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The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

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In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters--no place for the squeamish--and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery wa In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters--no place for the squeamish--and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than their patients' afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn't have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history. Fitzharris dramatically recounts Lister's discoveries in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection--and could be countered by antiseptics. Focusing on the tumultuous period from 1850 to 1875, she introduces us to Lister and his contemporaries--some of them brilliant, some outright criminal--and takes us through the grimy medical schools and dreary hospitals where they learned their art, the deadhouses where they studied anatomy, and the graveyards they occasionally ransacked for cadavers. Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.


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In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters--no place for the squeamish--and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery wa In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters--no place for the squeamish--and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than their patients' afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn't have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history. Fitzharris dramatically recounts Lister's discoveries in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection--and could be countered by antiseptics. Focusing on the tumultuous period from 1850 to 1875, she introduces us to Lister and his contemporaries--some of them brilliant, some outright criminal--and takes us through the grimy medical schools and dreary hospitals where they learned their art, the deadhouses where they studied anatomy, and the graveyards they occasionally ransacked for cadavers. Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.

30 review for The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris is a 2017 Scientific American/Farrar Straus and Giroux publication. Ghastly, but fascinating! In 1846, as surgery became more frequent, deaths occurred more often as well, due to sepsis, and a myriad of other infections, promptingJosheph Lister to examine the prospect that germs, dirty surgical tools, and hospital cleanliness were to blame. Lister’s antiseptic theories were ground The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris is a 2017 Scientific American/Farrar Straus and Giroux publication. Ghastly, but fascinating! In 1846, as surgery became more frequent, deaths occurred more often as well, due to sepsis, and a myriad of other infections, promptingJosheph Lister to examine the prospect that germs, dirty surgical tools, and hospital cleanliness were to blame. Lister’s antiseptic theories were groundbreaking, but not especially popular. This led to a great deal of medical politics and backlash towards Lister. This is fascinating because of the mindset in the Victorian days by medical professionals. However, you should be aware that some of the situations described are not for the faint of heart. While not purposely or gratuitously graphic, your imagination can fill in the blanks. I can’t imagine such primitive practices, or the idea that hospitals were not sanitized, especially the surgical tools. It’s very disgusting to think of, and it’s a wonder anyone survived. Thank goodness for Joseph Lister and his antiseptic theory!! His life is captivating, and his scientific vision paved the way for medical advancements and a massive reduction in loss of life. He didn’t always have the right answers, but he was an amazing trailblazer in medicine and science. The book has a bleak atmosphere, and conjures up all manner of appalling images, some of which left me feeling a little green around the gills, but ultimately this is an inspiring story, and I for one came away feeling grateful for Lister and his forward thinking and his tenacity in sticking to his guns when he came under fire. Lister’s personal life is connected to his professional life in many ways, and is examined moderately, but is not the primary focus of the book. Mainly, the book is about Lister’s work, and often reads like a history textbook in some ways, but nevertheless, it is quite absorbing. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys science, health and medicine, or history- and has a strong stomach!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Dr. Joseph Lister became a surgeon in a time in which Germ Theory was considered "Fake News". 19th Century surgery was crude, bloody, painful, and almost always fatal. 19th Century surgery was barbaric. Hospitals were commonly known as death houses and something to be avoided if you had any money. Surgeons didn't wash their hands, tools, clothing, or hospital beds. It was quite common for a surgeon to conduct an autopsy and without washing anything use those same tools to operate on living patie Dr. Joseph Lister became a surgeon in a time in which Germ Theory was considered "Fake News". 19th Century surgery was crude, bloody, painful, and almost always fatal. 19th Century surgery was barbaric. Hospitals were commonly known as death houses and something to be avoided if you had any money. Surgeons didn't wash their hands, tools, clothing, or hospital beds. It was quite common for a surgeon to conduct an autopsy and without washing anything use those same tools to operate on living patient. 90% of patients who survived the surgery died of infection afterwards. Dr. Lister set out to fix this and in doing so made a lot of enemies amongst his fellow surgeons but more importantly changed the course of human history. It is mind boggling to think of how many people Dr. Lister saved. He transformed not only the way doctors treated patients but how we as regular people live our lives. Just count how many times you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Do you cover your nose/mouth when sneeze/cough? Before Dr. Lister very few people did these things and if they did they would have been dismissed as being quacks. Lindsay Fitzharris paints a shocking and visceral depiction of the world that Dr. Lister inhabited. The Butchering Art is a fast paced and brilliant account of 19th Century medicine. Highly Recommended!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    My hardback copy is here! I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this through NetGalley, and seriously, the second I finished it, I went and preordered it. This is one of the best and my favorite books of the year! Even though I just read this, I'm already rereading this. In short, This book really delves into the Victorian surgery practices and thanks to Joseph Lister, for forever changing what we know about surgery today. Seriously highlighted and now tabbing seems like half of the book. S My hardback copy is here! I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this through NetGalley, and seriously, the second I finished it, I went and preordered it. This is one of the best and my favorite books of the year! Even though I just read this, I'm already rereading this. In short, This book really delves into the Victorian surgery practices and thanks to Joseph Lister, for forever changing what we know about surgery today. Seriously highlighted and now tabbing seems like half of the book. So fascinating and well researched. Looking through the hardback copy, there is an index in the back and around 30 pages of notes on where the research came from! I would recommend this to anyone interested in medical, history, science, an amazing well-researched biography....ok nevermind-I would recommend this to everyone. Can't wait to see Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris speak at the Winchester House on Oct 20 :). Also, you can check out her Youtube channel, all about past medical practices https://www.youtube.com/user/UnderThe... Cant thank Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris and Farrar, Straus and Giroux enough for allowing me to read and review this book for an honest opinion through Netgalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Surgery was a gory business with a notably high fatality rate well into the nineteenth century. Surgeons had the fastest hands in the West, but their victims were still guaranteed at least a few minutes of utter agony as they had a limb amputated or a tumor removed, and the danger wasn’t over after they were sewn up either: most patients soon died from hospital infections. The development of anesthetics and antiseptic techniques helped to change all that. Fitzharris opens with the vivid and (3.5) Surgery was a gory business with a notably high fatality rate well into the nineteenth century. Surgeons had the fastest hands in the West, but their victims were still guaranteed at least a few minutes of utter agony as they had a limb amputated or a tumor removed, and the danger wasn’t over after they were sewn up either: most patients soon died from hospital infections. The development of anesthetics and antiseptic techniques helped to change all that. Fitzharris opens with the vivid and rather gruesome scene of a mid-thigh amputation performed by Robert Liston at University College Hospital in London in 1846. This surgery was different, though: it only took 28 seconds, but the patient felt nothing thanks to the ether he had been administered. He woke up a few minutes later asking when the procedure would begin. In the audience that day was Joseph Lister, who would become one of Britain’s most admired surgeons. Lister came from a Quaker family and, after being educated at University College London, started his career in Edinburgh. Different to many medical professionals of the time, he was fascinated by microscopy and determined to find out what caused deadly infections. Carbolic acid and catgut ligatures were two of Lister’s main innovations that helped to fight infection. In fact, whether we realize it or not, his legacy is forever associated with antiseptics: Listerine mouthwash (invented in 1879) is named after him, and the Johnson brothers of Johnson & Johnson fame started their business mass-producing sterile surgical dressings after attending one of Lister’s lectures. My interest tailed off a bit after the first third, as the book starts going into more depth about Lister’s work and personal life: he married his boss’s daughter and moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow and then back to London. However, the best is yet to come: the accounts of the surgeries he performed on his sister (a mastectomy that bought her three more years of life) and Queen Victoria (removing an orange-sized abscess from under her arm) are terrific. The chapter on treating the queen in secret at Balmoral Castle in 1871 was my overall favorite. I was that kid who loved going to Civil War battlefields and medical museums and looking at all the different surgical saws and bullet fragments in museum cases, so I reveled in the gory details here but was not as interested in the biographical material. Do be sure you have a strong stomach before you try reading the prologue over a meal. This is a comparable read to The Remedy, about the search for a cure to tuberculosis. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Robert Collins

