This history of western medicine in the nineteenth century chronicles the lives of some men and women who were innovators in the field of medicine. Williams begins the book in the 1700s with the life of John Hunter and his influence on nineteenth century medical practice and research.

The book consists of 16 chapters, many of which, like the one on Hunter are biographic. For example, Williams writes of the contributions, education, and lives of Florence Nightingale, Hugh Owen Thomas (orthopedics), Marie Curie, Joseph Lister, Ignaz Semmelweis (maternal health), Patrick Manson (tropical medicine), Jean-Martin Charcot, and William Conrad Röntgen. Other chapters are more theme-oriented, such as body-snatchers, discovery of anesthesia, homeopathic medicine, blood transfusion, and medical use of spas.

Black and white illustrations, such as Mrs. Röntgen's hand in an X-ray photograph help the reader to appreciate the advances in medical knowledge in the nineteenth century.


Like its companion volume, The Age of Agony: The Art of Healing, 1700-1800 (see this database), this work focuses on British medicine. For example, in a chapter discussing infection and asepsis, Lister's life and work is detailed, Pasteur's work less so, Koch is mentioned, and Virchow ignored. However, this is a book meant for the lay reader and is not intended as a comprehensive text. The writing is entertaining, easy to read, and enlivened with primary source quotes.


Academy Chicago

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