Showing 121 - 130 of 193 annotations tagged with the keyword "Medical Research"

Arrowsmith

Lewis, Sinclair

Last Updated: Dec-19-2005

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Martin Arrowsmith is from a tiny mid-western town. He goes to college and then to medical school in the largest town in the state. He begins to worship Gottlieb, Professor of Bacteriology, one of the few professors who is devoted to pure science instead of lucrative practice. Martin becomes Gottlieb’s assistant and annoys his professors and friends by constantly talking about methodology. He is engaged to Madeline, a rather dull graduate student in English. When he meets Leora, a nurse, he breaks his engagement to Madeline. Martin grows disenchanted with his career, leaves school, and wanders around the midwest. Finally, he marries Leora and returns to school. Now, however, he becomes a disciple of the Dean, Silva, whose science is much less precise and who is devoted to making people comfortable at all costs.

Martin sets up practice after graduation in Leora’s home town. The Swedish and German farmers find him invasive and unwilling to cater to their small-town expectations. When Martin misdiagnoses a case of smallpox, he is forced to leave town. He has by then found a new hero, Gustave Sondelius, who fights plagues abroad and returns to America to lecture. Sondelius finds him a job in a larger town as an assistant to Dr. Almus Pickerbaugh, Director of Public Health. Pickerbaugh writes popular poems against sidewalk spitting and alcohol but does little else. The town loves him. He becomes a senator and Martin takes over the department. He quickly makes enemies of the very people Sondelius pleased. He also returns to research. Between annoying the upper crust with his brusqueness and annoying the farmers by closing their diseased dairies, he is soon drummed out of town.

He is then hired as a pathologist at the Rouncefield Clinic, where he does meaningless, repetitive work. His old mentor, Gottlieb, saves him by getting him a position at the McGurk Institute in New York. The Institute is very rich and gives scientists a chance to work without the interruption of patients or a need for practical application. Martin returns to Gottlieb’s principles and discovers a cure for bubonic plague. The Institute, which is not free from economic interests, sends him off to the tropical island of St. Hubert to test his material and save the population.

Martin is determined to conduct a controlled trial. When his wife and Sondelius both die of the plague, however, he injects everyone, saves the island, and returns to New York. Gottlieb has dementia and can neither blame nor forgive Martin for his lack of scientific aplomb. Martin marries an heiress and briefly lives the rich life he always dreamed of, but finds that his new wife will not let him work. Finally, he joins a friend who has built a laboratory in Vermont and happily returns to research.

 

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The Bacteriologist has a visitor to his laboratory, a pale stranger who arrives with a letter of introduction from a good friend of the scientist. The scientist shows his visitor the cholera bacillus under a microscope and they talk about the disease. The visitor is particularly interested in a vial containing living bacteria, and the scientist describes the power of cholera, saying what a terrible epidemic could be caused if a tube such as the one he holds were to be opened into the water supply.

The scientist's wife calls him away for a moment; when the scientist returns, the visitor is ready to leave. As soon as the visitor has gone, however, the scientist realizes the vial of bacteria is missing, that the visitor must have stolen it. He runs out in a panic, sees the visitor's cab leaving, and hails another cab to give chase. The scientist's wife, horrified by his inappropriate dress and hurry, follows in a third cab, with her husband's shoes and coat and hat.

We shift to the point of view of the visitor in his cab. He has indeed stolen the vial. He is an Anarchist who plans to release the bacteria into London's water supply. His motivation is fame: he feels he has been neglected by the world, and now he will reveal his power and importance. In the speeding cab, however, he accidentally breaks the glass vial.

He decides to become a human vector. He swallows what is left in the vial, and stops the cab, realizing that he no longer needs to flee. When the scientist catches up and confronts him, the Anarchist gleefully announces what he has done. The scientist allows him to walk away, and tells his wife that the man has ingested the stolen bacteria.

There is a twist: the vial, it turns out, did not contain cholera, but a strange new microbe the Bacteriologist had been studying, the only known effect of which is to make the skin of the animals exposed to it turn bright blue. The Bacteriologist reluctantly puts on his coat and returns home with his wife, complaining that he will now have to culture the bacillus all over again.

