Showing 121 - 130 of 152 annotations tagged with the keyword "History of Science"

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.

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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.

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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.

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This is an excellent review of the authors' choices of the ten greatest medical discoveries. They arrived at the ten selected after narrowing five thousand or more possibilities down to one hundred and then finally down to ten based on these three components in the field of medicine: 1) structure and function of the human body, 2) diagnosis of medical conditions and 3) treatment of such maladies. Finally the ten selected were approved by four avid and informed physician collectors of rare and important medical publications.

Chronologically, the anatomical observations of Vesalius come first with his publication of the Fabrica in 1543. Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood is considered the single most important discovery. Leeuwenhoek gets credit as the founder of bacteriology, but Koch and Pasteur are included in a discussion of this discovery. Jenner gets his just recognition for introducing vaccination and Roentgen for discovering the X-ray beam.

Crawford Long is recognized for the initial use of surgical anesthesia and Fleming for the discovery of penicillin. More unlikely choices are Ross Harrison for tissue culture, Anichkov for the relation of cholesterol to atherosclerosis and Wilkins, rather than Watson and Crick, for the DNA story.

Each chapter describes not only the discovery but also tells the life stories of the chosen "discoverers" and others who contributed to extension and usefulness of the discoveries. The authors conclude that it is not genius so much as curiosity and the ability to conduct methodological investigations that distinguish these men.

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The Heavenly Ladder

Coulehan, Jack

Last Updated: May-02-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The Heavenly Ladder is physician-poet Jack Coulehan's most recent chapbook, bringing together 48 poems, many of which have been published individually in various medical journals and literary magazines. The collection is divided into four sections.

Poems in the first section, "Medicine Stone," are written in the voice of patients or in the voice of the physician who treats them. The second section, "So Many Remedies," consists of five poems inspired by physician-author Chekhov. The poems of "The Illuminated Text" section reflect a wide-ranging interest in people who lived in distant times or in distant places. The final section, "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo," stays, for the most part, closer to home and includes a number of poems addressed to, or about, family members.

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The Lifted Veil

Eliot, George (Marian Evans)

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, Latimer, begins the story with a vision of his death, which he attributes to a heart attack. He explains that, always sensitive after a childhood eye affliction and his mother's death, the further shock of a "severe illness" while at school in Geneva enabled him to see the future, and to hear others' thoughts--an experience which he describes as oppressive. He is fascinated by his brother's fiancée, Bertha, the only human whose thoughts are hidden from him, and whom he marries after his brother dies in a fall.

The marriage falters after Latimer eventually discerns Bertha's cold and manipulative nature through a temporary increase in his telepathy. When Latimer's childhood friend, the scientist Charles Meunier, performs an experimental transfusion between himself and Bertha's just-dead maid, the maid briefly revives and accuses Bertha of plotting to poison Latimer. Bertha moves out, and Latimer dies as foretold.

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The Fifth Child

Lessing, Doris

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "free love" context of the nineteen-sixties, Harriet and David Lovatt are throwbacks to a more conservative, traditional, and family-oriented decade. Their life dream is to have a big house in the country filled with children, and it seems that they will succeed. After bearing four young children, however, Harriet is feeling the strain of years of childbearing, sleeplessness, money trouble, and her parents' and in-laws' disapproval of her fecundity.

Her fifth pregnancy is not only unplanned, but also unusually painful and disruptive. Harriet's doctor prescribes sedatives but finds nothing abnormal in her situation. When Ben is born, Harriet jokes that he is like "a troll or a goblin," but no one responds well to this unusually hairy and physically vigorous baby, who in turn does not respond to anything but his own desires and fears.

As he grows older, family pets and other children seem to be in physical danger. Health care professionals do not confirm the couple's conviction that Ben is not normal, but neither do they obstruct the decision to send Ben to a private institution, a removal that leaves the family temporarily happy until Harriet visits Ben and recognizes the institution for what it is, a place where all manner of "different" children are sent to live heavily medicated, physically restrained, and foreshortened lives away from families who do not want them.

Harriet brings Ben home, where he grows up amid what remains of the Lovatts' domestic fantasy, and finds community in a gang of thuggish older boys whom Harriet suspects are involved in various criminal acts. As the story closes, Ben has left home and Harriet imagines him in another country, "searching the faces in the crowd for another of his own kind" (133).

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The Mysteries Within

Nuland, Sherwin

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In The Mysteries Within, Sherwin Nuland takes the reader on a guided tour of selected organs inside the human body. Beginning with the stomach, he progresses along to visit the liver, spleen, heart, uterus, and ovaries. At each point he addresses various historical and contemporary beliefs, as promised in the book's subtitle, "A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths." Nuland brings to this endeavor the patented mixture of personal story, elucidation of medical history, and plain old good writing that characterizes all of his books.

For example, he devotes the first three chapters to the stomach. The first consists mostly of a brilliant clinical tale in which a six-week-old baby is found to have a wax bezoar in his stomach. The second and third provide a cogent survey of beliefs about the stomach's function, beginning with Greek humoral theory, continuing through van Helmont and the iatrochemists, and ending with Ivan Petrovich Pavlov and his seminal monograph, The Work of the Digestive Glands.

Van Helmont and his mentor, Paracelsus, appear again and again in later chapters as the earliest champions of the idea that the body runs by means of chemical processes (iatrochemistry). However, as Nuland points out, Paracelsus has left us two different legacies. One is his devotion to chemistry and experimentation, which eventually led to modern biological science. The other is his devotion to alchemy and mysticism, which makes him as well a forerunner of contemporary irrational systems of healing.

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Summary:

In 1871 the Polaris, a rebuilt tugboat commissioned by the U.S. Navy, set sail with a dual mission: planting the stars and stripes on the North Pole and providing scientific data and specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. A number of poor decisions were made early on in the planning and initiation of the expedition, including an inadequately structured vessel, a vague power distribution lacking a clear absolute authority, and a sailing captain with a significant alcohol problem.

The power struggles begin early. By the third month of the voyage the ship is in physical trouble and the designated expedition head (Charles Francis Hall) has died suddenly of an unexplained illness. There is no leader and the struggle for control erupts between the German scientist/physician who is responsible for the scientific mission and the drunken whaleboat captain who is responsible for keeping his ship and crew safe.

Bad weather, terrible luck, and lack of discipline result in the loss of the Polaris, the splitting of the crew onto separate ice floes, and several months of harrowing experience trying to survive the Arctic winter and hope for rescue. The good news is that everyone except Mr. Hall miraculously survives the ordeal. The subsequent Naval inquiry into the failed endeavor ends without resolution as to the cause of Hall’s death despite hints from crew members that it was not natural. In 1968, long after all crew members had expired, Hall’s grave was located and forensic samples proved that he had died of arsenic poisoning.

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Thinks . . .

Lodge, David

Last Updated: Feb-07-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Helen Reed, a novelist, newly widowed, moves to the University of Gloucester for a semester to teach creative writing. There she meets Ralph Messenger, professor of cognitive science. Their relationship is set within a web of complex professional and family connections, most of which focus on variations of adultery. Everyone has a secret. Helen learns by reading the novel-in-progress of one of her students that the student had had an affair with her husband.

Ralph, awkwardly involved with a Czech grad student who is trying to blackmail him, is regularly unfaithful to his wife, who is in turn having an affair. Another scientist is addicted to on-line child pornography. Helen and Ralph eventually become lovers, until Ralph is found to have a lump on his liver (which later turns out not to be cancer) and then betrays Helen by reading her private journals. She then returns to London and he remains with his wife.

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