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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Joseph L. Kyner, MD (University of Kansas School of Medicine)
Description: This is a 1996 English translation by Stephen Freer from the Latin of the 1656 book of gross anatomical description and attempt at classification of the human "glands" by Thomas Wharton, M.D. A current introduction of the historical context of this work is provided by Andrew Cunningham.
Purpose: With the translation into English, readers may gain a larger appreciation of this now outdated collection and functional speculation of disparate body parts.
Audience: The book will only appeal to the historically curious. The best part of the book is the 26-page introductory historical explanation of Wharton's efforts and research as they were in the mid-17th Century.
Features: Having the photocopied original Latin page side-by-side each page of English translation is welcomed.
Assessment: This is a readable, well-done translation with adequate chapter notes, bibliography, index, and an excellent introduction. Wharton's compilation of "the glands" and their imagined physiology is mainly of historical interest, chiefly for the appropriate emphasis directed toward this body system following soon after William Harvey's research on the vascular system. Wharton's views and arguments can seem outrageous or amusing in their presumptions, contrasted with our present scientific understanding. We should respect his attempt at medical investigation, however, and not his conclusions. Modern endocrinology evolved primarily in the last 100 years as hormonal function and control was discovered, so Wharton was definitely not in the historical endocrine mainstream. This book should be considered for purchase by medical history libraries.