    If about to go into Hospital for big emergency operation & you are really shitting bricks? Congestions you have chosen the perfect bedside read if wore not scared before then just what you need to put you at your easy . A book about what happened to be in the 19th century theatres 'the gateways to Death ' . In this the year of 70th anniversary of NHS this book shows what the Labour government after Winston Churchill lost the election & WWII helped to bring forth. This about Joseph Lister a Quaker If about to go into Hospital for big emergency operation & you are really shitting bricks? Congestions you have chosen the perfect bedside read if wore not scared before then just what you need to put you at your easy . A book about what happened to be in the 19th century theatres 'the gateways to Death ' . In this the year of 70th anniversary of NHS this book shows what the Labour government after Winston Churchill lost the election & WWII helped to bring forth. This about Joseph Lister a Quaker who change surgeons the world over from the dirty aprons to believe that pus was good. So smile when you go under knife & think on this book as if wasn't for the pioneers of medicine , The Labour government, the new great NHS you could be like So meany here having no operation just big box & lot of people dressed in black. This book is funny for all the wrong reasons on page 20 she says that Lister was born April 5th 1827 but on page 21 she then says in 1824 & 1843 he became a great devotee of instrument of microscopes but that makes him -2, in 1832 he became a fellowship of The Royal Society what at aged 5? & claims he is only 14 in 1841.Who did proof reading for this cannot stop laughing. He was born in 1827 & did become surgeon at 20 but not at -2 or aged 5 On page 12 if you are male you will scream & grind your teeth in pain oh shit! Love he cut blokes ball when cut off his leg.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    When is it a better time to read a gruesome history of medicine than right before Halloween??? Fitzharris spares no details documenting Joseph Lister and his campaign to teach the medical profession that germs really existed. (Before Lister, doctors didn’t wash their hands or their medical instruments all that often. Blergh.) It’s also an illuminating look at a profession one looked upon with skepticism, a profession that often relied on graveyards to supply their knowledge… Backlist bump: Cranio When is it a better time to read a gruesome history of medicine than right before Halloween??? Fitzharris spares no details documenting Joseph Lister and his campaign to teach the medical profession that germs really existed. (Before Lister, doctors didn’t wash their hands or their medical instruments all that often. Blergh.) It’s also an illuminating look at a profession one looked upon with skepticism, a profession that often relied on graveyards to supply their knowledge… Backlist bump: Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius by Colin Dickey Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/listen/shows/allt...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Meagan ✊🏼 Blacklivesmatter ✊🏼Blacktranslivesmatter

    #5 out 12 for my non fiction goal for the year So far I've been on track with reading one non-fiction book per month. Let's hope I can keep this up! This was really good. I read a similar book called Quackery by Lydia Kang and it amazes me the crazy shit these surgeons used to do to people. I couldn't imagine being sick during this time period. The medical field has definitely come a long way in such a short time. Seems like I'm into history of medicine and the medical field. I will probably pick #5 out 12 for my non fiction goal for the year So far I've been on track with reading one non-fiction book per month. Let's hope I can keep this up! This was really good. I read a similar book called Quackery by Lydia Kang and it amazes me the crazy shit these surgeons used to do to people. I couldn't imagine being sick during this time period. The medical field has definitely come a long way in such a short time. Seems like I'm into history of medicine and the medical field. I will probably pick up some more books about this time period.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Netta