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Summary:

The aim of this collage of anecdotes from medical history is largely to entertain, though it is pointedly instructive in its focus on reasons for and results of medical mistakes, misapprehensions, and serendipitous breakthroughs. Gordon's dryly humorous skepticism and general irreverence is balanced by an obvious delight in the intellectual play that characterizes the history of science.

The stories he tells range from Hippocrates to the present with a heavy focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes a good representative collection of visual art and photography documenting moments in medical history upon which Gordon casts a cold but twinkling eye. Chapter titles such as "Discoveries in the Dark," "Sex and its Snags," "Odd Practices," and "Freud, the English Governess and the Smell of Burnt Pudding" give a bit of the book's flavor.

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Wish

Goldsworthy, Peter

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

J.J.’s parents are both deaf, so he grew up with Auslan (Australian sign language) as his native "tongue," although he is not deaf and speaks English perfectly. After a disastrous marriage, J.J. returns to live with his parents and to teach sign language at the Deaf Institute. Two students in his beginners’ class befriend him. They are Clive, an elderly man world renowned as a leader of the animal rights movement, and his much younger wife Stella, who is a poet. They soon present J.J. with a mysterious proposition: would he be willing to provide private lessons for their "step-daughter" at their home? We soon learn that their "step-daughter," Wish, is actually a young female gorilla, which they "rescued" from a research laboratory.

At first J.J. is reluctant because he is aware that the purported mastery of signing by non-human primates is not only controversial, but very limited, even if true. However, he discovers that Wish has remarkable cognitive abilities. She learns Auslan quickly and even begins to converse using metaphor and expressing complex topics.

Eventually her story is revealed. She had undergone fetal surgery to remove her adrenal glands, which evidently limit cortical growth in gorillas. Unconstrained by her adrenals (although receiving daily cortisone injections), Wish has developed intelligence far beyond that of other gorillas.

Nonetheless, she is still a sexually mature female gorilla. She falls in "love" with J.J. who, after initially rebuffing her, mates with her. J.J., by the way is quite obese, and so he is much more attractive to Wish than the other human males she encounters, who are all so un-gorilla-like. J.J. and Wish live in connubial bliss for a brief period, until Clive decides to prosecute J.J. for sexually abusing his gorilla, since presumably gorillas cannot give informed consent to sexual activity with humans. (Of course, Wish can and does, because of her super brain, but this concept is a bit too subtle for the frenzied media and the legal system.) After J.J. is arrested and she is removed to a local zoo, Wish becomes depressed and commits suicide. Clive drops the charges, after which the story lumbers to a generally unhappy ending.

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Cast of Shadows

Guilfoile, Kevin

Last Updated: Aug-11-2005
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Set sometime in the near future, Cast of Shadows has as its protagonist Davis Moore, a successful private practice physician specializing in cloning human babies for infertile couples. Early in the book, Anna Kat, his high school senior daughter, is murdered and raped. (For a while a likely suspect is Mickey the Gerund, a right wing extremist member of the Hands of God with a fascinating grammatical moniker never explained, who shoots cloning physicians, including Dr. Moore, in the abdomen, a short time before his daughter, Anna Kat, is brutally killed. However, Mickey is only a shadow of a suspect and quickly becomes supplanted by another much more likely villain. Mickey goes on to kill, by various methods, dozens of cloning physicians and staff by book's end.)

After a year of unsuccessful detective work, the local police return Anna Kat's belongings, including a plastic vial with the suspected murderer-rapist's semen. In an act never fully explored by Dr. Moore or the author, an otherwise rational and ethical physician surreptitiously uses the suspect's semen to fertilize a married woman patient.

The offspring, a clone of the suspected killer-rapist, is Justin, who becomes a formidable presence in the book. He is very intelligent--at his psychologist's advice, his parents provide him at an early age with advanced reading materials like Plato (hence one of the allusions to shadows, i.e., Plato's cave, in the book's title and referenced directly on page 118 and indirectly on page 208) and other philosophers. By the time he is a senior in high school, Justin has become a dominant player in the affairs of Dr. Moore; Sally Barwick, a private investigator-turned journalist; and the suspected killer-rapist--his origin of the species as it were.

