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Eleven Blue Men And Other Narratives Of Medical Detection

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One Monday morning in September, a ragged old man collapsed on the sidewalk of Manhattan's lower east side. Then a policeman came along. Thinking he had another sick drunk on his hands, the policeman bent over the old man. He was quite surprised to see that the old man's nose, lips, ears and fingers were sky blue... By that evening eleven blue men were in the hospital, all One Monday morning in September, a ragged old man collapsed on the sidewalk of Manhattan's lower east side. Then a policeman came along. Thinking he had another sick drunk on his hands, the policeman bent over the old man. He was quite surprised to see that the old man's nose, lips, ears and fingers were sky blue... By that evening eleven blue men were in the hospital, all in a state of shock. Doctors were baffled. And so investigators from the Department of Health, assuming the guise of detectives, were sent out to track down the unknown assailant...


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One Monday morning in September, a ragged old man collapsed on the sidewalk of Manhattan's lower east side. Then a policeman came along. Thinking he had another sick drunk on his hands, the policeman bent over the old man. He was quite surprised to see that the old man's nose, lips, ears and fingers were sky blue... By that evening eleven blue men were in the hospital, all One Monday morning in September, a ragged old man collapsed on the sidewalk of Manhattan's lower east side. Then a policeman came along. Thinking he had another sick drunk on his hands, the policeman bent over the old man. He was quite surprised to see that the old man's nose, lips, ears and fingers were sky blue... By that evening eleven blue men were in the hospital, all in a state of shock. Doctors were baffled. And so investigators from the Department of Health, assuming the guise of detectives, were sent out to track down the unknown assailant...

30 review for Eleven Blue Men And Other Narratives Of Medical Detection

  1. 5 out of 5

    Valeri

    I love this collection of essays. Roueche writes beautifully. And he has an apparently beautiful soul. And best of all, he writes beautifully, with soul, about epidemiology. A staff writer for the NYer for something like fifty years, the Annals of Medicine column was originally created for him, and many of his stories have since been used for the TV series House. He obviously loves slick medical detection and the often absurd circumstances that lead to figuring out that the cook filled the salt I love this collection of essays. Roueche writes beautifully. And he has an apparently beautiful soul. And best of all, he writes beautifully, with soul, about epidemiology. A staff writer for the NYer for something like fifty years, the Annals of Medicine column was originally created for him, and many of his stories have since been used for the TV series House. He obviously loves slick medical detection and the often absurd circumstances that lead to figuring out that the cook filled the salt shakers with sodium nitrite! or the man was exhibiting signs of leprosy! There’s just the right balance of science and drama. But best of all I love how much humanity he uses in depicting the people in these stories. One essay about an exterminator in Queens with an artistically scientific mind who helps the NYC health dept. figure out that a particular kind of tick is behind a Kew Gardens outbreak of Rickettsial fever, well, it was so touching I almost cried.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I read this while in medical school. These are a series of 'short stories' about how strange medical conditions were figured out by medical 'detectives', mostly from a public health point of view. They are fascinating and written like exciting mysteries. Highly recommended. 10 of 10 stars I read this while in medical school. These are a series of 'short stories' about how strange medical conditions were figured out by medical 'detectives', mostly from a public health point of view. They are fascinating and written like exciting mysteries. Highly recommended. 10 of 10 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    A colleague recommended this collection of articles about epidemiology in action that were originally published in the New Yorker in the late 40's. It's out of print, but I got a copy from the library. I work with epidemiologists and other public health scientists though I am not one myself, and I found it really interesting to read about how epidemiology was done back then. But even if you know nothing about the field, you might be interested in the medical detective angle. Roueche writes about A colleague recommended this collection of articles about epidemiology in action that were originally published in the New Yorker in the late 40's. It's out of print, but I got a copy from the library. I work with epidemiologists and other public health scientists though I am not one myself, and I found it really interesting to read about how epidemiology was done back then. But even if you know nothing about the field, you might be interested in the medical detective angle. Roueche writes about how public health officials found the connection between eleven NYC transients who all turned blue and became deathly ill, how they investigated a bird-borne illness, a smallpox outbreak, salmonella poisoning, and a poisonous fog that killed several people in a Pennsylvania mining town and sickened hundreds of others. There's also a chapter about how antibiotic research was done back then, including a tour of Pfizer's research facility. There are also two chapters that deal with the social history of certain diseases, one on leprosy and one on gout, both of which have been known and written about for thousands of years. This book was later published as The Medical Detectives and you can find further reviews of it on this site under that name. There's also a second volume called, of course, The Medical Detectives, Volume 2. I wish someone would write an annotated version that explains the ways in which medical science has advanced since these articles were written. A side note: I was amused to read the casual references to smoking everywhere in all kinds of situations: in doctor's offices, research labs, hospital rooms. I knew it was like that before the Surgeon General's warning came out in the 60's, but this really brought home how little people knew or cared about the adverse effects of smoking. During the poison fog mentioned above, the first thing a couple of the doctors and nurses did after they stopped choking and gagging on the incredibly polluted air was to light up a cigar or cigarette!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anna Engel