    We live in the world changed, challenged and improved by many people whose stories left untold or, way too often, unheard. We praise those who let us the opportunity to explore stars and distant galaxies, we cheer those who cured smallpox, we are awed by those who contoured the map of our world and gave names to all known species. And yet how much do we know about oh so many seemingly smaller discoveries which, in retrospect, made a bigger-than-life impact and changed the quality of our lives fo We live in the world changed, challenged and improved by many people whose stories left untold or, way too often, unheard. We praise those who let us the opportunity to explore stars and distant galaxies, we cheer those who cured smallpox, we are awed by those who contoured the map of our world and gave names to all known species. And yet how much do we know about oh so many seemingly smaller discoveries which, in retrospect, made a bigger-than-life impact and changed the quality of our lives forever and ever. It’s one of the best biographies that I have ever read - easily read and profoundly written. It tells the story of Joseph Lister, 19th century surgeon and a believer in power of antiseptic as opposed to ghastly, primitive way of treating patients which, if they were lucky, left them relatively alive. Nowadays, being surrounded by antiseptic, being used to clean, aired spaces, pain-killers and many other things which at some point we started taking for granted, we are prescribed for reading this book – an eye-opening tribute to the great man who pursued doing what he believed in, even when no one else shared that belief.

  9. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Audio # 50 So while you're reading you'll become fascinated and want to share with others who will find you ghoulish People around you may protest the audio version Sometimes you may find it hard to finish your lunch while you're reading

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roisin Cure

    A brother of mine had an advance copy of The Butchering Art and was going to send it to my daughter - his goddaughter - as she has a taste for the gory, and has expressed an interest in studying medicine. "Not so fast," I said, "I think I'll have that." So he sent it to me. Is there a word that is the opposite of genocide? That's what Lister did. The Butchering Art is the story of how one man - who stood on the shoulders of giants - transformed medical operations from something of enormous risk i A brother of mine had an advance copy of The Butchering Art and was going to send it to my daughter - his goddaughter - as she has a taste for the gory, and has expressed an interest in studying medicine. "Not so fast," I said, "I think I'll have that." So he sent it to me. Is there a word that is the opposite of genocide? That's what Lister did. The Butchering Art is the story of how one man - who stood on the shoulders of giants - transformed medical operations from something of enormous risk into something that none of us needs to face with dread. He was the perfect confluence of character, heritage and circumstance; we often hear of villains whose circumstances contrived to turn them wicked, but seldom do we hear about good people whose circumstances allowed them to fulfill their potential and reach dizzying heights of benevolence. From the moment the book began, I was hooked. Each chapter sets the scene for the tale to follow: while other books might give you a rather dry context for what's to come, not Dr Fitzharris. She describes the scene where the action is to be set in a way that makes you feel like you're there - the cold, the snowy streets, the stuffy, stinking atmosphere in a filthy operating room...if you ever dream about what it was like to live in times gone by, the author's words will transport you in glorious technicolor. Her uncanny ability to do this continues throughout the book, and I can now conjure up images of nineteenth-century medical circles in a way that I never thought possible. So from an atmospheric point of view, it's a virtuoso performance. The subject of the book, Joseph Lister, is introduced in a timely manner - just far enough in to give you the social context of his arrival. The journey he took is sensitively written, and you feel for him, especially if you've ever experienced the frustration of self-belief when you are surrounded by naysayers. His life, and his incredible work, are nothing short of utterly inspiring. I feel a huge sense of gratitude to Lister (and of course to the poor, unsung heroes who went before him, like the Hungarian doctor whose name I have already forgotten, like everyone else). The story of Lister's life is one that gives me comfort on many levels. That he did what he did; that it's possible to do something really good and lasting with your life; that you need to remember the bigger picture, even when things aren't going you way. Another thing I loved about the book is that your curiosity is often piqued by the circumstances of bit-players in the book. For example, a woman is stabbed. The point of this is to tell you how her wound was treated, but the author knows that you want to know whether she got justice, and so she tells you just enough to satisfy, but not so much that the story digresses too much. The same approach is given with other minor characters, and it's perfectly judged. Yes, the book is very gory, and that isn't my cup of tea, but you quickly get used to that (like most animal lovers the only bit I found hard to read was a description of vivisection on an animal, but it was done in the genuine pursuit of medical advancement, and I have to try to remember that). Besides, the gore and so on was an intrinsic part of Victorian life and is an important contribution to the setting of the scene. The place must have stunk between one thing and another. I don't want to give too much away, but imagine if your doctor came in to operate on you in a filthy apron covered in bits of decaying body, with filthy knives, and to whom it would not occur to wash his hands? Normally I fall asleep the second I hit the pillow, and I have had late nights and early starts over the last couple of weeks, but I still indulged in a few pages every night - it was a real treat and I hung on every word. I thank the author deeply for the time and effort she gave to writing and researching this book. I only wish she had written an extensive library of such tomes. A fantastic read that stays with you long after you turn the last page.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    The title of this book is so appropriate for the surgical environment of the mid to late 1800s.......going under the surgeons knife could almost guarantee that the patient would die. Limb amputation seemed to be the craze for anything from varicose veins to a broken ankle and surgery was performed in the most unsanitary of conditions. Most patients died of sepsis. But the medical community could not or would not grasp the reason for the onset of infection and was loathe to accept such a concept The title of this book is so appropriate for the surgical environment of the mid to late 1800s.......going under the surgeons knife could almost guarantee that the patient would die. Limb amputation seemed to be the craze for anything from varicose veins to a broken ankle and surgery was performed in the most unsanitary of conditions. Most patients died of sepsis. But the medical community could not or would not grasp the reason for the onset of infection and was loathe to accept such a concept as germs. Enter Dr. Joseph Lister, a self-effacing, devout Quaker physician who cared deeply for his patients and was very disturbed with the outcomes resultant from surgery. He began devoting his life to ascertaining the reason for the infections raging in hospitals across Britain. He became interested in the findings of the great scientist, Louis Pasteur and was soon developing his own theories about hygiene and how antiseptics could counter the invasion of germs. The establishment scoffed at his ideas but eventually he was proved correct and would change the course of medical history. A most interesting look at one man's quest for the truth but there are some sections that are a bit slow and overly detailed. Nevertheless, it is a very worthwhile read and is recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jaksen

