Showing 111 - 120 of 149 annotations tagged with the keyword "History of Science"

Children of Hunger

Iagnemma, Karl

Last Updated: Nov-20-2003
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In 1822, a young Canadian paddler named Guillaume Roleau is near death after suffering a gunshot wound to the stomach. His recovery is dramatic and scientifically important. The injury has resulted in a traumatic fistula--a porthole between the outside world and Guillaume's abdominal cavity and organs. The treating physician, Dr. William Barber, immediately recognizes the incredible opportunity for medical research and conducts a lengthy series of experiments on the process of human digestion.

Guillaume--patient, research subject, and guest in the doctor's cabin--is rowdy and frequently uncooperative. He continues to participate in the grisly experiments at least partially out of affection for the physician's wife, Julia, who helps nurse him back to health as well as providing emotional sustenance.

Julia ultimately makes a large, uncredited contribution to Dr. Barber's research. At her husband's request, she has sexual relations with Guillaume so that the unreliable man will remain with the doctor until the experiments are all completed. The efforts of this tragic trio result in a landmark textbook on gastrointestinal physiology authored by Dr. Barber and Julia's illegitimate son, Jacob, sired by Guillaume Roleau.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This book, "a humanistically oriented sociocultural history of medicine" (p. x), focuses on the interactions between patient and doctor in western medicine from the nineteenth century through contemporary times. Furst, a Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, uses literary works to chronicle the changing patterns of medical practice, the social positions of doctors, and effects of medical education as they relate to "the doctor-patient alliance." (p. x) By "mapping cultural history in and through literature" (p. x), Furst enriches our understanding of the development of various roles and expectations of doctors and patients since approximately 1830.

The first chapter details the concept of the book and clarifies its purpose. Most histories of medicine concern famous discoveries, introductions of new technologies, and lives of renowned physicians and researchers, yet they neglect to examine patients' perspectives. Furst's mission is to reinstate patients into medical history and contemporary analysis. She chooses to focus on everyday-type of medicine, and more specifically, "to chart the evolution of the changing balance of power in the wake of the advances made in medicine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, drawing on literary texts as sources." (p. 17)

The other seven chapters are topic oriented and placed in general chronological order. The chapters vary in the number of sources examined. For example, Chapter 2, "Missionary to the Bedside" is a comparative analysis of Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne (see this database) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, and Chapter 3, "Seeing-and Hearing-is Believing" almost exclusively concerns Middlemarch by George Eliot (see this database).

Other chapters, however, include commentary on more sources. A chapter on twentieth century hospital-based practice and medical education, "Eyeing the Institution," begins with a review of various films, television shows, and novels and follows with an in-depth comparative analysis of three autobiographical accounts of medical education and training: A Year-Long Night by Robert Klitzman, A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student by Perri Klass (see this database), and Becoming a Doctor by Melvin Konner.

Furst examines the effect of gender on patient and physician experiences and expectations. In Chapter 4, "A Woman's Hand," five novels about "doctresses" (a term used for women doctors in the late nineteenth century) are compared. How and why the protagonists became doctors, what sacrifices they made, how patients viewed having a woman doctor, the range of solutions to career and/or marriage choices, and the personalities of the protagonists are some of the comparisons made. These novels are placed in historical context with information about the lives and attitudes of physicians such as Elizabeth Blackwell and Mary Putnam Jacobi.

Other topics include evaluations of the nineteenth century hospital, the role of research and the laboratory (Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan --see this database--and A. J. Cronin's The Citadel), and the impact of contemporary changes in reimbursement and management on the power relations in medicine. A sensitivity to the effects of language on power relations is a theme throughout the book, and is more fully examined in the final chapter, "Balancing the Power." After an analysis of several books by Oliver Sacks , and his attempts to truly understand his patients' perspectives, Furst concludes, "The balance of power cannot be even, but it must at least strive to be fair." (p. 251)

View full annotation

Summary:

This thorough and fascinating treatment of the politics of anatomy studies in 19th-century America provides a variety of perspectives on the vexed question of how appropriately to study human anatomy while also maintaining respect for the human body and honoring the various, deeply held community beliefs, and attitudes toward treatment of the dead. Sappol seeks, as he puts it, to "complicate the cultural history of medicine in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. . . by telling it from an anatomical perspective."

That statement of his objectives hardly suggests the startling range of approaches to the topic he takes in the book's nine chapters. These cover such issues as the legacies of belief about the "personhood" of the dead human body; the status of anatomy as both a legitimate and valuable study and also as an "icon of science"; the relationship of dissection and anatomy study to medical status and professionalization; the political tensions engendered by the "traffic in dead bodies" that most often expropriated corpses from marginalized communities; and the relationship of anatomy studies to sexual commerce and sensationalist fiction.

View full annotation

Demon in the Freezer

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: May-10-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Investigative Journalism

Summary:

This gripping narrative traces the history of the efforts to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s, the top-level decisions to keep a few vials of it for emergency purposes in American and Soviet freezers, and the reemergence of smallpox not only as a health threat, but as a potential bioweapon of unequaled destructive power. Preston details maverick natural cases that surfaced after worldwide eradication efforts, how it was discovered that undocumented reserves of smallpox were not only being kept, but researched and possibly "weaponized," and how hotly, in the US, teams of scientists and military intelligence personnel debated funding new smallpox research in the US with a view to developing a new vaccine as a defense.

The ethical issues in those debates are unprecedented in the scope of the possible public health threat and the variables that might make traditional vaccination ineffective against the weaponized virus. As in his previous books on biological threats, The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event (see annotation), Preston follows the work and lives of several key scientists and includes scenes from interviews with a variety of persons involved in confronting the political, ethical, and medical dilemmas posed by smallpox research and efforts to track and control it.

