Showing 11 - 20 of 37 annotations in the genre "Biography"

Summary:

John Romulus (also known as Richard) Brinkley was a physician (in the diploma-mill sense of the word) who, in 1917, pioneered, in the U.S. at least, the notion of goat testicle transplant. "Transplant" must be understood in the loosest sense of the word since Brinkley simply removed the testicles from young goats and sewed them into the abdominal wall and scrotal tissues - without any attempt to connect blood or nervous tissues of either goat testicles or human  - of men for the alleged purpose of relieving impotence. From 1917 until his downfall at the hands of Morris Fishbein, a medical crusader esconced in the AMA, which organization Dr. Fishbein helped establish as the premier advocate of organized medicine in the U.S., Dr. Brinkley was perhaps the most recognizable physician in the U.S.

He ran for the office of Governor of Kansas in 1930 (losing by technicalities that today would have overturned the results), and established the most powerful radio station in the land, XERA, that promulgated his glandular chicanery all across the continental U.S. As a proponent of such skullduggery, Brinkley was continually in the sights of Dr. Fishbein, whose main reputation nationally was as an exposer of medical fakery. Eventually Fishbein lured Brinkley into a libel trial that resulted, in 1939, in the catastrophic downfall of an immensely talented and wealthy man who spiraled into bankruptcy and death in 3 short years.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In the prologue to "The Anatomist" author Bill Hayes explains why he undertook the task of writing a biography of the author of the famous illustrated textbook "Gray's Anatomy." The reasons stem from his childhood and are multifold: an early interest in becoming a doctor, a fascination with religious (particularly Catholic) and artistic perspectives of the body coupled with an acceptance of his own homosexuality, a growing admiration for the writing and drawing in his bargain table copy of "Gray's Anatomy," and finally an attraction to a photograph of the enigmatic author in his anatomy lab - one of the few traceable artifacts of the man himself. Hence "The Anatomist" is not only a meticulous and fascinating biography of Henry Gray, the writer, and Henry V. Carter, the illustrator of "Gray's Anatomy," but also a memoir of the education and life of Bill Hayes himself during the period of research and writing this book. The book is a masterful mix of the history of medicine, anatomy education both current and historic, methodology of historical research, and poignant, insightful commentary on the frailties of human bodies and human relationships.

Hayes took three anatomy courses at University of California, San Francisco during the preparation of the book - one with pharmacy students, one with physical therapy students, and the final one with medical students. By the third course, Hayes was a pro at dissection and had first hand knowledge and appreciation of the skills needed to be an anatomist.

Because of the paucity of information available on Henry Gray, the bulk of the research rests on the diaries and letters of the tireless, self-critical and amazingly skilled younger member of the book's creative team - the artist-physician Henry Carter. Through Carter's diaries we learn of the formidable genius of Gray, his academic accomplishments, the genesis of the idea for the book, and Gray's early death at age 34.

Interestingly, in a pattern similar to that of Andreas Vesalius's "De Humani Corporis Fabrica," whose illustrator was most likely Jan Stephen van Calcar, the artist Carter receives scant reward or acknowledgement of his vast contributions to the book. Hayes's biography rectifies this hundred-and-fifty-year-old omission by tracking not only the career of Gray, but also Carter. Indeed, peppered throughout "The Anatomist" are more illustrations than quotes from "Gray's Anatomy."

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Born in Vienna, Alma Rosé (1906-1944) was a gifted violinist with an illustrious concert career. Her mother was the sister of composer, Gustav Mahler, and her famous father, Arnold, conducted orchestras. All the family members were non-observant Jews. Alma was talented, beautiful, audacious, and arrogant. After an unhappy early marriage to Czech violinist Vása Príhoda, she established a remarkable orchestra for women that toured Europe.

As the German Third Reich consolidated its power, her only brother, Alfred, fled to the USA. She managed to bring their widowed father to England, but displaced musicians crowded London making work difficult to find. Alma left her father and returned to the continent, living quietly as a boarder in Holland and giving house concerts when and where she could. She took lovers.

Despite the urging of her family and friends, she kept deferring a return to safety in England. In early 1943, she was arrested and transported to Drancy near Paris, thence to Auschwitz six months later. Initially sent to a barrack for sterilization research, she revealed her musical brilliance and was removed to marginally better accommodations and allowed to assemble an orchestra of women players.

The hungry musicians were granted precarious privileges, but Alma became obsessed with their progress and insisted on a grueling schedule of rehearsal and perfection. Some said that she believed that survival depended on the quality of their playing; others recognized that the music, like a drug, took her out of the horror of her surroundings.