    Sometimes I pick up a book just based on the title or the cover. I don't know why I grabbed this one, but glad I did. A fascinating look into medical science circa the 1800's into the early twentieth century. Amazing stuff. You don't need to have a medical or science background to follow this book. The writing is down-to-Earth, solid, succinct, and specific only when it needs to be. I do have a science background, but I learned a lot about history, medicine, surgery, contagion, epidemics, and so Sometimes I pick up a book just based on the title or the cover. I don't know why I grabbed this one, but glad I did. A fascinating look into medical science circa the 1800's into the early twentieth century. Amazing stuff. You don't need to have a medical or science background to follow this book. The writing is down-to-Earth, solid, succinct, and specific only when it needs to be. I do have a science background, but I learned a lot about history, medicine, surgery, contagion, epidemics, and so on. (This is the perfect book for anyone writinga book about this time period.) In the early to mid-1800's more people died from the after-effects of surgery than from the surgery itself. This book paints a horrific picture of what they went through when they needed a limb amputated or a tumor removed. The surgeons were adept and swift with the knife, in order to reduce the patient's pain and suffering. (Anesthesia wasn't introduced until 1846.) But the results were often horrible. One surgeon, checking in on his surgery patients from a few days before, went through the hospital ward looking for them as his assistant kept telling him, no, that one didn't survive. No, not that one either, or that one. Finally the surgeon asked: how many did survive? Um, none did, doctor. So though they knew their stuff, in terms of technique, the surgeons were all missing the BIG picture. Infection. Contagion. Open wounds, dirty bandages. Cleanliness? It wasn't anywhere near to godliness. Dirty scalpels and tools, surgeons who didn't wash their hands, helpers (or dressers) who wore filthy clothes and operations often done in theaters to the view of other doctors, medical students - and! - the general public. Hospitals were vast incubators of germs which spread rapidly through the wards. in fact, hospitals in general were so bad the wealthy often had surgeons come to their homes and operate on the dining room table. Um, no kidding. (Florence Nightingale hadn't started doing her stuff yet either - cleanliness, antiseptics, clean uniforms, keeping patients well-fed and in clean sheets and clothes, etc.) Therefore, once an infection set up in a hospital ward - like gangrene, for example - it could sweep through killing more than half the patients. A nightmare. Surgery was little more than butchery and the public, the doctors, the patients, simply accepted that was the way it had to be. Until Mr. Pasteur, and Joseph Lister, who using Pasteur's work discovered a cleaner, safer, (gentler), and antiseptic way to treat surgery patients. Of course there were those who were skeptics, and ridiculed and derided Lister at first. (These, like today, tended to be older surgeons, or those more firmly entrenched in the ways they 'were taught'.) But Lister was also a lecturer and a teacher, and slowly he reached enough younger doctors and surgeons - and a handful of influential older ones - to convince them to try his methods: treat surgical wounds after surgery, not wait until an infection set in. Cover them with clean bandages. Use carbolic acid (diluted with water) to keep wounds from festering, to kill the 'germs' which Lister believed were spread through the air. In time, surgery became a less fearful prospect. Anyhow, the book outlines this quite well, and in an interesting manner. I have no trouble imagining those days and the fear one might have when a simple 'cut' on the finger might lead to death, or when one in ten women died in childbirth during outbreaks of puerperal fever. (If only the doctors had simply washed their hands before attending a birth!) Five antiseptic stars

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    3.5 rounded up. I found the bits about medical procedures and treatments fascinating (and alarming). Doctors were doing some pretty grisly, backward stuff, essentially groping along in the dark trying to save lives and ending many in the process (although infection would probably have done the job anyway). Joseph Lister is one of the scientists who shined a light and helped lay the foundation for modern medicine. We've come a long way, and it makes me wonder how far we'll go in the future, what 3.5 rounded up. I found the bits about medical procedures and treatments fascinating (and alarming). Doctors were doing some pretty grisly, backward stuff, essentially groping along in the dark trying to save lives and ending many in the process (although infection would probably have done the job anyway). Joseph Lister is one of the scientists who shined a light and helped lay the foundation for modern medicine. We've come a long way, and it makes me wonder how far we'll go in the future, what else we'll discover. While the parts about the science and medicine were engaging, I found some of the biography of Lister himself and the descriptions of hospital politics tedious.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Surgery prior to the nineteenth-century was brutal and messy. There was no anaesthetic and therefore the best people in the business were the fastest who could remove a leg from the hip in just one minute; yes one minute! Occasionally the knives and other tools were wiped before being used on the next victim, I mean patient, but were often not. Tables were normally covered in the blood and gore of the previous unlucky patients and if the shock of the operation didn't kill you, then the infection Surgery prior to the nineteenth-century was brutal and messy. There was no anaesthetic and therefore the best people in the business were the fastest who could remove a leg from the hip in just one minute; yes one minute! Occasionally the knives and other tools were wiped before being used on the next victim, I mean patient, but were often not. Tables were normally covered in the blood and gore of the previous unlucky patients and if the shock of the operation didn't kill you, then the infection that you got probably would. Something had to change and it was a man called Joseph Lister, a quiet Quaker Surgeon who was to start the medical revolution. He witnessed the beginnings of this revolution when he saw a man operated on under a crude anaesthetic; the operation was fast but he felt no pain waking later to ask when they were going to start. He was educated at University College London initially studying botany, but then registered as a medical student and graduated with honours as Bachelor of Medicine, and entered the Royal College of Surgeons. His first post was at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where he became the first assistant to James Syme and ended up marrying his daughter. At this time the commonly accepted knowledge was that infections were airborne, caused by bad air, or miasma. Hospitals were aired to let out the bad air, but there were almost no facilities for washing hands and the bloodstained gowns were worn to show their experience to the watching crowds. But the understanding of how infections are passed was beginning to change with the work of Loius Pasteur. Whilst at the University of Glasgow, Lister undertook his own experiments and realised that cleaning the tools and the area around the wound with carbolic acid. He was one of the first to ensure that the surgeons under him wore clean gloves and wash their hands before and after each surgery. Just these simple acts meant that your chances of survival went from negligible to quite high. As with anything, changing the status quo is often trying to move a mountain, but the new intake were those that were inspired by the work that Lister was doing and were embracing the new way of doing things. Not everyone thought that he was right, so much so that the Lancet cautioned others against his radical ideas. Slowly his ideas were accepted with significant support from others, and he even operated on Queen Victoria herself to remove an abscess. There is lots of blood, pus and gore in here as Fitzharris does not hold back when discussing the way things were; not one to read when you are having your lunch! Rightly he was called the father of modern surgery as countless people have benefited from his research and innovations. All these new ideas he developed meant that you were less likely to die just from being in the hospital. It is one of the better books that I have read on medical history, Fitzharris writes in an engaging way on a subject that is not going to appeal to everyone, but in amongst all the blood is the fascinating story of Joseph Lister. Can highly recommend this. 4.5 Stars

