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Great Discoveries in Medicine

From Ayurveda to X-rays, Cancer to Covid

William Bynum, Helen Bynum


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

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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. As we face new challenges from the globalization of disease, environmental change and increased longevity, the science of healing is now more vital than ever. This timely volume is a superb guide to medicine’s achievements and its prospects for the future.

An international team of distinguished experts provide 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. They explain medicine’s turning points and conceptual changes with refreshing clarity and answer 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? And what challenges does medicine face in our changing world?

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'Both a pleasure and an enlightenment to read'
The Lancet

'[A] crisply written chronicle of "eureka" moments in medicine'
New Scientist

'An attractively produced volume, full of bite-size wonders'
Times Literary Supplement

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 352 pp

Illustrations: 31

Publication date: 4 August 2022

ISBN: 9780500291221

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 Remarkable Plants that Shape Our World and Botanical Sketchbooks, both published by Thames & Hudson.

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