This book has a number of subplots all of which radiate from the initial cloning and the various members of the extended family and professional staff involved in it, some knowingly, most not. There are narrative threads involving the suspected murderer rapist-now-prominent attorney, Sam Coyne; the triangle of Dr. Moore and Jackie, his alcoholic wife, and Joan, his attractive pediatrician associate; Mickey the Gerund's various murderous and obsessional religious activities and reflections; Justin's life in school and involvement with Sally Barwick's investigation of a serial killer called The Wicker Man; and, most especially, the development of Shadow World, a computer game and a virtual replica of the real world--the world as Justin, Sally, Sam Coyne, and Dr. Davis Moore know it.

Since this is a thriller, it would be inappropriate to divulge more of the plot, which is intricate, often a little far-fetched but always engaging, highly readable and more labyrinthine than most medical thrillers.

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Journalist Jonathan Eig traces the life of Lou Gehrig, one of the finest first basemen that major league baseball has ever known. Gehrig played as a tremendously reliable and powerful hitter for 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, the only team for which he played, many of them with Babe Ruth; he starred in 7 World Series games, playing on 6 championship teams. Gehrig's consecutive game streak of 2130 games, part of the reason for his nickname Iron Horse, was only broken recently, in 1995, by Cal Ripken, Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles.

Born June 19, 1903, Gehrig was only 35 years old when he developed the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease of vicious and progressive muscle wasting. He died June 2, 1941, quietly, at home. A relatively unknown disease at the time, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, soon became known as "Lou Gehrig's disease."

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

Physician-scientist Lewis Thomas turns to pressing, threatening issues in this collection of 24 essays, many of which have been published in Discover magazine. The book opens and closes with meditations on nuclear warfare--the atom bombs of World War II and the escalation of worldwide tensions and technology that can combine to destroy the human race. In between, other essays, such as "On Medicine and the Bomb" and "Science and 'Science,'" also focus on these issues.

Less apocalyptic essays concern Thomas's experience with requiring a pacemaker, the state of psychiatry, lie detectors as evidence for essential human morality, and his abiding interest in language and scientific research.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This book contains 29 short essays by physician-scientist Lewis Thomas, originally published in the early 1970s in The New England Journal of Medicine. The essays center on science, and range in focus from the molecular (e.g., DNA) to the subcellular to the organism to social interactions and all the way up to the search for extra-terrestrial life. Some themes reappear in several essays: science as a grand, engaging enterprise worthy of the brightest minds; communication between organisms creating the intricate dance of the social organism; the relationship of man to both nature and the grand scheme of the universe.

Lewis is fascinated by communication not only at the cellular level, but also at the pheremonal and cerebral level: "Language, once it comes alive, behaves like an active, motile organism" (90). The ant and its colony, as an example of a simultaneous individual and integrated social organism, form a link for Thomas between the enclosed unit of a cell and the complex interactions of a society. Indeed, macro-micro comparisons continue throughout the essays, and even conclude the final essay, "The World's Biggest Membrane," which lauds the atmosphere as protector, filter, and provider: "Taken all in all, the sky is a miraculous achievement. It works, and for what it is designed to accomplish it is as infallible as anything in nature. . . it is far and away the grandest product of collaboration in all of nature" (48).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.

Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .

And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?

Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)

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Sweet Thames

Kneale, Matthew

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The young and upwardly mobile engineer, Joshua Jeavons, is obsessed with finding a solution to the water problems of 19th-century London. He spends almost every spare moment drawing and re-drawing maps of his precious drainage plans destined to save the city from the stench of effluent, which everyone believes is the source of cholera. His boss, Augustus Moynahan, is unimpressed with Joshua's plans, but allows him to continue analyzing sewers and drains. They work in conjunction with a master plan of coercive bureaucrats, led by Edwin Sleak Cunningham and manipulated by private interest.

Joshua has married the boss's daughter, Isobella, who had seemed more than eager to have him over her father's objections; however, she rebuffs all his physical attentions and the marriage is unconsummated. Brimming with sexual need and self-pity, Joshua continues a sporadic liaison with a friendly prostitute, all the while resenting what he decides must be his wife's infidelity.

When Isobella vanishes on the night of a disastrous dinner party, Joshua's fortunes plummet. He is reduced to poverty and shame, as he replaces his first obsession with the quest for his lost spouse--to reclaim her or kill her, he knows not. But his contact with urchins and beggars brings him to discover the real causes of pollution and disease--both environmental and moral.

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