In April 1944, she died suddenly of an acute illness thought to have been caused by accidental food poisoning. In a bizarre and possibly unique act of veneration for Auschwitz, her body was laid "in state" before it was burned. Most members of her camp orchestra survived the war.

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Summary:

Tracy Kidder met Paul Farmer in 1994 when the former was writing an article about Haiti. They next met again in 1999 but it was only when Kidder expressed an interest in Farmer and his oeuvre that Farmer emailed him back, writing "To see my oeuvre you have to come to Haiti" (17). Kidder did just that, following the peripatetic workaholic Farmer to Peru, Russia, Boston, and wherever Farmer flew, which is anywhere there is poverty and disease, especially infectious disease.

In Mountains Beyond Mountains (MBM), Kidder chronicles Farmer’s childhood, medical school years (almost a correspondence course with Farmer’s frequent trips to Haiti), his founding of Partners in Health (PIH) and the construction of the medical center in Cange, Haiti, where "Partners in Health" becomes Zanmi Lasante in Creole.

The story of Farmer’s crusade for a more rational anti-tuberculosis regimen for resistant TB; his political struggles to wrestle with drug manufacturers to lower the price of these and medicines for HIV; his charismatic establishment of a larger and larger cadre, then foundation of co-workers; the story of Jim Kim, a fellow Harvard infectious disease specialist; Farmer’s marathon house calls on foot in Haiti; endless global trips punctuated by massive email consultations from all over the world; and gift-buying in airports for family, friends and patients--these are fascinating reading. In the end one is as amazed and puzzled by the whirlwind that is Paul Farmer--surely a future Nobel Peace Prize laureate like Mother Teresa--as Tracy Kidder was and grateful to have the opportunity to read about it by such an intelligent writer.

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Albert Schweitzer. The Enigma

Bentley, James

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This book sketches the development of Schweitzer's ideas and accomplishments in theology, philosophy, musicology, and medicine. The author tends to pick up a theme at one time and then follow further developments on that theme at later points in Schweitzer's life. Thus, the book is not a comprehensive biography and it often departs from a strict chronological approach.

While there is some discussion of Schweitzer's "tortured" childhood and his later world-renown as the "jungle doctor," of Gabon, Bentley focuses on four intellectual and spiritual developments in Schweitzer's life. The first is his theological career, which led to the groundbreaking Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906) and subsequent theological books such as The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1930).

The second is his philosophy of "reverence for life, "which was first fully articulated in Civilization and Ethics (1923). The third is Schweitzer's career as a musician, musicologist, and organ designer. Finally, Bentley traces the development of Schweitzer's ministry as a medical missionary in Central Africa.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Belle Yang has created a beautiful and lyrical tribute to her father (Baba) and to her Chinese heritage. She has illustrated the folktales and life of her father with her own brilliantly colored paintings, which complement her vivid and colorful prose. Several stories concern doctors and healing in early to mid 20th century China. For example, in the chapter titled "Secret Family Recipes," the tale of Daye reveals the intricate world of family relations, social structure based on wealth and family position, and country versus city prejudices.

Daye is a poor relation but a hard-worker. After he and his wife take an old traveling doctor, "jangling the healer’s trademark ring-shaped rattle," into their humble home, the old doctor teaches Daye how to heal and gave him his "family recipes" for healing. However, Daye’s troubles are not ended, as the townspeople call him a charlatan and quack. Daye does, though, possess the power to heal.

When a wealthy magnate is injured, Daye stakes his life that he can save the man’s leg, even though all the important doctors of Western medicine advise amputation. Daye saves the magnate’s leg, is catapulted to become the head of herbal medicine at the medical institute and passes on the "family recipes" to his daughter, "a short, squat, swarthy woman with bulbous eyes and yellow, ratlike teeth that sprouted between her normal adult ones, leaning every which way like disrupted roof tiles."

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Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Brown, anthropologist and Professor of Anthropology of Religion at Drew University, describes the life, religion and healing practices of Marie Therese Alourdes Macena Margaux Kowalski, also known as Alourdes or Moma Lola, a priestess of Voodou, who emigrated to the U.S. from Port-au-Prince in Haiti at the age of 24. What began as an ethnographic research project on immigrant Haitians, turned into a deep personal friendship between Moma Lola and Brown, and a privileged look at the practices and patients of a priestess, and at the socio-cultural lifeworlds of the Haitian community in Brooklyn and in Haiti between 1978 and 1986.

The book presents an intimate description of an alternative healing tradition through a number of perspectives. Brown alternates between a personal, an analytical, and a descriptive narrative of Moma Lola’s own history and her encounters with patients. In some chapters, Brown fictionally reconstructs the patient’s stories, so that the book is part traditional ethnography, and part fiction.

