What won’t we try in our quest for perfect health, beauty, and the fountain of youth? Well, just imagine a time when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When liquefied gold was touted as immortality in a glass. And when strychnine—yes, that strychnine, the one used in rat poison—was dosed like Viagra. Looking back with fascination, horror, and not a little dash of dark, knowing humor, Quackery recounts the lively, at times unbelievable, history of medical misfires and malpractices. Ranging from the merely weird to the outright dangerous, here are dozens of outlandish, morbidly hilarious “treatments”—conceived by doctors and scientists, by spiritualists and snake oil salesmen (yes, they literally tried to sell snake oil)—that were predicated on a range of cluelessness, trial and error, and straight-up scams. With vintage illustrations, photographs, and advertisements throughout, Quackery seamlessly combines macabre humor with science and storytelling to reveal an important and disturbing side of the ever-evolving field of medicine.
|Publisher:||Workman Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Lydia Kang, MD, is a practicing internal medicine physician and author of young adult fiction and adult fiction. Her YA novels include Control, Catalyst, and the upcoming The November Girl. Her adult fiction debut is entitled A Beautiful Poison. Her nonfiction has been published in JAMA, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Nate Pedersen is a librarian, historian, and freelance journalist with over 400 publications in print and online, including in the Guardian, the Believer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Art of Manliness.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyable and interesting.
A great read for laughs and knowledge
Fascinating and Highly Entertaining! Did you know that one crazy cure for an arrow in the body in ancient times was to string it on a bow and try to shoot it OUT of the body? Or that radium was once seen as a cure all tonic, until it killed a famous playboy known for his addiction to radium water? Most have heard of past practices of leeches being used to suck blood out of patients, but, even more fascinating, they still are used today in a very small subsection of medical science. Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, by Lydia Kang and Nate Pederson is packed with such fun and interesting facts, with the added bonus of an entertaining informal narrative voice making puns and sarcastic asides throughout to elicit a smile. As an avid history fan who is a sucker for quirky historical facts and trivia, I was immediately drawn to this book and it exceeded my expectations. While it isn’t for everyone – I had a few family members get a bit squeamish– the short witty chapters make it an easy read that can be picked up and set down as necessary – though the subject matter always compels one to read more. The effortless blend of cultural history, medical history, and societal background which never drags or borders on dry reading is truly impressive. I highly recommend this book for all history buffs, those in the medical field, trivial pursuit addicts and fans of Mental Floss. A fun and quirky read that will have you alternately cringing and laughing. Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The problem I had with this book is that it deals with both health scams and the errors of the legitimate medical establishment and treats them same way. This was a major problem in the first two sections of the book. The later sections of the book improve. The later parts of the book describes the history of certain treatments(i.e. hypnosis, anesthesia). The book becomes kinder towards the incomplete knowledge of medicine at the time(i.e. the good side of using leaches). It also has stories of pure medical fraud such as knowingly worthless medical devices that were sold. However, the book begins by criticizing some establishment medical practices of the time. The book starts off with the example of Dr. Benjamin Rush who in late eighteenth century was considered a reputable physician. The book states in a tongue and cheek sort of way that this physician believed in the use of mercury and blood letting which was an accepted practice at the time. However, Dr. Rush also did some good things in medicine; he advocated for the humane treatment of psychiatric patients and advocated for improvements in the Philadelphia water and sanitation which helped end an epidemic. I felt doctors like Dr. Rush deserved better treatment than the book provides. These doctors weren’t “quacks” . They did the best they could do with the limited and often incorrect medical knowledge of the time. Furthermore, probably at the time of Dr. Rush there was much deception in the practice of medicine. There were no “truth in advertising” laws” or legal standards about who could call themselves a doctor. There were probably many totally fake doctors practicing and probably knowingly false medications sold. After the first two sections, the book improves. It contains some information about the history of some medical treatments. It becomes more respectful towards legitimate doctors and the limitations of medicine at the time. The book chronicles how certain treatments evolved. In addition, the book gives examples of medical fraud. The books describes some worthless medical devices as the Dynamizer. I learned how term it is like”snake oil”(meaning fake) got started. Thus, the second part of the book had some interesting anecdotes about the history of medicine which many readers may find interesting. However, to get to the second part, I had to overcome my indignation that wrong but legitimate medical practices were being lumped together with practices, even at the time were being used, were considered fraudulent. The book would have been much better if it dealt either with fraudulent medical practices or errors of the medical establishment rather than combining these two aspects of medicine together under the category of bad medicine. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.