Medical Firsts - Robert E. Adler
In this cursory though delightful companion to his previous Science Firsts, Adler ably combines good storytelling, clear and cogent scientific explanations, a respect for science over superstition and a love of what he sees as one of humanity's "finest and most difficult" arts: "the application of medical knowledge to individual human beings like you and me." Through short, chronologically arranged histories of individuals who have defined medicine, Adler presents a compelling narrative arc from Hippocrates' dream of "human mastery of health and disease" to current efforts to "decode, understand, and manipulate genetic information." Adler vividly portrays the heroic efforts of such greats as Herophilus, who "discovered and described the prostate, the spermatic duct, the Fallopian tubes, and the ovaries" in the fourth century B.C.; Abu Bark al-Razi, whose 10th-century A.D. description of smallpox reads like "a modern diagnostic manual"; and Johann Weyer, who fought against the "paranoia, cruelty, and hatred of women" in the "Malleus Maleficarum," the bible of witch-hunters throughout Europe during the Inquisition. Adler also cogently presents more recent individuals such as Margaret Sanger, who championed the development and use of the first oral contraceptive, and Carleton Gajdusek and Stanley Prusiner, who worked to solve such illnesses as mad cow disease.