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In the book’s Introduction, Dr. Cleaveland explains his personal need for real and fictional heroes. Seeing himself often as a victim of cruel childhood peers, he sought protectors and savored particularly the exploits of World War II heroes. His heroes, he notes, delivered him safely through childhood and adolescence.

Cleaveland describes seeing a documentary movie about Dr. Croydon Wassel in 1944; Dr. Wassel became his first personal hero. A book about Dr. Wassel was read by Cleaveland many times; later, as an adult, Cleaveland looked for the book again and set out to ascertain its authenticity. From extensive research he found Dr. Wassel to be far more courageous than he had anticipated--"studied, found not wanting."

The author was introduced to the story of Dr. Billie Dyer in 1992 through a collection of short stories. Dyer was a black physician who kept a diary during his eighteen months in service in the U.S. Medical Corp during the First World War. Cleaveland found a copy of the diary in the public library in Lincoln, Illinois and learned more about a new hero.

Other heroes he writes about were Dr. Woodrow Dodson, who served sixty years as a "domestic medical missionary"; and Dr. Lonnie Boaz, a black physician, the son of a victim of a hate crime, who became a well known ophthalmologist, husband, father, civic leader, and reformer after starting out as a painter, janitor, and army medic.

Cleaveland considers some of his patients to be heroes: Vera Gustafson, a World War II nurse whom he interviewed extensively, later adding historical information to her story; Paulette McGill, a childhood diabetic cared for by Dr. Cleaveland for twenty years; and an obese diabetic who became a "universal friend," teaching others about devotion and courage. Other patients were also deemed heroic, each for some special reason.

The longest story, saved till the last, is about Dr. Janusz Korczak, described by Dr. Cleaveland as the most heroic figure he knows of. Korczak was a Polish, Jewish pediatrician who devoted his life to improving the welfare of children in the Warsaw ghetto; he was deported to the Treblinka concentration camp with the children. (A movie that came out in 1990 dramatically tells this story.)

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Summary:

Elsa Walsh profiles three women of extraordinary achievement: Meredith Vieira, "60 Minutes" television correspondent; Rachel Worby, conductor for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra; and Alison Estabrook, chief of breast surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Even though the women represent remarkable levels of success, the in-depth portrayals reveal enormous personal costs to each of the individuals. Their separate efforts to balance professional and personal goals often lead to irreconcilable conflicts and then to questions about burdens placed upon women who refuse to follow imposed expectations and blueprints.

Readers will sympathize with Meredith Vieira’s struggle to overcome high-risk pregnancies and retain her highly visible and highly paid position on the CBS news team. The measures established to prevent previous miscarriages and accommodate her medical needs eventually lead to friction and discord among co-workers and staff. As the following anecdote demonstrates, Meredith refuses to separate her roles as journalist and mother. When the baby is born and salary negotiations begin, Meredith brings her infant son to the Tavern on the Green lunch meeting so that she can nurse the baby on demand. The executives are flabbergasted by her behavior and by her announcement that she intends to become pregnant again.

Rachel Worby’s story concerns the tensions between an artist’s work, milieu, and spirit and those associated with the widowed Governor of West Virginia, the man she agrees to marry. Both are accomplished, he is rich, and the love between them is healthy and strong.

Nevertheless, the worlds they occupy impose divisive expectations. She does not conform to the assumed role of Governor’s wife; it is both difficult and impossible to regulate her bombastic and vivacious personality and style.

The final story centers on Alison Estabrook as she struggles to become the chief of breast surgery in a professional world seemingly intent on placing unacceptable barriers in her way. Readers will anguish over this infuriating account of suppression by a patriarchal system.

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Summary:

Born in 1728 the tenth child in a struggling Scottish farm family, John Hunter was a wayward and unteachable child who spent most of his time outdoors. At the age of 20, with no prospects and having lost his father and 6 siblings, he wrote for help to his older brother William, who was practicing midwifery in London and had just opened England's first anatomy school, one featuring the revolutionary opportunity for students to dissect their own cadavers.

John rode the 400 miles to London on horseback, apprenticed with great success under William, learned dissection, then surgery, and went on to become a supremely gifted anatomist and surgeon, one whose brilliant and tireless experimentation broke with ancient and outmoded medical traditions and established the foundation for modern science-based surgery. (When John arrived in London, the city's Company of Barber-Surgeons had only just dissolved to allow surgeons to organize themselves independently of barbers.)

One of his most important activities in working for his brother--and which continued when he made his own way--was the procuring of cadavers, which because of the customs of the time involved him intimately in the grisly business of grave-robbing.

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