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Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine

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An eminently readable, entertaining romp through the history of our vain and valiant efforts to heal ourselves. Mankind's battle to stay alive and healthy for as long as possible is our oldest, most universal struggle. With his characteristic wit and vastly informed historical scope, Roy Porter examines the war fought between disease and doctors on the battleground of the An eminently readable, entertaining romp through the history of our vain and valiant efforts to heal ourselves. Mankind's battle to stay alive and healthy for as long as possible is our oldest, most universal struggle. With his characteristic wit and vastly informed historical scope, Roy Porter examines the war fought between disease and doctors on the battleground of the flesh from ancient times to the present. He explores the many ingenious ways in which we have attempted to overcome disease through the ages: the changing role of doctors, from ancient healers, apothecaries, and blood-letters to today's professionals; the array of drugs, from Ayurvedic remedies to the launch of Viagra; the advances in surgery, from amputations performed by barbers without anesthetic to today's sophisticated transplants; and the transformation of hospitals from Christian places of convalescence to modern medical powerhouses. Cleverly illustrated with historic line drawings, the chronic ailments of humanity provide vivid anecdotes for Porter's enlightening story of medicine's efforts to prevail over a formidable and ever-changing adversary.


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An eminently readable, entertaining romp through the history of our vain and valiant efforts to heal ourselves. Mankind's battle to stay alive and healthy for as long as possible is our oldest, most universal struggle. With his characteristic wit and vastly informed historical scope, Roy Porter examines the war fought between disease and doctors on the battleground of the An eminently readable, entertaining romp through the history of our vain and valiant efforts to heal ourselves. Mankind's battle to stay alive and healthy for as long as possible is our oldest, most universal struggle. With his characteristic wit and vastly informed historical scope, Roy Porter examines the war fought between disease and doctors on the battleground of the flesh from ancient times to the present. He explores the many ingenious ways in which we have attempted to overcome disease through the ages: the changing role of doctors, from ancient healers, apothecaries, and blood-letters to today's professionals; the array of drugs, from Ayurvedic remedies to the launch of Viagra; the advances in surgery, from amputations performed by barbers without anesthetic to today's sophisticated transplants; and the transformation of hospitals from Christian places of convalescence to modern medical powerhouses. Cleverly illustrated with historic line drawings, the chronic ailments of humanity provide vivid anecdotes for Porter's enlightening story of medicine's efforts to prevail over a formidable and ever-changing adversary.

30 review for Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    This is one of those ‘surrogate’ books – I bought it because I really wanted something else, so any disappointment is my own fault. The book I wanted was Porter's The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, his mammoth tome on the history of medicine, but my friendly neighbourhood bookshops never seem to have it when I'm in the mood. Instead, I bought this, which I thought might tide me over. To be fair, the clue is in the title. This history of medicine really is short – if you take off the notes, bibliogra This is one of those ‘surrogate’ books – I bought it because I really wanted something else, so any disappointment is my own fault. The book I wanted was Porter's The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, his mammoth tome on the history of medicine, but my friendly neighbourhood bookshops never seem to have it when I'm in the mood. Instead, I bought this, which I thought might tide me over. To be fair, the clue is in the title. This history of medicine really is short – if you take off the notes, bibliography and the many full-page illustrations, you're left with barely 150 pages of text. (Edit: I just counted, it's actually 130.) Like a literary amuse-bouche, I thought it might whet my appetite for the bigger version (excuse the dangling modifier), but despite the clear labelling I unfortunately found it more frustrating than stimulating. The approach is thematic: eight chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of medicine, including disease itself, anatomy, surgery, the hospital, and so on. So we have a score of pages on each, running very briskly from antiquity to now, before resetting the clock again at the start of the next chapter. Porter's prose is as wonderful as ever, and his conclusions typically judicious. But the frenetic pace doesn't show off his talents to best effect, and the merciless effort to pare things down to the essentials means there's little room for all the grisly anecdotes of mediaeval births and eighteenth-century amputations that you want from something like this. My preconceptions aside, this is a solid grounding in the story so far, and it will bring you up to speed. It will also have you thanking all the gods, once again, that you were born in the era of anaesthetics and antibiotics (although, as always, you can't help wondering what future generations will consider appalling about our own time). It has some interesting things to say about modern medicine too, especially the drive towards healthcare-as-business in the US: I was amazed to read that one head of the Hospital Corporation of America was a former fast-food manager who said approvingly that ‘the growth potential in hospitals is unlimited: it's even better than Kentucky Fried Chicken’. ‘In the USA health insurance became a lasting political football,’ Porter comments mildly in 2002. (Oh Roy, if you only knew.) ‘Compulsory Health Insurance,’ declared one Brooklyn physician, ‘is an Un-American, Unsafe, Uneconomic, Unscientific, Unfair and Unscrupulous type of Legislation supported by…Misguided Clergymen and Hysterical Women.’ Porter is surprisingly ambivalent when it comes to giving an overall verdict on modern medicine, taking the view that improvements in life expectancy and pain relief are offset by commercialisation and a dubious record in how well western techniques have been exported to the developing world. (That is, investing in basic hygiene and nutrition might have been better than exporting expensive pharmaceuticals.) I can't give this less than three stars, because the facts are all there and he writes beautifully. Unfortunately, the fact is that I wanted a lobster thermidore and I ended up nibbling a breadstick.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeannette Nikolova