    What a delightful book! Published in 1953, it's the original "House, MD," but on an epi level rather than an individual one. These guys (they were almost all men) were boots-on-the-ground types, tracking down diseases and their sources. They lacked many of the advances we take for granted, like easy access to phones (to say nothing of mobile technology), quick diagnostic techniques, and computer modeling capabilities. I love reading about old-school epi investigations. What a delightful book! Published in 1953, it's the original "House, MD," but on an epi level rather than an individual one. These guys (they were almost all men) were boots-on-the-ground types, tracking down diseases and their sources. They lacked many of the advances we take for granted, like easy access to phones (to say nothing of mobile technology), quick diagnostic techniques, and computer modeling capabilities. I love reading about old-school epi investigations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Igolder

    This guy was Oliver Sacks before Oliver Sacks was Oliver Sacks. Reportage style is a little old-timey but in the pre-Sacks era this book was the only game in town! Would be interesting to re-read now. This is where I first learned about leprosy, trichinosis, and all kinds of creepy stuff.

  6. 5 out of 5

    LobsterQuadrille

    The stories in this collection include both medical mysteries and how they were solved, and some overviews of the history of some infamous diseases. The history ones have some interesting info and aren't written too dryly, but the medical mystery accounts are invariably better. They are creepy and strange, but the writing never feels pulpy. They are simply accounts of some odd notable medical cases and the process that was required to solve them. These are my favorites: -A Pig from Jersey -A Game The stories in this collection include both medical mysteries and how they were solved, and some overviews of the history of some infamous diseases. The history ones have some interesting info and aren't written too dryly, but the medical mystery accounts are invariably better. They are creepy and strange, but the writing never feels pulpy. They are simply accounts of some odd notable medical cases and the process that was required to solve them. These are my favorites: -A Pig from Jersey -A Game of Wild Indians -The Alerting of Mr. Pomerantz -Eleven Blue Men -A Pinch of Dust -The Fog

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Bailey

    This is one of three books from Roueche, each chapter reads like a mystery about a certain ailment or infectious disease. The chapters are just short enough so that you'll quickly be gaining insight into various important epidemiological disasters of the ages from gout, botulinum toxin, trichinosis, typhoid fever to the 1948 Donora smog. If these are terms you only superficially understand, as was the case for me, prepare to feel more comfortable with them by the end of the book. Very fun and re This is one of three books from Roueche, each chapter reads like a mystery about a certain ailment or infectious disease. The chapters are just short enough so that you'll quickly be gaining insight into various important epidemiological disasters of the ages from gout, botulinum toxin, trichinosis, typhoid fever to the 1948 Donora smog. If these are terms you only superficially understand, as was the case for me, prepare to feel more comfortable with them by the end of the book. Very fun and rewarding read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne Lacy

    Keeping in mind that the material is more than seventy years old, this is still fascinating. You can read of the public health concerns of the 1940s and earlier with a keen awareness that many of these concerns are still with us.

  9. 4 out of 5

    S. M.

    Head of Pfizer in the 1940s: "There's a lot of money in antibiotics." I guess some things never change. Though it's weird to consider this company was probably ethical at the time, unlike today. "The Fog" was the best story in this book. Head of Pfizer in the 1940s: "There's a lot of money in antibiotics." I guess some things never change. Though it's weird to consider this company was probably ethical at the time, unlike today. "The Fog" was the best story in this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ellieg

    Great Book! A fabulous way to explore epidemiology through these short stories that engage the mysteries of trichinosis to poisoning.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The writing was a bit over the top, but the stories and history of science were fascinating. Crazy to think how much has changed scientifically since the early 40s but also how little.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robin Winter

    Marvelous narratives of medical mysteries. The weakest one is the essay on gout, withe the case of leprosy coming next. But the others are fascinating and full of humane spirit. Ever need to review why a tetanus inoculation is a good idea? Read 'A Pinch of Dust' and be afraid. Marvelous narratives of medical mysteries. The weakest one is the essay on gout, withe the case of leprosy coming next. But the others are fascinating and full of humane spirit. Ever need to review why a tetanus inoculation is a good idea? Read 'A Pinch of Dust' and be afraid.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Another wonderful collection of medical detection stories from Berton Roueche, author of The Incurable Wound. I read this one in college, I think. Roueche's writing style is superb and he fashions each story that keeps you glued to the page. The story titles are ironically hilarious. Another wonderful collection of medical detection stories from Berton Roueche, author of The Incurable Wound. I read this one in college, I think. Roueche's writing style is superb and he fashions each story that keeps you glued to the page. The story titles are ironically hilarious.

  14. 4 out of 5

    A.

    Very interesting. Written a good many years ago. Before email, fax, and apparently not many phones either. Very easy to read short medical mystery stories. The copy I had was tattered and yellowed but still great!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Interesting. This book is about some of the earliest forensic science. Each chapter is an article discussing one case.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Longbeverly

    This book was just ok. I read another book about medical detectives that was more interesting. This is just an older book. The cases are still interesting but the delivery is dry.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrée

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rosalind Reisner

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tom Reimann

  20. 5 out of 5

    Craig Brownlie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine Starblade

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  26. 5 out of 5

    5333Taylor

  27. 4 out of 5

    M

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cymberleah Dawne

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sk

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