note "from the author's collection." Those fascinated by tabloid journalism's sensational reports of spontaneous human combustion or the birth of nonhuman creatures to human mothers will, however, probably be disappointed by Bondeson's rather scholarly approach. He traces the rise and decline of beliefs in these and other strange phenomena, reveals the motives of the parties involved, and offers a medical explanation where appropriate. Among his topics are the fear of premature burial and the extraordinary mechanical precautions taken by some to avoid that fate, the notion that a race of giants once walked the earth, and the belief in a race of people with tails. Bondeson then dwells on the cases of four unusual individuals whose fate was to be exhibited like sideshow freaks. Today the Hunterian, a London museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, houses the double skull of the Two-Headed Boy of Bengal and the skeletons of the huge Charles Byrne, known as the Irish Giant, and the tiny Caroline Crachami, a dwarf known as the Sicilian Fairy. The mummy of the fourth individual, Julia Pastrana, known as the Ape-Woman for her hairy body and misshapen face, is in a medical museum in Oslo, Norway.

With its numerous illustrations of these poor creatures, this in-depth Believe It or Not can be seen as a continuation of the exploitation that marked their lives.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393318920
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 713,827
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Bondeson, a physician, holds a Ph.D. in experimental medicine and works at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Spontaneous Human Combustion 1
The Bosom Serpent 26
The Riddle of the Lousy Disease 51
Giants in the Earth 72
Apparent Death and Premature Burial 96
Mary Toft, the Rabbit Breeder 122
Maternal Impressions 144
Tailed People 170
Three Remarkable Specimens in the Hunterian Museum 186
The Strange Story of Julia Pastrana 216
Note on Sources 245
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