    Also available on the WondrousBooks blog. I found this book in the most random way possible - I was visiting the apartment of a colleague of mine and, of course, browsing through her bookshelf, when I saw this title. Being a fan of everything creepy, weird and morbid, I asked her about the book and she told me that it was left in the apartment by the previous tenant. Quite the book to abandon, huh? In all honesty, Blood and Guts is not the most bloody book out there. In fact, it's very far fro Also available on the WondrousBooks blog. I found this book in the most random way possible - I was visiting the apartment of a colleague of mine and, of course, browsing through her bookshelf, when I saw this title. Being a fan of everything creepy, weird and morbid, I asked her about the book and she told me that it was left in the apartment by the previous tenant. Quite the book to abandon, huh? In all honesty, Blood and Guts is not the most bloody book out there. In fact, it's very far from it. The title was rather misleading, but the book was overall enjoyable, aside from that. If it so happens that you are curious about medicine and its history, but you're not actually into the topic - at least not enough "into it" to buy a more detailed and comprehensive history book, Blood and Guts is the right one for you. This rather short illustrated history of medicine tells its reader about certain aspects of the medicine we know today and their historical development. You can learn about the spread of viral diseases that we've all heard about, such as the plague, the Spanish flu and so on, as well as the development of cures for them; the creation of the first hospitals; the first autopsies, etc. In case you want to get deeply into the topic, this book will not get you far, be warned. I quite enjoyed the first part of the book which was going through different diseases and how they spread around the world, as well as the first discoveries in medicine. I started losing interest as we came nearer to our own time and the reason for that is that, I believe, a lot more was happening as time went on, so the book could not successfully encapsulate it and a large part of the end of the book somehow lacked substance. It does sometimes happen when you try to fit as much information as possible in a limited space - things get very vague and loose their meaning (as I remember from my own university papers). Nevertheless, the book was quite enjoyable for the overview that it provided on an otherwise rather huge subject. I do recommend it to those of you who are curious to know, but not into the topic enough to, for example, start an actual study on the history of medicine.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Loren

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. Roy Porter was a professor on the social history of medicine at University College London. His skill at delivering cogent, interesting lectures is readily apparent in this book. I wish I’d been able to sit in on his classes. Blood and Guts breaks the long history of medicine into easily digestible chunks: Disease, Doctors, The Laboratory, Surgery, The Hospital. Each chapter sweeps over the span of medicine, picking out the choicest tidbits This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. Roy Porter was a professor on the social history of medicine at University College London. His skill at delivering cogent, interesting lectures is readily apparent in this book. I wish I’d been able to sit in on his classes. Blood and Guts breaks the long history of medicine into easily digestible chunks: Disease, Doctors, The Laboratory, Surgery, The Hospital. Each chapter sweeps over the span of medicine, picking out the choicest tidbits to make precise points. Starting with the legends of the Christian Fall and Pandora’s Box, Porter shows how mankind knew – long before science proved it – that we bring plagues and pestilences down on ourselves. When humans lived as nomads, rarely were enough people gathered in one place long enough for disease to breed and become virulent. Only with the domestication of livestock did disease begin to cross the species barriers: tuberculosis from cattle, flu from ducks, the common cold from horses. In fact, the book is full of little conversational morsels. The fabled Hippocratic doctors of Greece relied on the theory of bodily humors because they knew so little about anatomy; dissection being completely against the Greek reverence for the body. In the first half of the 13th century, pharmacists and physicians formed a guild in Florence, becoming one of the city’s seven major crafts. The average American visited the doctor 5 times in 2000, despite being healthier than humans have ever been. One of my favorite chapters was “The Body,” basically a history of anatomists and body snatchers. I hadn’t realized that the study of human anatomy, perhaps even vivisection, stretched back to Hellenistic Alexandria in 300 BCE. I’ve long been fascinated by the concept that Renaissance doctors performed public dissections for the edification of any who cared to attend. (It’s a shame they don’t do that any more!) Dissection revealed the glorious complexity of the human corpse and changed the nature of human thought once it was understood that the body was an efficient machine. There’s ever so much more of interest here, but let me encourage you to explore it for yourself. When this book came from the publisher for review, I asked several of the contributors if they’d like to read it for me. They all shied away from a history of medicine, claiming their own health had taught them more about the subject than they cared to know. Don’t make that assumption! This book is fascinating, well worth the time to read, and won’t make you feel any worse about your own health. In fact, the perspective it provides will make you glad we live in this era and no other! This review originally came from Morbid Curiosity #8.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Johnston