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This was nicely written with a Dickensian level of detail. I feel it got bogged down though with background research. It's not until page 160--out of 234-- that Lister even starts working on antisepsis. To me, especially with the science denialism going on in the world now, the most interesting aspect of the story is how Lister convinced people to apply Pasteur's Germ Theory to surgery. Unfortunately, this content is shorter and more rushed than I was hoping for. We're told about major speeches This was nicely written with a Dickensian level of detail. I feel it got bogged down though with background research. It's not until page 160--out of 234-- that Lister even starts working on antisepsis. To me, especially with the science denialism going on in the world now, the most interesting aspect of the story is how Lister convinced people to apply Pasteur's Germ Theory to surgery. Unfortunately, this content is shorter and more rushed than I was hoping for. We're told about major speeches Lister gave, but not what he said or how he said it. We're told about major holdouts converting but not exactly why. It seems like seeing the evidence in patient outcomes was the most important thing, so that antisepsis spread mainly via his disciples who had worked directly under him. Antisepsis isn't even used anymore, and all the other things Lister looked at before that were dead ends, so all those details aren't useful now. But a thorough exploration into the dissemination of science would be useful still. P.S. I also feel like Florence Nightingale and the Sanitarians are given short shrift.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Finished: 20.04.2018 Genre: non-fiction Rating: A+++ Review: This is a riveting read. I read it in one day. First few pages squimish but keep reading! Highly recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    A couple years ago I listened to Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine and loved it. I don't know why but I find the history of medicine and surgery utterly fascinating. Revolting and traumatic and horrific... but fascinating. These books are NOT for the faint of heart or the squeamish... but I loved them nonetheless. There was a lot of overlap in this book with Dr. Mutter's Marvels. I was regaled once again with the story of Robert Liston pe A couple years ago I listened to Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine and loved it. I don't know why but I find the history of medicine and surgery utterly fascinating. Revolting and traumatic and horrific... but fascinating. These books are NOT for the faint of heart or the squeamish... but I loved them nonetheless. There was a lot of overlap in this book with Dr. Mutter's Marvels. I was regaled once again with the story of Robert Liston performing the only surgery in history with a 300% mortality rate, which was just as amusing the second time. For me. Probably not for his poor victims. RIP. But, as gruesome as it is, that kind of story is actually essential to the wider understanding of the prevailing ideas and concepts of surgery in the 1800s. It was... unpleasant. There was no understanding of spreading disease and infection from one person to another through unclean hands or clothes or surgical tools, and Liston's claim to fame surgery illustrates this perfectly. Both Dr. Mutter and Dr. Lister came to the same conclusions during their careers, which were that doctors tended to make people sick by failure to adhere to cleanliness standards (though to be fair, there WERE no standards, and generally having blood and other... bodily detritus on ones clothes was seen as a mark of experience and pride in one's surgical craft), and both men set out to do whatever they could to rectify it. They both ended up taking very different roads through their careers, but both were absolutely men that are well deserving of being remembered by history for their contributions to medicine. Lister is obviously more well-known because his name was borrowed for Listerine, the well-known floor cleaner, no wait... sorry, the dandruff cure. Whoops, I mean the mouthwash that we probably all have in our bathrooms right now. (Seriously, those are a few of the uses that Listerine was marketed for way back in the day.) I'm not sure if these books presented these men in such a positive light because of their generally positive and life-saving influences over medicinal practices, but I tend to think that they both were of a similar mindset of seeing the PEOPLE they were treating and not just the condition or injury. And I think that made a lot of difference in the way that they saw medicine and the practice of it. They were both described as being very kind and courteous to their patients, with a warm bedside manner, and a diligence to their methods that was unusual in a climate of "Get the procedure done as quickly as possible and get to the next one." Lister did have the advantage of having ether available for more of his career than Mutter did, but either way, both should be commended for the lengths that they went to in order to make their patients as comfortable as possible, both during and after surgery. And considering that both not only saved but improved quality of life post-surgery while doing so by using their clean and antiseptic methods, I think that it says a lot about these men and the respect and value that they added to the field of medicine. It would not be the same today without them. On that note... It has been a bit strange listening to this book while we're currently in the midst of a pandemic. I know it isn't the same thing, surgical infections to viral infections spread person to person... but it is similar enough to have been something that I thought about as I read this, because without people like Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister and others who prevailed against closed minded men who didn't want to believe in their work, we would not know anything about the hidden world of microbes and organisms too small to see with the naked eye. Can you imagine how different the world would be today without their work? The population sure wouldn't be over 7 billion people, that's for sure. So... yeah, I've been washing the hell out of my hands lately, staying home more than my usual introverted homebody self normally does, and giving thanks to the people of science who have helped us get where we are today. Even if it's scary. But it's a scary that we will eventually learn how to cope with, because it's a scary we can see and learn about, and won't forever be a mystery. Malaria is named such because it used to be believed to come from bad air. Now we know how it is spread and how to combat and treat it. We'll get there too with Covid-19. We just have to trust in science, and in the meantime try not to go to either extreme: panic or apathy. It's easy to accept the state of the world as the norm when it's what you're used to, and that's why a lot of scientific discovery has had an uphill battle. We still tend to think that way now. Change is hard and sometimes scary, but often there is a much greater good that can come from it. Anyway, if you are even remotely interested in the history of Victorian era/ 19th century medicine, or science, either one of these books would be right up your alley. I will admit that this book was a bit harder for me at times because of the nature of animal experimentation that was necessary back then (and it WAS necessary, but it's not fun to listen to it described). But aside from that, and the grossness just in general... I'm not selling this book very well am I? Read it anyway. It's worth it. :)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    If you’ve ever used the bright blue or green mouthwash with the antiseptic taste, then you have benefitted from the expertise of Joseph Lister. More importantly, if you’ve had surgery in a spotlessly clean operating room with a surgeon gowned and gloved up, you owe that to Joseph Lister. Lindsey Fitzharris tells his story The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine. Lister began his surgical journey at a time when the two most desired qualities of If you’ve ever used the bright blue or green mouthwash with the antiseptic taste, then you have benefitted from the expertise of Joseph Lister. More importantly, if you’ve had surgery in a spotlessly clean operating room with a surgeon gowned and gloved up, you owe that to Joseph Lister. Lindsey Fitzharris tells his story The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine. Lister began his surgical journey at a time when the two most desired qualities of a surgeon were speed and strength. The speed to cut (very often an amputation) as quickly as possible. This was needed because no anesthesia was used—it hadn’t been discovered yet. And the strength to hold the limb, pull it a specific way, and cut at the same time. As Fitzharris says in the book’s subtitle, it was absolutely grisly. Surgeons were more like butchers than skilled practitioners, and their experience often came from battlefields. During his youth, Lister also learned a great deal about microscopes from his father. The senior Lister had a passion for making them work, and passed on this fascination to his son. Thus, the younger Lister’s lifelong work was established strongly in the investigative sciences. Yet Lister also cared about his surgical patients’ survival. His initial training was in London, a city with a tremendous reputation for surgery. In the Victorian era, it was also an extremely dirty city. The quantity of people combined with industry affected everyone no matter their social class. Despite the success of the actual operation, a significant portion of London’s surgical patients died from post-operative infections. Medical professionals believed infection was caused by all kinds of things. But none of those things included germs, cross-contamination between patients, or lack of sterile surgical environments. Lister was obsessed with the scientific reason for infections, including a desire to find a solution. Fitzharris explains how each step of his career path affected the outcome of his research. She details the research into microorganisms he performed. And she discusses how the his mentors helped him, while his detractors simultaneously bedeviled his efforts. At first Lister just had to convince the people in charge of his ward and hospital. But ultimately, Lister knew he had to convince surgeons around the country, the continent, and the world. Lister’s story is as much about how a scientific innovation becomes commonplace as it is about the actual practice of using antiseptics in medicine. It was a rocky road. At first, Lister tried publishing his findings in the medical journals of the time. After meeting with much resistance, he realized that his method needed to be taught in a hands-on manner. So he adjusted his approach and began with his own medical students. From there, the concepts began to gain traction. Fitzharris shows how Lister progressed from a medical student with a stutter to a man of stature in his profession. For a fundamentally unassuming man, Lister’s persistence changed the world. He changed surgery from something that generally killed the patient to a mostly successful part of many people’s lives. I found The Butchering Art to be readable, interesting, and even inspiring. Having been a surgical patient last year, I couldn’t help but put myself in the dismal shoes of Fitzharris’ early examples. And I certainly gave a words of thanks to Joseph Lister for his persistence and perspicacity. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of medicine and surgery. Thanks to NetGalley, Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Lindsey Fitzharris for the opportunity to read the digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    G.

