Blood Work and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution Hardcover – March 21, 2011

45 customer reviews

See all 12 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$2.99 $1.32

The Upright Thinkers by Leonard Mlodinow
The Upright Thinkers by Leonard Mlodinow
A book for science lovers and for anyone interested in creative thinking and in our ongoing quest to understand our world. Learn more | See similar books

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tucker, associate professor in Vanderbilt University's Center for Medicine, Health and Society, does a marvelous job of chronicling the 17th-century controversy pitting science against religion and shows how much of the language used then against the new technique of blood transfusion mirrors language used today against stem cell research and cloning. In 1667, building on work done in England, Jean-Baptiste Denis, a self-promoting young Frenchman, transfused lamb's blood into a human. His work angered many, including those who believed that the soul was housed in the blood and transfusion was blasphemous; others who clung to bloodletting as a treatment rather than blood transfusions; and those protecting their own scientific reputations from an unknown upstart. When Denis's second transfused patient died suddenly, Denis was accused of murder. Exploring the charge, Tucker unearths compelling evidence that the patient was murdered—by a cabal attempting to discredit Denis. The affair halted all experiments in blood transfusion for 150 years. Tucker's sleuthing adds drama to an utterly compelling picture of Europe at the moment when modern science was being shaped. B&w illus. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Holly Tucker does an incredible job of bringing the history of blood transfusion to life with harrowing immediacy, spinning a tale of blood, ambition, and murder so gripping that it reads with novelistic intensity. She also reminds us that science itself has a history, that the discipline which we trust to explain our world can also be bound up in the prejudices and assumptions of our own time. Anyone with a taste for historical intrigue will devour Blood Work, just as I did. (Katherine Howe, New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane)

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393070557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393070552
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Holly Tucker is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University, where she holds appointments in the Center for Medicine, Health & Society and the Department of French & Italian. Holly teaches courses on the history of medicine as well as courses on French history and culture.

Her writing has appeared in the New Scientist, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Journal, among others. Holly is also the author of Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine & Murder in the Scientific Revolution (Norton, March 2011), and edits the general history website Wonders & Marvels.

Join Holly on her Facebook author page ( or on Twitter (

Holly's Upcoming Events:

Research Triangle Park, NC
-January 13-15, 2011 - Science Online 2011

-March 2, 2011 - Thinking Out of the Lunch Box series, Nashville Public Library (Main)

New York (March)
-March 23, 2011 - CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
-March 23, 2011 - New York Academy of Medicine

-March 30, 2011 - University of Illinois at Chicago
-March 30, 2011 - Newberry Library (Chicago)

-March 31, 2011 - Authors@HSLC (Madison)
-March 31, 2011 - Department of French & Italian (Madison-TBD)
-April 1, 2011 - History of Science Brownbag (Madison)

-April 3, 2011 - International Museum of Surgical Science

Knoxville, TN
-April 8, 2011 - University of Tennessee-Knoxville

-April 14, 2011 - Harvard University

New York (April)
-April 29, 2011, 8:00pm - Observatory (New York)
-April 29-May 1, 2011 - American Society of Journalists and Authors (New York)

College Park, MD
-May 6-7, 2011 - Blood Work conference, University of Maryland

-May 12, 2011 - Berman Institute for Bioethics/Institute for the History of Medicine (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore)

Richmond, VA
-May 13, 2011 - Book signing, Fountain Bookstore

Nashville, TN
-October 14-16, 2011 - 2011 Southern Festival of Books

-Date TBA: Harvard University Renaissance Seminar

Salt Lake City
-Date TBA: Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities (University of Utah)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy B. Yoder on February 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Who'd have guessed that some of the earliest experiments in therapeutic blood transfusion date to the seventeenth century, or that they were performed not between humans but from animals to humans--or that this actually seemed to work?

These are the bare facts of the story Holly Tucker tells in Blood Work, a novelistic mix of history, science, and the politics of Enlightenment-era Europe. Tucker describes how some of the founding Fellows of Britain's Royal Society began transfusion experiments, sparking a scientific race with rivals in France. And then the race was abandoned almost as quickly as it began, when an ambitious French physician's patient died under mysterious circumstances.

Tucker builds her tale from primary documents and illuminates it with beautiful period illustrations. Blood Work is not a long book--I finished most of it on a cross-country flight--but it's dense with detail. It's entertaining history of science, but it also has surprising resonance for today's debates over stem cell and genetic engineering technologies. If you like history, or science--or if you're a fan Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver and its sequels, you should check out Blood Work.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By GJ GBUR on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Blood Work tells the true story of the first animal-to-human blood transfusions, performed in the 1660s in England and Europe. These culminated in 1667 in Paris with a series of experiments performed by the rogue physician Jean-Baptiste Denis; the subject of the experiments was an infamous madman who was plucked from the streets against his will. Though the transfusions initially seemed successful, within days the madman had died, and the ensuing political fallout resulted in the suspension of all such studies for some 200 years. Most surprising, at the heart of the story is a conspiracy -- and Denis' opponents had no scruples against committing murder for the "greater good".

The book is delightfully written and painstakingly researched. Professor Tucker does an excellent job making the world of 17th century England and France come alive, and pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the machinations of the elite politicians, scientists and nobles of the era. There were strong religious and scientific concerns about the safety of transfusions, and these concerns rather ironically mirror the modern fears about "human-animal hybrids" created by genetic engineering. Denis ended up bucking the medical establishment (some of whose members were planning their own experiments) and made powerful enemies in the process; his stubbornness would quickly catch up with him.

The earlier chapters of Blood Work will possibly be a bit slow-going to some readers. There is a lot of history behind the critical events of the book, primarily the medical studies that preceded said events. This background material is essential to the narrative, but is not quite as compelling as the latter parts of the book.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've been hearing so much early press on this book--so decided to give it a shot. It's amazing to me how well Tucker weaves fascinating details about the first blood transfusion experiments into a very readable "who done it" mystery. It's a true story that reads like a mystery novel--think Eric Larson's Devil in the White City. Loved Blood Work and would recommend it!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Monotreme on February 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution

Holly Tucker's Blood Work is a masterful weaving of medical science and history into an eminently readable and approachable work of rare beauty.

I must confess I resisted reading this book, because in general I'm not a lover of historical drama, either in books or film. But Tucker managed to create a compelling narrative, using the friction between the conservative "Parisian" school of medicine, the upstart "Montpellier" school, and their common enemy, the hated British.

The warp and woof of this story are the politics of world domination, going one way, and the advances in scientific knowledge that connect the Renaissance to the Enlightenment running the other direction.

Tucker describes in detail the nasty, brutish and short human and animal lives that contributed to a now-forgotten scientific advance, the first blood transfusions. These "experiments" (not really resembling anything that happens in a modern scientific lab) exploded the conventional wisdom of the time and yet somehow did not really replace the ancient model of bodily humors with anything better. The mysterious death of Antoine Mauroy begins and ends this gripping narrative.

I recommend this book highly.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Randi Epstein on February 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Tucker's Blood Work is a gripping murder mystery that brings us back to 17th century Paris, including the "snake-oiler dealers and charlatans, switch-and-bait artists, street actors, and bevies of other shady characters." These first blood transfusion experiments and the uproar that ensued sound remarkably similar to today's stem cell debates. A must read for anyone who likes a good detective story and anyone who wants to understand the impact of health on society, then and now. (As an aside, the Parisian setting makes for such a colorful back drop).
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Want to discover more products? Check out this page to see more: hematology