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.


This is a very readable book for anyone interested in medical history. Several medical students in our school have read it and found it both interesting and informative. I am using it as a text for an introductory History of Medicine class.


Yale Univ. Press

Place Published

New Haven



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