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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A steampunky mix of science, history, and politics
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...
Published on February 26, 2011 by Jeremy B. Yoder

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Sheeps blood for your health!
The book does a workmanlike job of covering the blood-transfusion controversies and fallouts from the mid-1600s. I did learn many new things on the topic, and would recommend that segment of the book for background information on the subject. The complex interaction between English and French scientists, private vs. government sponsorship, and the poisonous lengths some...
Published 14 days ago by B. Rice


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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A steampunky mix of science, history, and politics, February 26, 2011
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable true story of history, science and conspiracy, April 27, 2011
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.

Once the story gets going, however, it is practically impossible to stop reading. Events rapidly gain momentum, and history rushes towards a dark finale that comes to seem almost inevitable. As I said, though, there is a dark secret behind the publicly-known story, and Professor Tucker manages to extract that secret from the historical records. The revelations those records contain are quite amazing, so much so that it is hard to believe that the story is not fictional! When the full scope of the events, and their consequences for medical progress are grasped, the history in fact becomes a tragedy.

There is one other caveat worth mentioning. The story of early blood transfusion is also the story of animal experimentation, centuries before anyone seriously considered the feelings of animals -- and long before anesthesia. The description of experiments on animals (again, essential to understanding the story) is not for the squeamish.

That being said, by the end of the book I was completely transfixed by the tale that was being told. Holly Tucker's Blood Work shares an amazing story with great dexterity, and is well-worth reading.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable true crime mystery, March 1, 2011
By 
Amazon Customer (Nashville, Tennessee) - See all my reviews
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!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Page-Turner, February 28, 2011
By 
Randi Epstein (New York, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 17th Century Tapestry, February 24, 2011
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating, April 14, 2012
This book was enthralling! Being a life science teacher I know a lot about the workings of the blood, but I knew absolutely nothing about the history of the discovery of the workings of the blood. I picked up this book not really knowing what it was about except that it dealt with the scientific revolution. What a wonderful experience I had reading this book. It is one of those books that you read and you cannot stop telling other people about it, recommending it to them before you have even finished it yourself!
There is so much fascinating information here about the way science was viewed in 17th century Europe and how their view of science shaped the politics and history of the two great nations of England and France. I was stunned by how much I did not know about science's early history and how much fun it was to learn it from this book. And the way this book is written is great! The author blends so much history into an engrossing tale that reads like a historical novel at times. This is really wonderful stuff. You will not regret reading this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars, June 8, 2011
By 
CentralCaliGrrrl (Atascadero, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker is meticulously researched and retold in a way that sucks the reader right in. While the subject matter is itself very interesting, the fabulous writing by Ms. Tucker raises it to an even more impressive level. With her extensive education and experience, I feel that there is no one better to bring us this true tale of life and death than Holly Tucker.

I very much enjoyed the religion versus science debate. With regards to the current stem-cell research controversy, it's clear that the old adage is still true: Those that don't learn from history are bound to repeat it. Often with seriously negative consequences.

Great surprise ending! I thought I knew what the outcome was going to be, but I admit I was fooled. I never would have guessed who the real culprit(s) was. And it was a happy ending of sorts. I was worried that Denis would be punished for trying to help others. Although Denis did want fame and fortune, he was able to affect others in a positive fashion, especially with his last, and greatest invention.

Even though some parts made me feel a little bit squeamish, this book is by no means gruesome -- just intriguing. Blood Work is a terrific read and should be considered a must for anyone interested in medical history.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page-tuner, February 28, 2011
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Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution

From the gorgeous cover to the fascinating story inside, I couldn't put this book down. I couldn't believe how much I learned from Blood Work, while also being completely drawn in. I knew a little bit about the Scientific Revolution before I started reading, but not a lot. Tucker really made me feel like I was there. I could really see, hear and even smell what the 17th century was like. (It doesn't smell nice!) What I loved most, though, were the unexpected characters. I expected the big guys like kings and men like Robert Boyle. What I just loved were the people that we'd never know anything about if Holly Tucker hadn't dug them out of the archives: madmen who run through the streets of Paris naked, bitter widows and delusional pirates. And the last chapter is stunning. It all comes together like the best Sherlock Holmes story. And the epilogue tells us why we should care about it all in the modern age of stem cell research.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood Works, January 8, 2012
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Great book on how the first blood transfusions were performed. Holly Tucker is a wonderful story teller. Worth the read!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Medical History with Questions for Today, June 18, 2011
By 
C. Wong "Book worm" (Plano, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution is a thoroughly researched and richly illustrated early history of blood transfusions.

The writing is clear and easy to understand. I had no trouble following the history. It is written as if the author was directly telling you the story.

In the Epilogue, Holly Tucker explains why she wanted to write this book. There were two reasons but the important one to me was George W. Bush's State of the Union in 2006. He wanted a ban on "animal human stem cell research". I have never forgotten his words.

Stem cell research is a controversial subject, there were fears of human cloning, animal human hybrids and all of this is tied up with political, ethical and religious concerns. The same fears surrounding stem cell research used to envelop blood transfusion research long ago

Holly Tucker takes us through the history of blood transfusions to discuss this question. The knowledge of transfusions started with animal transfusions. At one point, the French Parliament banned all transfusions. What made them decide to do that? What if the researchers had given up? What was the important mystery connected to that decision?

Why did England and France participate in a blood transfusion race similar to the space race between United States and Russia?

There are some gruesome experiments involving dogs and other animals and even humans but the fact is that they are the history of the blood transfusions. Without them, the author would not be able to give a full and truthful account.

I highly recommend this book to those interested in medical history and those who debate whether some medical research is immoral and should be prevented.

I received this book from the author but that did not influence my review, my thoughts are my own.
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Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution
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