    Reality-slash-history is gnarlier than fiction. The Butchering Art is a great read. It's not for the squeamish, but if you want to know how hospitals evolved from houses of death into healing institutions, I couldn't recommend this enough.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erin *Help I’m Reading and I Can’t Get Up*

    Mostly interesting, though it gets a little snoozy in the middle

  21. 4 out of 5

    Truman32

    The 19th century was a pretty gross time to be alive. To begin with, nobody knew about germs. Just imagine it, all those bare pimply Victorian era bottoms sitting on public lavatory seats without laying down a thick protective covering of toilet paper first. Ick. The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris digs into this time period like a 19th century leech collector would dig through the fecal sewage overflowing the Thames river seeking new merchandise to sell. Fitzharris’s nonfictional account f The 19th century was a pretty gross time to be alive. To begin with, nobody knew about germs. Just imagine it, all those bare pimply Victorian era bottoms sitting on public lavatory seats without laying down a thick protective covering of toilet paper first. Ick. The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris digs into this time period like a 19th century leech collector would dig through the fecal sewage overflowing the Thames river seeking new merchandise to sell. Fitzharris’s nonfictional account focuses on Joseph Lister (immortalized by Listerine mouthwash) as he attempts again and again to make the pigheaded medical cliques of the time actually believe they should wash up a little. Clean that septic blood and viscera from their cutting implements. Maybe throw their blood-streaked, putrid surgical apron that they got last Father’s Day (with an embroidered: “will operate for beer”) into the laundry once in a while. Now, I don’t read a lot of historical nonfiction, but when I do, I prefer they are gross. And The Butchering Art is extraordinarily/wonderfully foul. The Victorian Age is a time where there were no anesthetics and surgery consisted of frequent amputations. Doctors were prized on speed not cleanliness. They were the original two-minute men. This swiftness, while not valued by their wives in the sack, was greatly appreciated by their patients as they hacked through the large bones in their legs, hips, and arms with nothing to stop the torment. Most of these patients survived the extreme agony of these painful operations only to die from infections a few days later. And that is where Lister and his belief in germs come in. The horrors of surgery at this time make even my first date taking Suzy Schmidt to the 5th grade Winter Dance seem tame and dull (and that ended up with her ponytail stuck in my braces and her mother’s Volvo exploding). The Butchering Art goes into these details in harrowing Technicolor. It is all very fascinating and graphic if somewhat clinical. It was reminiscent of one of my favorite books of 2016, Bellevue. But, while that book shows the patterns of history that still echo today, The Butchering Art seems satisfied just getting to the gross bits. This book is a quick moving gander into the horror of the past and it will make you praise the Good Lord above that we even made it this far as a civilization.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I could say a lot of things about this book but by far the most prevailing revelation I had was that it totally changed my idea of what kind of world the Samantha stories from American Girl took place in.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan

    I am in love with this book. Based on the description, I figured I would like it, but it is even better than I imagined. I have been told by others that I should have been a doctor. I do have a knack for diagnosis and I am not squeamish when it comes to household wounds. I’m the one you want to do surgery to get that splinter out. But I really had no interest in lots more years of school or dealing with people (ugh!) all day. Basically, I wanted to be like House and just solve the puzzle but stil I am in love with this book. Based on the description, I figured I would like it, but it is even better than I imagined. I have been told by others that I should have been a doctor. I do have a knack for diagnosis and I am not squeamish when it comes to household wounds. I’m the one you want to do surgery to get that splinter out. But I really had no interest in lots more years of school or dealing with people (ugh!) all day. Basically, I wanted to be like House and just solve the puzzle but still be an introvert. I studied English literature in college, but I got such good grades in biology and science that the department begged me to switch majors (I didn’t). But my love of anatomy and physiology has never waned and over the years I became more interested in the history of medicine. The timeline is frighteningly short. Lindsey Fitzharris gives us an unflinching look at the difficult, unsettling world of early medicine through the lens of Joseph Lister’s career. From his young days, he struggled with whether to become a surgeon or a Quaker minister. His family was devout, and he remained so his entire life. His father convinced him he could do the most good in medicine. He also instilled in his son a determination to follow his natural curiosity. As a child, he had a high quality microscope which he was encouraged to find samples and make slides for. He eventually made his way through medical school, focused on surgery, which was a risky undertaking. Surgeons at that time were known for how quickly they could complete a procedure because there was no anaesthesia. Surgeons did not wash their hands, or tools, between patients. Such attention to detail took time, something they couldn’t afford. They earned the nickname “sawbones” for a reason. Please read my full review here: https://mwgerard.com/review-the-butch...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Graychin

    I’m afraid that my wife and I are the only people that ever watched The Knick, which is a real shame. It was an excellent show, a Steven Soderbergh project in which Clive Owen played a drug-addicted genius surgeon at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital circa 1900. The Knick only ran for two seasons (2014-2015). Thankfully, however, the storyline resolved itself nicely at the end of the second, so that you need not feel let down too much by the fact that season three never happened. There’s a great I’m afraid that my wife and I are the only people that ever watched The Knick, which is a real shame. It was an excellent show, a Steven Soderbergh project in which Clive Owen played a drug-addicted genius surgeon at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital circa 1900. The Knick only ran for two seasons (2014-2015). Thankfully, however, the storyline resolved itself nicely at the end of the second, so that you need not feel let down too much by the fact that season three never happened. There’s a great deal of nasty, pre-antibiotics medicine in The Knick, which is why I couldn’t help thinking of it while reading Lindsay Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art. You might describe the book as a phantasmagorical tour-de-force survey of Victorian medicine masquerading as a biography of Dr. Joseph Lister (for whom both Listerine and listeria are named). Poor Lister! I’m not sure she knows it, but Fitzharris has done him a disservice. Here in his own biography he is powerfully upstaged by gore and bone saws. Surgery in the mid-1800s is horrifying, Halloween-grade stuff. The first hundred pages of the book are better (or worse), in this respect, than reading Poe or Lovecraft. The remainder of it, in which Lister manages through scientific application and will power to make a name for himself as a hospital reformer, is a letdown by comparison.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary Alice

    I enjoyed the book, and am glad to know more about Joseph Lister's life and work. I think Fitzharris should have included detailed definitions of "putrefaction", "suppuration" and "fermentation". I needed more thorough explanations of how these three concepts relate to each other. And I thought that the author could have explained the relationship between Pasteur's work and Lister's work a lot better. Though not essential, I would have liked a bit more detail of Lister's long marriage.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Yara