    Factoids ahoy! A slim introduction to the history of Western illness and medicine, with eight themes (disease; doctors; therapies; etc) addressed chronologically. Like the Sherwin Nuland book I read earlier in summer, 'Blood and Guts' illustrates how respect for conventions can lead people to ignore or attempt to explain away evidence that appears 'contrary', and how much we like a good framework (4 seasons, 4 humours), even if we have to jiggle the facts around to fit in. My favourite chapter was Factoids ahoy! A slim introduction to the history of Western illness and medicine, with eight themes (disease; doctors; therapies; etc) addressed chronologically. Like the Sherwin Nuland book I read earlier in summer, 'Blood and Guts' illustrates how respect for conventions can lead people to ignore or attempt to explain away evidence that appears 'contrary', and how much we like a good framework (4 seasons, 4 humours), even if we have to jiggle the facts around to fit in. My favourite chapter was the first, disease, where I learnt that many contemporary diseases crossed over to humans from animals when we developed agrarian societies and started domesticating beasts; measles from dogs, the common cold from horses, smallpox and TB from cows. Humans now share over 60 micro-organic diseases with dogs. This made me think of that lovely scene in The Sword in the Stone where Merlin spots Wart (the kid) licking Bran's nose, and observes that in the future this kind of behaviour will be discouraged, but really, the dog is no dirtier than a little boy. 'Blood and Guts' rises above some of the short-history type books I've read in that Porter's writing doesn't become anorexic in order to hit the 169 page limit. Plus, a terrific bibliography, something I'm increasingly coming to appreciate in the non-fiction I read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    This didn't really work for me as a history of medicine, even a short one. Each chapter treads the same ground, but with a different theme, instead of following the history of medicine through chronologically. That's not to say it wasn't interesting in places, and I liked the inclusion of so many images to go along with the text, but it didn't feel like there was anything to get my teeth into. I felt like it would have been much better done chronologically, even if it was in broad swathes of tim This didn't really work for me as a history of medicine, even a short one. Each chapter treads the same ground, but with a different theme, instead of following the history of medicine through chronologically. That's not to say it wasn't interesting in places, and I liked the inclusion of so many images to go along with the text, but it didn't feel like there was anything to get my teeth into. I felt like it would have been much better done chronologically, even if it was in broad swathes of time: 'early societies', 'the Classical world', 'medieval Europe', 'British empire', etc. Something like that would've worked a lot better for me. Also, I know he says up front that he's not even going to touch on Eastern medicine, but considering the way we've imported alternative medicines as a commodity here, it would actually be relevant to talk about their development and give them some more credit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    "The dread of disease, potential and actual, the pains of acute complaints and long-term ailments, and the terror of mortality number among our most universal and formidable experiences." I intend to read Roy Porter's The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity at some point; until and before then, I thought I'd read his much condensed introduction to medicine, Blood & Guts. The book is divided into eight chapters, each focusing on one aspect of medicine from a historical p "The dread of disease, potential and actual, the pains of acute complaints and long-term ailments, and the terror of mortality number among our most universal and formidable experiences." I intend to read Roy Porter's The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity at some point; until and before then, I thought I'd read his much condensed introduction to medicine, Blood & Guts. The book is divided into eight chapters, each focusing on one aspect of medicine from a historical perspective: Disease, Doctors, The Body, The Laboratory, Therapies, Surgery, The Hospital, and Medicine in Modern Society. Porter's style is pleasant, and the chapters are quite nicely tied together. Overall, it's a good little book if you want to read about the history of medicine in short and broad strokes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    A fast and interesting look at how medicine has evolved over the centuries (or even millenia). With such an enormous field to cover it's inevitable that Porter's account is very sketchy, but this is a book designed to get the reader started rather than give them detail. The story is told by topic rather than chronologically; there's a bibliography arranged by chapter for those who want to explore any subject in depth. I found it extremely easy to read and thought-provoking. A fast and interesting look at how medicine has evolved over the centuries (or even millenia). With such an enormous field to cover it's inevitable that Porter's account is very sketchy, but this is a book designed to get the reader started rather than give them detail. The story is told by topic rather than chronologically; there's a bibliography arranged by chapter for those who want to explore any subject in depth. I found it extremely easy to read and thought-provoking.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie Morales

