Showing 111 - 120 of 243 annotations tagged with the keyword "Medical Advances"

The Calcutta Chromosome

Ghosh, Amitav

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the not too distant future, the morose Egyptian, Antar, works in New York City, as a home-based computer employee, monitoring artifacts which he can study holographically through cyber space. He conjures up the I.D. card of one L. Murugan, who had supposedly disappeared in Calcutta back in 1995. Murugan is/was an expert on Nobel laureate Ronald Ross, discoverer of the role of the anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria.

Through flashbacks to the intense week of his disappearance and to episodes in the late nineteenth century, the virtual Murugan roams Calcutta trying desperately to understand and expose a subtext of counter science in Ross's laboratory. He is joined by Urmila, a journalist whose life is endangered by their collaboration.

Murugan theorizes that Ross was sloppy, intent on fame and fortune though a simplistic rendering of the parasite-host relationship; his discoveries were fed to him by others and he was blind to the spiritualistic ambitions of Mangala, his Indian laboratory technologist. Conceiving of the powerful significance of malaria prevention and control, Mangala held different views on the purpose and means of investigating the disease and, Murugan thinks, she anticipated the later discovery of another Nobel laureate, J. Wagner-Jauregg, in the use of malaria for the treatment of syphilis. The travels of Murugan and Urmila imply that these views are still there awaiting their own discovery.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, 1890-1939, (Donald Sutherland) journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain.

Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances (Helen Mirren) who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him realize his mistake and lead him to a spectacular apology. The film ends with his much-lamented death from an infected scalpel wound.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

Winter surveys the rise and fall of mesmerism in Victorian Britain, from animal magnetism to hypnotism, including electrobiology (a form of group hysteria), table-turning, and other fads. The book offers rich detail about the different stages of the use of mesmerism in medicine: its initial appearance in staged experiments; its uncertain status and the struggle to locate the boundary demarcating alternative medicines; its performance by professional medical men as well as travelers and quacks; its importance in the development of anesthesia; and its role in prompting skeptical scientists to consider the possibility of mental reflexes as one way to explain away mesmeric phenomena.

Winter argues that mesmerism was not "illegitimate" so much as it brought "legitimacy" itself - of medical authority, of evidence, of knowledge -- into question. Thus, she argues, mesmerism crucially inspired many of the considerable changes in nineteenth-century medicine as well as the reorganization of science and the educational reforms of the later nineteenth century. The book also discusses mesmerism as a form of religion, as a conduit for spiritualism and communication with the dead, as a catalyst in orchestral conducting, and as a model for liberal political consensus.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Bewell examines the rise of "colonial geography," the assumption that disease naturally belongs to the colonial setting. He argues that British colonialism was "profoundly structured" by disease encounters, as diseases began to piggyback on the increased mobility of both troops and trade (2). The book traces colonial disease as both figure and reality in travel journals, diaries, medical treatises, prose, and poetry of the eighteenth century and the Romantic period. It focuses on the rising British anxiety about colonial disease from the mid-eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth century.

Romanticism and Colonial Disease examines the development of the field of medical geography, tracing the cultural meaning of various disease theories focused on climate, topography (disease landscapes), diet, habit, gender, and of course race. Bewell argues that British identity was based on a relational model, in which national health, and even "British" diseases such as tuberculosis, could be understood only in contrast to the tropical diseases that defined colonial lands.

The Asiatic cholera pandemic of 1817, as it approached ever nearer to British shores, shook the nation by explicitly showing that colonial disease had become global. Chapters focus on specific projects and problems, such as the doomed attempts to explore the Niger River and "open" West Africa to European trade, or the problem of the diseased colonial soldier, rather than tracing a general history.

Bewell includes readings of Tobias Smollett, Oliver Goldsmith, William Wordsworth, SAmuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon Byron, William Hogarth, Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, Charlotte Bronte, and the Shelleys, as well as little-known writers like Joseph Ritchie and Thomas Medwin.

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Brigid's Charge

Lamb, Cynthia

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Based on historical records, family archives, and established New Jersey folklore, this story about Deborah Leeds, 18th century midwife and healer, reconstructs the events that led to her being identified as the bearer of the "Jersey devil." An English immigrant brought to Burlington County to marry, "Mother Leeds" worked as herbalist and caregiver in a largely Quaker--and therefore unusually tolerant--community while bearing her own thirteen children. Her extraordinary skill seemed to bespeak not only careful study but powers that some associated with witchcraft.

After 30 years of faithful service, during which time she shared her work with two other women and with her daughter, her position was challenged by a newly arrived Edinburgh-educated physician who undertook to discredit her work and breed distrust among her neighbors by implications of witchcraft. His efforts came to a head when, at the birth of her thirteenth child--who died shortly after birth--he claimed to have seen the child turned to a flying demon, grow scales, and escape into the night. The story is told with great sympathy for the woman's predicament and a lively imagination for the situation of powerful women healers whose mysterious gifts both blessed and threatened their communities.

