The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

by Lindsey Fitzharris

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The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastically detailed in the most delightful & horrid ways. The author is so descriptive, you'll be glad you can't smell the world she lets us enter. I could not put it down.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellently researched and thoroughly readable account of the horrors and practices of early Victorian medicine and the men who performed it. Fitzharris' descriptions of both the medical procedures of the time, as well as the cultural zeitgeist in which they existed are simultaneously horrifying and gripping. Even though the subject is grisly the book manages to keep its tone optimistic and light enough to be a quick page-turner, and the reader will find themselves both informed and fascinated throughout the narrative. Altogether an impressive first work by Fitzharris; it deserves a place on the shelf of anyone interested in medicine, the Victorian era, or with an educated eye for the macabre.
billmarsano More than 1 year ago
By Bill Marsano. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is a maxim that comes from a sermon by John Wesley, a co-founder of Methodism. That was in 1778, but although the idea itself goes as far back as the Babylonians and ancient Hebrews, the medical profession somehow hadn’t got wind of it. Lindsey Fitzharris’s splendid and highly readable book sets the scene and leads us, in the end, to cleanliness triumphant. The scene, horrifyingly, was this: even as late as the mid-1800s most people who went into hospitals died not from the illnesses they had but from illnesses they got. That is, from iatrogenic illnesses. “Iatrogenic” is fancy word for illness caused by medical treatment. In short, hospitals were killing their patients. What stopped them was the acceptance of the “germ theory” of disease and the consequent requirement that doctors wash their bloody hands. Others had groped their way toward this solution but it was Ignaz Semmelweiss, in the 1840s, who proved it. He was largely ignored; doctors continued to proudly strut through the wards in blood-stained aprons. Louis Pasteur, France’s scientific titan, proved the fallacy of spontaneous generation, the belief that insect and other organisms “just happened,” arising from rotting meat or piles of rags or bad air or bad smells (miasmas). Their work and ideas came together in Joseph Lister, on whom Fitzharris concentrates as the tireless, even relentless promulgator of medical cleanliness, not only in England but in the U.S. as well. It wasn’t easy for him. Some doctors simply resented being told they’d been wrong; some refused to break with their (filthy) traditions; many refused to believe in germs because they couldn’t see them. There were campaigns against him, but Lister never gave up—and that’s why a good many of us are alive to read his story.—Bill Marsano is a writer and editor of 50 years’ experience.
Tangen More than 1 year ago
historical-places-events, medical, horror, nonfiction, surgery, infections ---------- If you thought battlefield surgery was brutal long before the present, hospital surgery and care was just as horrendous. In detailing the influences and motivations of the most influential doctor of the 19th century with regards to sepsis and antisepsis the reader is immersed in the horrors that comprised the hospital care of the day. If one is naive enough to believe that nosocomial infections are only a product of careless use of antibiotics today, this will set the record straight. It was a hard-won victory to convince such a hide bound profession to accept as truth what the microscope proved. Along the way the reader is given a glimpse of the judicial system and the horrors of the industrial revolution. Extremely well researched and graphically written. Two disclaimers: I have been a RN since 1968. Also, I had originally requested and received a free review copy via NetGalley, but was unable to sight read it. Recently I bought an audio copy and feel that Ralph Lister gave an exceptional audio performance as narrator. I also feel that his British accent is a definite plus.
IrregularReader More than 1 year ago
“Heroic medicine” is well named. Prior to the advent of anesthetics, patients were awake and aware for surgical procedures. The pain and horror of feeling a surgeon cutting into your body is something we now associate with a nightmare. Going through asurgery was nearly as likely to kill you as not receiving treatment at all. With the discovery of ether, surgeons no longer had to restrict their operations to procedures which could be completed in minutes. With the field of surgery becoming ever more ambitious, post-surgical infections became the chief danger to patients. In a time before germ theory was accepted, opinions and practices used to treat or prevent infections (laudable pus, anyone?) varied widely, and with little success. In the 1860s, Quaker surgeon Joseph Lister set about trying to determine scientifically the causes of post-surgical infections, and how to best prevent these deadly conditions. Lindsey Fitzharris gives us a great view of Victorian medical practice, and of the scientific and medical theories and traditions that made the prevention of nosocomial (hospital-induced) infections so difficult. The Butchering Art is both a history and a biography. The book earns a place next to The Knife Man by Wendy Moore (about contemporaneous surgeon John Hunter) and The Ghost Map by Stephen Johnson (about Dr. John Snow, who helped trace a cholera outbreak in London to a single water pump). Any history buff interested in the history of medicine will enjoy this book. More casual readers will likely also find this book to be entertaining and accessible. Beware though, Fitzharris provides several very accurate and vivid descriptions of Victorian-era surgeries, so the book is decidedly not for the faint of heart. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.