    I've always been fascinated by medicine, and the history of medicine captivates me. This book is a crash course on a little bit of everything, from ancient medicine to today. The book begins with a discussion about various diseases and the arguments about how those diseases spread. We read about mysterious plagues, smallpox, tuberculosis, then more modern diseases, or at least diseases that now had names and that we now had more of an understanding. Doctors are discussed next, from ancient healers I've always been fascinated by medicine, and the history of medicine captivates me. This book is a crash course on a little bit of everything, from ancient medicine to today. The book begins with a discussion about various diseases and the arguments about how those diseases spread. We read about mysterious plagues, smallpox, tuberculosis, then more modern diseases, or at least diseases that now had names and that we now had more of an understanding. Doctors are discussed next, from ancient healers to modern-day doctors, healers, midwives, and even the quacks or traveling salesmen, selling hoax medicine. The body and anatomy was discussed next. It wasn't until relatively recently that we were able to learn about the innards and the workings of the human body. Corpses were sacred and couldn't be tampered with, unless maybe the person had been a criminal, so autopsies were almost unheard-of. Then there were the grave-robbers who sold bodies for research, and all sorts of other sketchy ways of getting their human guinea pigs. Despite that, as they learned more about the human body, medicine, of course, progressed rapidly. The laboratory comes next. That was some interesting reading. The Germans and the French were rivals of sorts when it came to research. As different chemicals were found, different tests could be performed, different medications could be developed, and medicine seemed to know no bounds. The discussion of therapies naturally followed, and it's here we read about the development of medication, from its early forms mostly as herbs, to opium, then to antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs. Surgery developed at a rate somewhat even with that of the exploration and learning of anatomy. Surgery was originally done without anesthesia and was usually pretty simple. It was often limited to battlefield treatments. Innards weren't tampered with because they were unknown, and what was known was too risky to try. Then they learned more about anatomy, anesthetics were developed and methods of sanitation were improved, until surgery became more than just a job done by a barber! The hospital was slow to develop. It originally served more as a charity for the poor and needy, a sort of homeless shelter sometimes, mostly run by religious sects and didn't really have much to do with medicine. Then they began to grow to be run by more secular organizations, funded in various ways, while the public hospitals were still financially strapped. The wealthy still had most of their medical treatments at home until relatively recently, so even up until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, hospitals began to have more doctors, teaching hospitals developed, and they began changing into some of the behemoths we know today, not just where the wretches went, and the more well-to-do kept their distance for fear of infection. The discussion of medicine in modern society mostly dealt with medicine and politics, the forming of medical insurance in various countries and how the role of general practitioners changed over the years, so now we have those, then doctors who don't work with patients outside of hospitals. I know this seems pretty lengthy, but even at that, I still feel like I barely scratched the surface of some of the topics discussed in this book. It was quite interesting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Duncan Wilson

    A brilliant brief history of various aspects of medicine. Roy Porter has an accessible style that is educational and informative without ever being dry and obtuse. Great little primer from which you can discover themes snd people to explore in further depth.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Black