    While at times it depicted in gruesome detail what medicine and particularly surgery were like during Victorian, England;The Butchering Art by Lindsay Fitzharris is an incredible, engrossing, and fascinating account of how Joseph Lister transformed the butchering art of surgery into an actual science- based practice. Along the way he not only revolutionized surgery but medicine and hospitalization in general. His development of an antiseptic method to treat wounds and help the healing process af While at times it depicted in gruesome detail what medicine and particularly surgery were like during Victorian, England;The Butchering Art by Lindsay Fitzharris is an incredible, engrossing, and fascinating account of how Joseph Lister transformed the butchering art of surgery into an actual science- based practice. Along the way he not only revolutionized surgery but medicine and hospitalization in general. His development of an antiseptic method to treat wounds and help the healing process after surgery decreased the almost unimaginable mortality rates after surgery or hospitalization that were the norm in the 19th century. I work in the field of medicine, however, it’s on the administrative side so I still get grossed out with highly detail descritos of wounds and such. Having said that here were only two or three instances in which I had to skip forward because the details were a little too gruesome for me. Reading this book gave me a real appreciation for how far we’ve come. We’ve gone from a time where a surgen or a doctor would go from patient to patient without washing their hands or the tools to a time where (at least in most places) aseptic practices are the expectations. But it also made me realized how far we still have to go. I was enthralled by Lister’s story. He was an incredible person, a brilliant surgeon and research who received many accolades throughout his career all the while remaining relatively humble which can be attributed in part to his Quaker upbringing. Lister was never satisfied; once he discovered an antiseptic method that improved the prognosis for his patients he continued to evolve it, fine running it so that he was providing the best care possible. Lister trained during a time where there was no hygienic and sanitary practices at hospital (the filth!) and no disinfecting of any kind. The mortality was extremely high because infections were commonplace. Early in his career this started to bother Lister, he wanted to understand what caused infections and how to prevent them. You would think most surgeon were preoccupied with the same issues but you would be wrong. Most surgeons thought this was par for the course. Their training was geared to desensitize them to the deaths of their patients. Surgery was very rare, first because there was no anesthesia (1840s’ that ether was introduced) and second because the mortality rate from surgery was so high. It was practically a guaranteed death sentence unless you were lucky. By the time Lister had completed his training anesthesia was wildly used so the number of surgeries began to increase but the mortality rate still remained high. So, he went about finding away to keep his patients alive. I loved the book from start to finish. It’s great mix of both history and science but it’s written in a very relatable way. You don’t have to be part of the field of medicine to understand it and enjoy it. I can’t recommend this book highly enough! I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Ralph Lister (I’m not sure if he’s related to Joseph Lister). The narrator was great, his American accents could use some improving but it didn’t take away from the great performance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    i would be such a good old timey doctor

  28. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Fascinating read. Books like this always remind me of how grateful we should be for modern medicine, we take so much for granted these days. Were it not for people like Lister there'd be an awful lot more suffering in the world.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Navi

    This book focuses on the practice of surgery in the 19th century through a societal framework but also specifically focusing on Joseph Lister, a Quaker surgeon. Lindsey Fitzharris discusses the major changes that have taken place to transform surgery from a gruesome, deadly act to the more humane, effective procedure we are accustomed to seeing today. It was so interesting to see how things we take for granted in the modern world would have seemed so crazy or ridiculous to surgeons in the 19th This book focuses on the practice of surgery in the 19th century through a societal framework but also specifically focusing on Joseph Lister, a Quaker surgeon. Lindsey Fitzharris discusses the major changes that have taken place to transform surgery from a gruesome, deadly act to the more humane, effective procedure we are accustomed to seeing today. It was so interesting to see how things we take for granted in the modern world would have seemed so crazy or ridiculous to surgeons in the 19th century. During this time, surgery was a crude, barbaric procedure that was always considered the last resort of treatment. Even if patients were lucky enough to survive the actual surgery, many would die due to complications that arose after the surgery. The post-operative recovery period was fraught with infection. The few doctors that performed surgeries are described in a way that is more reminiscent of villians from B-horror movies than medical professionals. Example: The surgeon, wearing a blood-encrusted apron, rarely washed his hands or his instruments and carried with him into the theater the unmistakable smell of rotting flesh, which those in the profession cheerfully referred to as “good old hospital stink. What was especially interesting to me is the perception that society had of surgeons during this time period. The surgeon was very much viewed as a manual labourer who used his hands to make a living rather than a respected and educated member of the medical community. Nothing better demonstrated this fact than their abject poverty. A far cry to contemporary surgeons with their lucrative six figure incomes! Enter Joseph Lister, a Quaker surgeon hoping to transform the brutal act of surgery to a procedure that can be effectively used, prolonging life instead of shortening it. Lister claimed that germs were the source of all infection. These germs could be eliminated with the use of sterilizing agents. This seems like common sense to us but at the time this idea caused quite the kerfuffle in the medical community. Nobody wanted to believe that they could have prevented so many needless deaths in such a simple way. One of the major selling points of this book is the way Lindsey Fitzharris writes. She does not hold back. I was completely enthralled by the narrative. At times, I felt as though I was physically wallowing in the filth and grime of Victorian society. It is hard to believe that this is a debut work. Even though this is a shorter book (less than 300 pages), I feel like the author fully fleshed out what she set out to do. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of medicine or anyone who is looking for a well written nonfiction narrative that will keep them hooked until the last page!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Babbs

    "New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common." —JOHN LOCKE An interesting look into surgical care in the 1800's and the rise of germ theory and aseptic techniques. While some passages might be on the gory side for some, the peek into what life was like, and the common perils of the time is worth it. Surgery's start centered around speed, since pain medication was not a thing, with the top surgeons marked as b "New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common." —JOHN LOCKE An interesting look into surgical care in the 1800's and the rise of germ theory and aseptic techniques. While some passages might be on the gory side for some, the peek into what life was like, and the common perils of the time is worth it. Surgery's start centered around speed, since pain medication was not a thing, with the top surgeons marked as being able to sever a leg at the hip in under 90 seconds. New professions, such as grave robber, sanitation engineer, and chemist were all on the rise, and with them came changes in hospital structure and law. Specifically the right of all individuals to medical attention, the passages on what it took to gain access to a doctor, and the risks associated with entering a hospital in the 1850-60's were particularly fascinating. "Between 1834 and 1850, Charing Cross Hospital treated 66,000 emergencies, including 16,552 falls from scaffolds or buildings; 1,308 accidents involving steam engines, mill cogs, or cranes; 5,090 road crashes; and 2,088 burns or scalds... [...] Many involving children." Did you know that you had to have a ticket from a "subscriber" or an individual who paid a fee to the hospital in order to gain admission? What about that most admission only occurred on a single day of the week, marked the "taking in day" and many were turned away from care if they didn't arrive quickly enough? Child labor, women's rights, and the treatment of the under privileged are also mentioned as the world of a 18th century doctor and it's evolution through the years are outlined. If any of these topics are interesting, I'd give this book a try. While some sections felt awkwardly written, it's a nicely outlined introduction to 19th century medicine and the rise of modern healthcare.

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