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Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution (2010)

by Holly Tucker

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332756,496 (3.73)12
A sharp-eyed expose of the deadly politics, murderous plots, and cutthroat rivalries behind the first blood transfusions in seventeenth-century Europe.



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This microhistory of experiments leading up to the practice of blood transfusion, which involved not only myriad farm animals but murder, definitely has an interesting story to tell -- one can only imagine how grotesque some of these experiments would have been to witness in person! My interest was piqued when I heard her speak about the book on a podcast a number of years ago, and it's been on my to-read list since. Overall, the narrative is somewhat dry, with lots of filler and minimal action, but I recommend it with reservations if you're into the history of medicine. ( )
  ryner | Aug 6, 2019 |
This is a very confused book. Is it a murder story, like the subtitle seems to suggest? Is it about the discovery and abandonment of technology, out of step with our normal understanding of scientific history, like the first few chapters harp on about? The epilogue explains that it's actually about the way moral concerns influence the development of important and life-saving science, which would have been nice to know earlier. The story of Denis and his sabotaged transfusion experiments is interesting, but I'm not sure there's a whole book in it, or at least not this book. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Dec 31, 2017 |
The writing was good, but I just wasn't gripped by the book. I read about half and then set it down. ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
You realize that you're a nerd when you get excited for a book with footnotes. The probably with this particular book was that the footnotes were actually endnotes which meant a lot of page flipping which I found tedious and annoying. I have to say though that this minor inconvenience was the only issue that I had with Blood Work. As you know already, I'm a huge fan of scientific nonfiction and this definitely fit the bill (with a side of history and murder to make it even better!). Learning about the history of something (blood transfusion) which I've never given much thought about was more engrossing than I had originally anticipated. Tucker made great use of resources to paint a vivid picture of Parisian life (specifically among scientists and academics) in the 17th century. The conditions of the time which included religious bias and political favor (or disfavor) effected any advances that were being attempted by the scientific community. In fact, because of the events which unfolded in this story there was no experimentation whatsoever regarding blood transfusion for over 150 years. It was essentially a dead end that no one dared to attempt (or even cared to attempt). For anyone who's interested in either history or science this book will be ideal for you (and it's a quick read!). ( )
  AliceaP | Jan 20, 2016 |
In one way, this book is difficult to read. It deals with some truly horrific experiments in the name of science and some truly horrific human stupidity.

In another way, this book is easy to read. The writing flows smoothly, the events narrated are fascinating and the science is explained in a way that's accessible without being dumbed down.

This book reminds me of Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List in that I'm glad I read it, I had a definite emotional and intellectual response to it, but I've no desire to read it again.

I can and do recommend this to anyone curious about the beginning of the science of blood transfusion, as long as the reader doesn't have a delicate stomach or a thin skin.

This book was sent to me for review. ( )
  Jammies | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
In Blood Work, medical historian Holly Tucker looks at the beginnings of transfusion in the seventeenth century. Adding material from her own archival research to the standard historical account, she fleshes out the start of physiological experimentation and examines historical attitudes to blood. The result is a page-turning insight into early scientific attitudes and disputes over priority.
added by jlelliott | editNature, W.F. Bynum (pay site) (Apr 14, 2011)
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A sharp-eyed expose of the deadly politics, murderous plots, and cutthroat rivalries behind the first blood transfusions in seventeenth-century Europe.

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W.W. Norton

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