    By no means a bad book and it does cover the history of medicine as would be expected in a volume of this length. To those complaining that it is too brief I would have to respond with this question: why did you buy a book on the history of medicine that is stated online to be just 169 pages long after the deduction of notes? If purchased in a shop it is surely EVEN MORE OBVIOUS that intricate detail will not be found inside. I digress... Anyway, worth a read if you want to put medical and surgic By no means a bad book and it does cover the history of medicine as would be expected in a volume of this length. To those complaining that it is too brief I would have to respond with this question: why did you buy a book on the history of medicine that is stated online to be just 169 pages long after the deduction of notes? If purchased in a shop it is surely EVEN MORE OBVIOUS that intricate detail will not be found inside. I digress... Anyway, worth a read if you want to put medical and surgical advances into some sort of timeline in your head. I must warn you however, it is not arranged in this fashion. You will not find a neat chronological walk through. Instead it is arranged into chapters that address various aspects of medicine and jumps back and forth a little to lump content into themes. The illustrations found regularly throughout are great and supplement the reading nicely. They are all of historical interest and some are slightly amusing. The author has a slightly outmoded writing style at times. For example, who hyphenates the word 'today'? Well, Roy Porter does. Whilst clearly not a major issue, things like that do jump out of the text at you. Overall 3/5.

  11. 5 out of 5

    saizine

    A very good introduction to the history of medicine; however, it is very much that: an introduction. If you have any background at all in the study of the history of medicine, then this will be a reiteration of basic historical and theoretical knowledge. It is, like all of Roy Porter's work, a joy to read: lively, atmospheric, and engaging. Certainly a solid choice for a first foray into the subject, especially since the further reading section is full of great suggestions. The included images a A very good introduction to the history of medicine; however, it is very much that: an introduction. If you have any background at all in the study of the history of medicine, then this will be a reiteration of basic historical and theoretical knowledge. It is, like all of Roy Porter's work, a joy to read: lively, atmospheric, and engaging. Certainly a solid choice for a first foray into the subject, especially since the further reading section is full of great suggestions. The included images are also enjoyable and thought-provoking. I was rather surprised by the complete lack of a mention of Rosalind Franklin in the brief discussion of DNA, and also question the flippancy assigned to "the vogue for caesarians nowadays", though these are criticisms that are probably reflective of expecting more than an overview from an introductory text. Recommended for those new to the discipline.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    Well, it's all in the title, it's a 'short history of medicine' so, here we have a romp through a vast topic that doesn't leave much space (sadly) for big informations, even relevant anecdotes. The whole indeed is just a fast paced race focusing on things that are quite common knowledge (from the big names to the issues now faced by our modern health care system), providing each time just that little bit extra details to make it all interesting. It's still a great introduction, and, its structu Well, it's all in the title, it's a 'short history of medicine' so, here we have a romp through a vast topic that doesn't leave much space (sadly) for big informations, even relevant anecdotes. The whole indeed is just a fast paced race focusing on things that are quite common knowledge (from the big names to the issues now faced by our modern health care system), providing each time just that little bit extra details to make it all interesting. It's still a great introduction, and, its structure (a thematic approach rather than a chronological one) helps put things into perspective besides making them easier to digest.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bobscopatz

    This was a big disappointment. I know the subtitle includes the word "short" but this is far too brief. It reads more like an annotated outline of points the author wanted to cover in greater depth than an actual history. To be fair, this was published posthumously and I can't help thinking Mr. Porter wasn't quite done with it when he died. It's unfortunate that he didn't get a chance to finish because so many of the topics are interesting, and his take on the controversies is so well informed a This was a big disappointment. I know the subtitle includes the word "short" but this is far too brief. It reads more like an annotated outline of points the author wanted to cover in greater depth than an actual history. To be fair, this was published posthumously and I can't help thinking Mr. Porter wasn't quite done with it when he died. It's unfortunate that he didn't get a chance to finish because so many of the topics are interesting, and his take on the controversies is so well informed and presented. The book is a nice start to something that could have been great.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    For non-fiction this book was unusually atmospheric. Reading it was like strolling through a musty and over-stocked curiosity shop where papers have browned edges and specimens are sprawled on pins or suspended in jars. It's also inundating in the same way, full of quizzical facts that I loved observing but couldn't remember after closing the cover. For non-fiction this book was unusually atmospheric. Reading it was like strolling through a musty and over-stocked curiosity shop where papers have browned edges and specimens are sprawled on pins or suspended in jars. It's also inundating in the same way, full of quizzical facts that I loved observing but couldn't remember after closing the cover.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Reddy Mallender-Katzy