View full annotation

Servants of the Map

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: May-06-2003
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Max Vigne, the most junior member of a survey group mapping the Himalayas in the 1860s, writes letters to his young wife Clara in England. She has prepared in advance of his journey a series of postdated letters which he keeps in his trunk. When these have been read, Clara sends numbered letter packets which arrive sporadically, out of sequence, if at all, over the months of the expedition. Max struggles to describe and to edit his daily experiences on the mountains which are extraordinary, often terrifying, and disorienting for him.

Separated by time, distance, and experiences, they are slowly and irrevocably estranged. Max discovers that his real scientific passion is alpine botany, and he must decide how to tell Clara that he will not be returning to England after the Survey ends. The exchange of letters ingeniously maps out the complexities between Max's love for his wife and his passion for scientific knowledge, and the wide expanse between them.

View full annotation

Richard III

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: Feb-22-2003
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This history play narrates the rise to power through treachery and murder of Richard Plantaganet, Duke of Gloucester and last king of the House of York. Set in England during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485), the play opens after the Lancastrian King Henry VI and his son Edward have been killed and Richard’s brother has been crowned Edward IV.

In the course of the play, Richard woos and wins Prince Edward’s widow Anne Neville and engineers the murders of his other brother (George, Duke of Clarence), his nephews, his closest advisor, possibly his wife, and other members of the court. He is crowned king but later dies a violent death in the Battle of Bosworth, defeated by Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond, who will become the first Tudor King Henry VII.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Another Dimension is an occasional feature of the journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These essays (and occasionally poems or stories) focus on human and philosophical issues related to medical practice, scientific research, and public health. The intention of this feature is to bring a new perspective to the journal’s coverage of medical science and public health. Some of the essays include a painting or other image that draws attention to the subject matter of the essay.

Managing editor, Polyxeni Potter, with the encouragement of Joseph E. McDade, founding editor of the journal, initiated and is guiding this feature (see also the annotation of Potter: Emerging Infectious Diseases cover art). Since this is a government site, its material is freely available on-line.

View full annotation

The Dead Alive and Busy

Shapiro, Alan

Last Updated: Jan-16-2003
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection of 36 poems, some of which have been published individually in various literary magazines, is primarily about dead--or nearly dead--family members: a brother and sister lost to cancer; the speaker's palsied, nearly blind father dying of Parkinson's disease; his mother's struggle with chronic arthritis and heart disease.

The collection is divided into three untitled sections. The first deals primarily with the aging and death of the speaker's parents; the second with a wider range of abandonment and death, lost loves, dreams, innocence; the third almost exclusively with his sister's six year struggle with breast cancer and dying.

View full annotation

The Anatomist

Andahazi, Federico

Last Updated: Oct-21-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This historical novel is set in 16th century Venice, where the great anatomist and physician Mateo Colombo has just been charged with heresy and placed under house arrest. The book proceeds in a series of short frames or fragments, presenting Colombo’s story from a wide variety of perspectives, ranging from the perspective of Mona Sofia, the most prestigious whore in Venice, to that of Leonardino, the crow who waits each morning to scavenge an eyeball or piece of flesh from one of the anatomist’s cadavers.

What is Colombo’s heresy? True, he has consistently violated the Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII that forbid obtaining cadavers for dissection, but his scholarly eminence and friendship with Pope Paul III have protected him from recrimination. His heresy is far worse than simply ignoring a Papal Bull; in fact, Mateo Colombo has discovered a dangerous new anatomical structure, the clitoris!

Mateo was called to the bedside of an unconscious holy woman named Inés de Torremolinos. In the process of examining her, the physician was amazed to discover "between his patient’s legs a perfectly formed, erect and diminutive penis." (p. 105) He took hold of the strange organ and began massaging it. As he did so, there was an amazing response in his patient: "(Her) breathing became hoarser and then broke into a loud panting . . . Her lifeless features changed into a lascivious grimace . . . " (p. 107) Subsequent research undertaken with Mona Sofia, the resplendent whore, as well as with cadavers, confirmed the significance of Colombo’s discovery.

At his hearing before the High Tribunal, Colombo explains his findings, which are far too complex and subtle to summarize (pp. 138-165). The finding of greatest interest, however, is that "there is no reason to believe that there exists in women such a thing as a soul." (p. 151) In fact, Colombo contends he has proven that the "amor veneris" or clitoris performs in women "similar functions to those of the soul in men, " although its nature "is utterly different since it depends entirely on the body." (p. 153)

You’ll have to read the book to discover what the verdict of the High Tribunal of the Holy Office was and Mateo Colombo’s fate.

View full annotation

The Breast Cancer Wars

Lerner, Barron

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Written by a medical historian who is also a physician, The Breast Cancer Wars narrates how breast cancer diagnostic methods and treatments have developed from the early twentieth century. More significantly, the book describes the debates and controversies that permeated this evolution and the ways in which not only clinicians and researchers, but, increasingly, women patients/activists shaped how we view, diagnose, and treat breast cancer today.

Individual chapters explore the influential (and ultimately contested) radical mastectomy procedure of William Halsted, the development of the "war" against breast cancer as a full-blown campaign developed and conducted within the public media and consciousness of the United States as well as within medical practice and research, the intertwined development of feminism and breast cancer activism, the "fall" of the radical mastectomy, and the continuing controversies surrounding mammography and genetic testing as modes of early detection and risk assessment. Lerner draws on a range of primary sources including texts from the archives of the American Cancer Society, the papers of doctors and patients, and advertisements from popular and professional magazines throughout the century.

View full annotation