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The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity (original 1998; edition 1999)
by Roy Porter
The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present by Roy Porter (1998)
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393319806, Paperback)Samuel Johnson once called the medical profession "the greatest benefit to mankind." In the 20th century, the quality of that benefit has improved more and more rapidly than at any other comparable time in history. With all the capabilities of modern medicine's practicioners, however, we as a people are as worried about our health as ever.
Roy Porter, a social historian of medicine the London's Wellcome Institute, has written an dauntingly thick history of how medical thinking and practice has risen to the challenges of disease through the centuries. But delve into its pages, and you'll find one marvelous bit of history after another. The obvious highlights are touched upon--Hippocrates introduces his oath, Pasteur homogenizes, Jonas Salk produces the polio vaccine, and so on--but there's also Dr. Francis Willis's curing of The Madness of King George, W. T. G. Morton's hucksterish use of ether in surgery, and research on digestion conducted using a man with a stomach fistula (if you don't know what that means, you may not want to know). Porter is straightforward about his deliberate focus on Western medical traditions, citing their predominant influence on global medicine, and with The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, he has produced a volume worthy of that tradition's legacy.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:15 -0400)
"Roy Porter explores medicine's evolution against the backdrop of the wider religious, scientific, philosophical, and political beliefs of the culture in which it develops, and he shows how our need to understand where diseases come from and what we can do to control them has - perhaps above all elseinspired developments in medicine through the ages. He charts the remarkable rise of modern medical science - the emergence of specialties such as anatomy, physiology, neurology, and bacteriology - as well as the accompanying development of wider medical practice at the bedside, in the hospital, and in the ambitious public health systems of the twentieth century. Along the way the book offers up a treasure trove of historical surprises: how the ancient Egyptians treated incipient baldness with a mixture of hippopotamus, lion, crocodile, goose, snake, and ibex fat; how a mystery epidemic devastated ancient Athens and brought an end to the domination of that great city: how lemons did as much as Nelson to defeat Napoleon: how yellow fever, carried by African mosquitoes to the Americas, led the French to fail utterly in their attempts to recover Haiti after the slave revolt of 1790: and how the explorers of the South Seas brought both syphilis to Tahiti and tuberculosis and measles to the Maoris."--BOOK JACKET.
(summary from another edition)
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