    I KNOW IVE READ THIS BOOK BUT HONESTLY I DONT RECALL A THING ABOUT IT

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    A quick and unsettling read In a sense this is a "lite" version of the late Roy Porter's well-received history of medicine from 1997, entitled The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. He is also the editor of The Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine (1996) and was until his death professor of social history at University College London. But let's face it, the history of medicine has not been a pretty story, nor could it have been. Most of history's physicians were flailing about in the dark, the surg A quick and unsettling read In a sense this is a "lite" version of the late Roy Porter's well-received history of medicine from 1997, entitled The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. He is also the editor of The Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine (1996) and was until his death professor of social history at University College London. But let's face it, the history of medicine has not been a pretty story, nor could it have been. Most of history's physicians were flailing about in the dark, the surgeons as sawbones and barbers performing crude amputations and such without the aid of either anaesthetics or disinfectants, the practitioners as faith healers and quacks, dispensing placebos or poisons often without knowing which was which. It wasn't until the late 19th century that the medical profession began to achieve some understanding of the real causes of illness and indeed understand how living things work and how and why they don't work. Porter recalls some of the controversies about the vivisection of cadavers, and arguments about the causes of infectious disease: an argument made difficult because of course the microbes could not be discerned until about the time of Pasteur. Porter outlines this sobering story from the time of the Greeks to the present day in an objective and easily assimilated style. He organizes the material into eight chapters focusing on Disease, Doctors, The Body, The Laboratory, Therapies, Surgery, The Hospital, and Medicine in Modern Society. Along the way he delves into the politics (some sexual) and into the sociology of medicine around the globe. There are suggestions for Further Reading and an Index. There are also about 40 rather appalling (some amusing) illustrations from previous centuries in this (for a change) accurately named little tome, showing the horrors of past medical practices. They enliven Porter's text, but you may need a magnifying glass to catch all the nuances--as though you might want to do that!--since some of the prints, while small enough to fit the page are not large enough for the unaided eye. In short, this is a quick and unsettling read that may make the reader wonder about how future generations will view some of the medical procedures practiced today. --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jack Greenwood

    Porter is a man brimming with knowledge from every orifice, yet sometimes unable to shape his bubbling factual tide into something more coherent. A masterful command of langauge that can't help but alienate those who aren't diligently brandishing their pocket dictionary as they read. It's a classic case of the academic versus teacher method of imparting knowledge: I'm not sure how much of the extensive wisdom actually stuck in my head. He'd be the sort of lecturer that'd be fascinating to listen t Porter is a man brimming with knowledge from every orifice, yet sometimes unable to shape his bubbling factual tide into something more coherent. A masterful command of langauge that can't help but alienate those who aren't diligently brandishing their pocket dictionary as they read. It's a classic case of the academic versus teacher method of imparting knowledge: I'm not sure how much of the extensive wisdom actually stuck in my head. He'd be the sort of lecturer that'd be fascinating to listen to, layering story, upon story, upon story; demonstrating his unrivalled understanding. Presenter: "Roy, you've gone 3 hours over your allotted time, people have got places to be." Roy: "That reminds me, time is of central importance to medicinal history, the great surgeon Robert Liston honed his amputation technqiue to the point that he could have sawn your leg off in under 30 seconds..." ....and on, and on, and on. You wouldn't have the heart to interrupt again. It seems like Porter has tried to fit as much as humanely possible into this abridged version of his classic 872-page version. However, that intention does come at a cost of clarity. Some of his sentence strucutres made my head swim: By thus highlighting living pathogens, the microbe hunters who headed the new bacteriology made great strides towards solving the thorny problem of disease aetiology, though in the process throwing up the perplexing questions of susceptibility and resistance, which proved the matrix for the later science of immunology. All that said, his style did grow on me, and I found myself enjoying the book more and more as it went on. Particularly the chapters on Surgery and the concluding Medicine in Modern Society. I will be reccomending it as a useful accompaniment to the GCSE History of Medicine course - Porter shows why this is one of most popular courses chosen in British schools for 14-16 year olds. It's gruesome, gory, and downright absurd history. Ultimately, the world is a better place for the influence of minds like Porter's.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This relatively short book is a History of Medicine, taking us from ancient times to the dawn of the 21st Century. I very much enjoyed reading it, and it does give very good information about Medicine. The first chapter is on Disease, and by the end of the chapter I felt lucky to be hale, healthy, and alive, considering how many ways one might not be hale and healthy. The second chapter is about Doctors, followed by The Body (for centuries, good information on what lies within us was not to be ha This relatively short book is a History of Medicine, taking us from ancient times to the dawn of the 21st Century. I very much enjoyed reading it, and it does give very good information about Medicine. The first chapter is on Disease, and by the end of the chapter I felt lucky to be hale, healthy, and alive, considering how many ways one might not be hale and healthy. The second chapter is about Doctors, followed by The Body (for centuries, good information on what lies within us was not to be had, due to cultural and state-mandated rules against autopsies), The Laboratory, Therapies, Surgery, and The Hospital. The book ends with a chapter on Medicine in Modern Society, about how we are still chasing the dream of Universal Health Care. (I think some basic level of Health Care should be provided by the government; and anyone who can afford it can purchase Health Care out of his or her pocket.) I very much enjoyed this book, and (unrelated to this book), I am shocked to find that this was the only book I read in February 2018.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Ames

