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Great Discoveries in Medicine

William Bynum, Helen Bynum

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An unrivalled account of turning points and breakthroughs in medical knowledge and practice form ancient Egypt, India and China to the latest technology


Sickness and health, birth and death, disease and cure: medicine and our understanding of the workings of our bodies and minds are an inextricable part of how we know who we are.

Great Discoveries in Medicine provides an unrivalled account of the evolution of medical knowledge and practice from ancient Egypt, India and China to today's latest technology, from letting blood to keyhole surgery, from the theory of humours to the genetic revolution, from the stethoscope to the MRI scanner. In this inspiring compendium an international team of distinguished experts explains medicine's turning points and conceptual changes in a refreshingly accessible way and answers some key questions: how has the plague influenced the course of human history? What effect did the pill have on the lives of women, and on society as a whole? How exactly are diseased hearts and worn-out hips replaced? What should complementary medicine's role be? And how did an audacious self-experiement lead to a cure for stomach ulcers and a Nobel Prize?

The book is magnificently illustrated throughout with a unique array of pictures, from Islamic manuscripts and Renaissance anatomical drawings to the very latest computer-generated images of viruses and photographs revealing the hidden world within our bodies.

The science and art of healing is now more necessary than ever, as our bodies face new challenges from the globalisation of disease, environmental change and increased longevity. This timely volume is the best guide ever published to medicine’s achievements and its prospects for the 21st century.

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'That rarest of things - a reference book which is both a pleasure and an enlightenment to read'
The Lancet

'A wonderful addition to any armchair medical historian’s coffee table'
New Scientist

'Both marvellously illuminating and beautifully illuminated … a perfect marriage of simple, clear text and spellbinding pictures … breathtaking'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 26.0 x 20.0 cm

Extent: 304 pp

Illustrations: 382

Publication date: 26 September 2011

ISBN: 9780500251805

Contents List

1. Discovering the Body: Egyptian Medicine; Chinese Medicine; Indian Medicine; Humours & Pneumas; Islamic Medicine, Dissecting the Body; Pathological Anatomy; Cell Theory; Neuron Theory; Molecules • 2. Understanding Health & Disease: Circulation; Bedlam & Beyond; The Milieu Intérieur; Germs; Parasites & Vectors; Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy; Hormones; Immunology; The Genetic Revolution; The Evolution of Cancer; Complementary Medicine • 3. Tools of the Trade: The Stethoscope; The Microscope; The Hypodermic Syringe; The Thermometer; X-Rays & Radiotherapy; The Sphygmomanometer; Defibrillators; Lasers; The Endoscope; Imaging the Body; The Incubator; Medical Robots • 4. Battling the Scourges: Plague; Typhus; Cholera; Puerperal Fever; Tuberculosis; Influenza A; Smallpox; Polio; HIV • 5. ‘A Pill for Every Ill’: Opium; Quinine; Digitalis; Penicillin; The Pill; Drugs & the Mind; Ventolin; Beta Blockers; Statins • 6. Surgical Breakthroughs: Paré & Wounds; Anaesthesia; Antisepsis & Asepsis; Blood Transfusion; Neurosurgery; Cataract Surgery; Caesarean Section; Cardiac Surgery; Transplant Surgery; Hip Replacement; Keyhole Surgery • 7. Medical Triumphs: Vaccines; Vitamins; Insulin; Dialysis; Smoking & Health; Assisted Reproduction; The Pap Smear & Human Papilloma Virus; Helicobacter pylori & Peptic Ulcer.

About the Author

Helen Bynum is a historian of science and medicine and also has a particular interest in gardening and plants and their importance in human culture and society. Together with her husband William Bynum she has written or edited numerous books, including Great Discoveries in Medicine and Remarkable Plants.

List of Contributors

William Bynum