Dr. Hertzler leads the reader, topically and generally chronologically, through the nature of the practice of medicine in rural America from the 1880's through the 1930's. His early narratives are those of a child observing the ravages of epidemic diseases in the face of medical futility.

The remainder of the work, divided into subject headings, is devoted to anecdotes and observations on such things as horse and buggy home visits, kitchen surgery, the proprietary hospital and physician education. Having served not only as a rural practitioner, but as a professor of pathology at academic centers and a consulting surgeon, Hertzler draws on a wide experience over a period of time known for rapid advances in basic biological science which would, near the end of the narrator's life, open the way for technological medicine as we know it today.


The sexism and professional elitism of the author's time make some of his reflections and judgments difficult for a modern reader to quietly accept; however, this text seems particularly important as a primary source for the study of attitudes that still cast shadows over medicine. For example, Hertzler repeatedly observes that the wise physician handles medical complaints voiced by women much differently than the gender-validated physical reality of mens' symptoms.

The writer is sometimes arrogant and unforgiving of the errors of his colleagues and readily casts harsh judgment upon them; at the same time he is able to laugh at his own foibles. The tales of traveling dozens of miles in the dark and cold behind a recalcitrant team of reluctant horses to respond to a call with little notion of what will be found upon arrival--if there is an arrival--makes very entertaining reading; it certainly opens modern eyes to the special characteristics of this type of medicine at the turn of the century.


Harper & Brothers

Place Published

New York



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