    I read “Blood and Guts” by Roy Porter. The novel is a non-fiction informative book that tells a brief summary of the entire history of medicine. The goal of the book was to inform, and the intended audience was younger adults with the desire of studying medical topics. I don’t think that it was really a book designed to please large numbers of people over a wide range of interests, and was very directed towards certain groups instead. The author did not really have a set argument that I noticed, I read “Blood and Guts” by Roy Porter. The novel is a non-fiction informative book that tells a brief summary of the entire history of medicine. The goal of the book was to inform, and the intended audience was younger adults with the desire of studying medical topics. I don’t think that it was really a book designed to please large numbers of people over a wide range of interests, and was very directed towards certain groups instead. The author did not really have a set argument that I noticed, but was very elaborate about the way it was written, keeping the book very unbiased and factual. I think that the author did a good job at writing it, and teaching the reader. The book was very straight to the point and used other forms of sources other than just basic information, using primary sources such as pictures and quotes. I do not think that there is any argument at all that needs to be placed. Overall, I think that the book was very informative and did a good job at teaching me, as the reader about the history of medicine.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lowbrow

    Very abridged outline of western medicine, covering: disease, doctors, hospitals, chemistry/laboratory developments. Started off interesting enough, but quickly turns into a dry list of achievements and dates, perhaps in an effort to fit so much in. I don’t know if I can hold this against the author, he states in the intro he intends for his coverage to be brief and makes no promises to be entertaining. (Except for the title, which sounds more pop-history.) Some moralizing at the end that doesn’t Very abridged outline of western medicine, covering: disease, doctors, hospitals, chemistry/laboratory developments. Started off interesting enough, but quickly turns into a dry list of achievements and dates, perhaps in an effort to fit so much in. I don’t know if I can hold this against the author, he states in the intro he intends for his coverage to be brief and makes no promises to be entertaining. (Except for the title, which sounds more pop-history.) Some moralizing at the end that doesn’t offer any new insights, but may have been more useful at the time it was written. I picked this up from the local library impulsively, but was deceived by how well preserved the library edition looked and what I thought was a new book is actually from 2002! The comment ‘drug treatments remain only palliative’ in relation to HIV seemed a bit stingy until I realized. Anyway, older stuff seems accurate enough. Might be good if you need a quick overview of western medicine.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Wyman

    This was for a class, but I still enjoyed reading it. It’s a perfect little book about the history of medicine. Short but detailed, focused on the subjects but open to include other tangent details, and big words used but very easy to understand (especially if your not a doctor, nurse, medicine buff, etc. within the med field). One thing I enjoyed the most out of reading the book is it’s honesty, bluntness, and lack of fear of stating the harsh truths. Forgive me if these seem to be one thing, but This was for a class, but I still enjoyed reading it. It’s a perfect little book about the history of medicine. Short but detailed, focused on the subjects but open to include other tangent details, and big words used but very easy to understand (especially if your not a doctor, nurse, medicine buff, etc. within the med field). One thing I enjoyed the most out of reading the book is it’s honesty, bluntness, and lack of fear of stating the harsh truths. Forgive me if these seem to be one thing, but it still remains as a reason why I liked the book. Another thing I like about the book is the title, Blood & Guts. Cool. If you’re interested in history, gore, and or medicine, then I suggest you give this a try. It has pictures. Enjoy :)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    This was a really interesting book. As a short history of medicine, Roy Porter did a fantastic job of recounting all key points in western medicine's history. In order to keep it short, this did mean skimming over details. But that doesn't mean that it was lacking in any way. The author examined medical history through several levels it occupies in society, whilst managing to keep it (roughly) chronological, and to delineate cultural differences where appropriate. The attempt to try and summarise This was a really interesting book. As a short history of medicine, Roy Porter did a fantastic job of recounting all key points in western medicine's history. In order to keep it short, this did mean skimming over details. But that doesn't mean that it was lacking in any way. The author examined medical history through several levels it occupies in society, whilst managing to keep it (roughly) chronological, and to delineate cultural differences where appropriate. The attempt to try and summarise everything in such a way could get confusing from time to time, I'll admit. But overall the ideas presented were well-informed, concise and thought-provoking.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fee

