Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery

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Today, astonishing surgical breakthroughs are making limb transplants, face transplants, and a host of other previously un dreamed of operations possible. But getting here has not been a simple story of medical progress. In Blood and Guts, veteran science writer Richard Hollingham weaves a compelling narrative from the key moments in surgical history. We have a ringside seat in the operating theater of University College Hospital in London as world-renowned Victorian surgeon Robert Liston performs a remarkable amputation in thirty seconds--from first cut to final stitch. Innovations such as Joseph Lister's antiseptic technique, the first open-heart surgery, and Walter Freeman's lobotomy operations, among other breakthroughs, are brought to life in these pages in vivid detail. This is popular science writing at it's best.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Glove up and dive in to what Hollingham describes as a “whistle-stop tour” of a gruesome and fascinating field. The BBC journalist and author (How to Clone the Perfect Blonde) is a deft storyteller who probably never met a dry fact he couldn't infuse with juicy detail. But there's more here than the drive, energy and bravery of medical pioneers, both doctors and patients, from Galen treating gladiators in the second century B.C.E. to Stuart Carter, the first person to have electrical brain implants to treat Parkinson's disease. Hollingham gives us a tribute not only to saving lives but to making them better. Still, it's the missteps that remind us of the human fallibility of even the greatest doctors. “[Robert] Liston's operations were messy, bloody and traumatic,” Hollingham writes of Britain's most famous 19th-century surgeon, describing a procedure in which Liston accidentally lopped off an assistant's fingers. “The patient died of infection, as did the assistant, and an observer died of shock. It was the only operation in surgical history with a 300 percent mortality rate.” What better medical history than one that recounts both successes and failures with honesty and gratitude. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Dec. 8)
Kirkus Reviews
An anecdote-laden history of surgery based on a five-part BBC TV series also titled Blood and Guts. Popular-science writer Hollingham (How to Clone the Perfect Blonde: Making Fantasies Come True with Cutting-edge Science, 2003) covers the same ground as the series, but in a different sequence. He opens with a gory leg amputation performed without anesthesia in just 30 seconds by Robert Liston in 1842. He then gives a nod to the anatomy-revealing work of Galen and Vesalius before turning his attention back to the 19th century and the discovery of ether and chloroform, Ignaz Semmelweis's stress on cleanliness and Joseph Lister's techniques for sterilization. The chapter on the heart describes early surgery on beating hearts, the first heart-lung machines and the race to perform the first heart transplant, won by Christiaan Barnard in 1967. Hollingham hits his stride with transplantation, describing the disastrous results of inserting teeth pulled from syphilitic prostitutes into the gums of 18th-century gentry, a curious modern-day on-again, off-again hand transplant and Alexis Carrel's bizarre transplantation experiments with animals. Crude attempts to replace missing noses in 16th-century Italy launch the author's discussion of reconstructive surgery, a field whose modern era began with the innovative work of British surgeons at Queens Hospital in World War I and advanced rapidly in World War II. Finally, the author turns to the brain, where the spotlight is shared by the brilliant surgeon Harvey Cushing and the misguided Walter Freeman, who was not a surgeon but who boldly performed thousands of lobotomies on mental patients. Hollingham makes no attempt to provide a complete history ofsurgery, but he offers a quick, entertaining read filled with operating-room dramas that end in disaster or triumph and a wide variety of heroes and villains. One warning: This is not for the squeamish.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312575465
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/18/2009
  • Pages: 319
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD HOLLINGHAM is a science journalist, author, and BBC radio presenter. He has written and presented a number of radio series on science, the environment, and international politics. His popular science book, How to Clone the Perfect Blonde, was longlisted for the coveted Aventis Science Prize in 2004.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 9, 2012

    Anybody having an inkling of interest in surgery should start wi

    Anybody having an inkling of interest in surgery should start with this book, especially pre-meds. This is well-written, and despite the British English that may confuse most American readers at times, this book is well worth the money and will make the reader realize how much we take modern surgery for granted.

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