Thursday, May 6, 2010

Genius on the Edge

This book is a remarkable tour de force by Gerald Imber MD about the father of modern surgery William Stewart Halsted. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of medicine. Dr. Imber uses Halsteds career as also a look into the beginnings of modern scientific medicine. Such notables are named as Sir William Osler, the father of modern diagnostic medicine, William Henry Welch the who established the first pathology department and discoverer of gas gangrene, and Howard Atwood Kelly, the father of modern gynecology. It spans the time from the mid 19 century when medicine was still based on the idea of laudable pus and bad air causing infections and surgery was the ugly step sister that usually resulted in the patient expiring to the time of modern science base medicine based on germ theory, experiment and antisepsis with the majority of surgical patients surviving. Other notables Harvey Cushing the father of modern neurosurgery and Louis Pasteur are mentioned and intimately involved in this intriguing story of one of the true giants in medical history. Halsted virtually invented the modern techniques of surgery and training of modern surgeons, indeed the big four invented modern medical education in the United States at John Hopkins University. Halsted did this while fighting the demon of addiction to the drugs he help develop in fight for pain free surgery. This is a must read and will definitely go on the recommended read list.
Skeptical DoDo

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