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Summary:

This unusual collection of contemporary art features full color prints of what might be termed comic doctor archetypes. Entitled by specialty, paintings feature doctors in a variety of incongruous settings that constitute fantastic anachronistic commentary on the situation of the doctor relative to different social groups or social expectations.

"The Internist," for instance, is represented as a modern female doctor in a medieval setting, commenting ironically on the various institutional pressures that come to bear upon women in the medical profession and expectations of the internist in particular. "The Pathologist" is featured getting his comeuppance as the doctor who usually has "the last word" in a confrontation with the figure of death--a skeleton straddling a Jungian snake among a horde of rats on the office floor. Each of the paintings is accompanied on the opposite page by a brief, but informative and insightful commentary by Spence.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Jessie Keyser likes to accompany her mother, a midwife, to homes where there are births or illnesses. Her father is a blacksmith. She and her five siblings live in a log cabin in a small village. They believe the year is 1840. What Jessie doesn't know is that she lives in a replica of a 19th-century village and that the year is actually 1996.

When local children begin to fall ill of diphtheria, Jessie's mother takes her into the woods, provides her with food, blue jeans and a T-shirt, instructions on how to use a telephone, and amazing stories of the world outside that she and Jessie's father left when they joined the experimental colony. Jessie learns that tourists view them at their daily activities through hidden cameras. Now she is to escape and get needed medicine.

Armed guards surround the village. Safely outside the gates, Jessie wanders disoriented in 1996, looking for someone safe to ask for help. She finally talks to reporters who broadcast the news and send help immediately to the town. Medicines are brought and some children saved, though diphtheria has taken several lives. Jessie enters the present with some ambivalence, realizing there are large tradeoffs to leaving the simplicity of the past.

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The Giver

Lowry, Lois

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Set in a future in which communities are entirely regulated, all life patterns ordered for maximum security, uniformity, painless existence, and pleasant, if uneventful family life, this novel unfolds the story of Jonas, a promising boy who, with all his age peers, will receive his adult assignment from the elders on the yearly day of advancement celebrated for all children going through carefully calibrated developmental stages. Jonas's assignment, however, sets him apart from his peers, and ultimately from the whole community.

He is selected as the next Receiver of Memories, a post that allows him access to knowledge of the past carefully guarded from all but one Receiver in each generation. His lot will be to bear the pain of bearing, not only in his mind and imagination, but in his body, feelings and sensations suppressed in others by lifelong administration of biochemical regulators.

Besides the old Receiver of Memories, whom Jonas calls The Giver, he becomes the only one able to see colors, feel pain, desire, loss, hunger, and to remember a world in which people felt something deeper than superficial stirrings. Among other things, he discovers what it is to feel love. Horrified at the blankness in which his people live, he chooses, with the Giver's blessing, and at great risk, to escape the community, and thus to release into it the memories he will not keep to himself.

Rescuing a child destined for "release" for nonstandard development, Jonas embarks on a journey that leads him to a faraway place where the old life survives, leaving behind him a community that will emerge from their anaesthetized condition into the costly terms on which the gifts of ecstasy, joy, awareness, grief, and pain give life its value.

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Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

Monette, Paul

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Writer Paul Monette's first-person account of living through his lover Roger's last nineteen months with AIDS, from diagnosis to death (1986), told in language that is poetic and highly articulate. The couple faces not only progressive physical degeneration (Monette calls time with AIDS a "minefield") but also the agonizing issues of truthtelling with their families, friends gay and straight, and the world, in "the double closet of the war."

Fact-finding is a constant obsession in this story, not only about who is positive and who knows, but also in the rapidly-changing medical arena, where through Monette's extraordinary efforts Roger becomes the first person west of the Mississippi to be put on the drug, AZT. Monette is so devoted a caregiver that he often loses himself--a problem he solves in part by turning to the subject of AIDS as a writer.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Set in a future when genetic engineering allows many couples to arrange for perfected babies, Gattaca tells the story of one imperfect man's successful fight against the odds. Born "naturally" with several serious imperfections, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) nevertheless grows up dreaming only of being an astronaut. As a member of the genetic underclass, he is able to work only as a custodian at Gattaca, the future version of NASA.

Vincent's frustration drives him to engage a sort of identity broker who arranges for him to appear to change his physical identity with Jerome (Jude Law), a member of the elite who has been paralyzed in an accident. Through this complex deception Vincent finally succeeds in being selected as an astronaut for an upcoming mission to a moon of Saturn. A large part of this future thriller consists of Vincent's heroic attempts to continue to pass as Jerome through a series of genetic checks.

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