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About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
Posted May 21, 2011
Medicine is one of those things that most of us give little thought until we get sick. And then we only think of it in terms of practical considerations - which doctor to go to, how to deal with the medical condition that we have. However, as both a practical and intellectual discipline medicine has a very long tradition. The western medicine, which is the main subject of this very short introduction, is usually considered to begin with Hippocrates. Hippocrates, however, was not a single individual, but probably the founder of the school of medicine to which many have contributed their works over the course of couple of centuries. This book starts with those contributions and continues to explore major advances in medicine up to the present times. It covers all main branches of medicine, and shows how they became increasingly interdependent over the course of history. The book is very informative and its greatest strength is the elucidation of the great improvements in medicine that most of us take for granted now. Just a generation ago, for instance, bacterial infection was a major source of debilitating illness or even death. Today we are largely free of those fears, although with the advent of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" those fearful days may come back again.
One of the books biggest strengths and weaknesses at the same time is the lack of exposure to some of the most promising recent developments in medicine. On one hand there could be more that could be said about the huge promise of genetically based medicine, but on the other hand it is to book's credit that it omits whole fields in which medical professionals have found themselves which traditionally had nothing to do with medicine. Overall, however, this is a well thought out and an incredibly readable treatment of the history of medicine.
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