    Enlightening and frightening. I am extremely glad I live in this relatively new era of modern medicine. The book raises questions about the future of medicine - it will be interesting to see where it is headed technically, clinically, therapeutically and politically. I liked the fact this book was succinct because at times it felt slightly "textbookish" though that's not surprising given the author's profession. Worth a read if you're into medicine or medical science. Enlightening and frightening. I am extremely glad I live in this relatively new era of modern medicine. The book raises questions about the future of medicine - it will be interesting to see where it is headed technically, clinically, therapeutically and politically. I liked the fact this book was succinct because at times it felt slightly "textbookish" though that's not surprising given the author's profession. Worth a read if you're into medicine or medical science.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kirby R.

    Perhaps I should have paid better attention to the subtitle, but this read was certainly shorter than I had anticipated. That is not to say that I found the book distasteful; it was, in fact, exactly what I had hoped to find, rife with brilliant (if a tad excruciating) medical facts and even pictures and paintings of the eras mentioned. I only wish that certain sections (namely Disease, The Body, and Surgery) had been more fleshed out.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Surely Roy Porter was there – with the hunter gatherers we meet on page 1, with Vesalius in 1543 dissecting his way to the discovery that humans and animals are anatomically different, with the surgeon who performed an ovariotomy in 1809 without anesthetic (and the surviving patient!), with every charlatan, reformer, and revolutionary all the way from prehistory to the present. A vivid, erudite, funny, fast ride of a read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This is exactly what it claims to be - a short history of modern medicine. Because it's shorter, there is obviously a lot left unsaid and unexplored and there was one chapter where the parade of names got a bit confusing. But it was very helpful for understanding how we got to where we are now in medicine. I enjoyed it! This is exactly what it claims to be - a short history of modern medicine. Because it's shorter, there is obviously a lot left unsaid and unexplored and there was one chapter where the parade of names got a bit confusing. But it was very helpful for understanding how we got to where we are now in medicine. I enjoyed it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    liv

    This book is exactly what it says it’s going to be - a short introduction on the history of medicine. Divided up into thematic chapters. Unlike a high percentage of historical books this doesn’t follow a strictly chronological order - annoyingly. I would recommend it if you’re a fan of the history of medicine.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Monique Smith

    Dnf’d at 50% not for me, this read more like required reading for school. As a layperson this was super dry, I’m not the right audience for this though I do enjoy nonfiction this did nothing for me. I didn’t want to force myself to finish this book, plus I knew I would most likely remember nothing/take anything away from finishing it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Velson

    Very interesting little book full of fascinating facts about the history of disease, anatomy, medical research, and healthcare. My only complaint is that because its a "short history", at times it falls into just listing names and dates and loses the larger narrative. Very readable however; I'm sure the author's larger works are quite illuminating. Very interesting little book full of fascinating facts about the history of disease, anatomy, medical research, and healthcare. My only complaint is that because its a "short history", at times it falls into just listing names and dates and loses the larger narrative. Very readable however; I'm sure the author's larger works are quite illuminating.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brock Tarlton

    A VERY brief history. There were anti-western themes, which is fine, just unwarranted. Also, he placed in dozens of Latin phrases which were only confusing and didn't add anything of value. Finally, he seemed to touch on hundreds of different events with only a few sentences dedicated to each, making a plurality of information easy to forget. A VERY brief history. There were anti-western themes, which is fine, just unwarranted. Also, he placed in dozens of Latin phrases which were only confusing and didn't add anything of value. Finally, he seemed to touch on hundreds of different events with only a few sentences dedicated to each, making a plurality of information easy to forget.

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