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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book until the last breakthrough
This is a strong book and could have been a great one.

The basic idea is to outline how the ten greatest medical breakthroughs came about and the impact each of them had on humanity. Queijo is a fine writer and has a good eye for just how much detail he can include without losing the attention of non-scientists. In fact, I think this book can be read by people...
Published on November 15, 2010 by Jeff

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72 of 90 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nine Breakthroughs and a Breakdown
The author describes what he believes are the 10 greatest discoveries in medicine that have saved millions, etc. 9 of them are uncontroversial discoveries that have been on other top-10 lists, but his 10th choice is one that no other list of top discoveries has ever included. He realizes that, and even admits in his introduction that a former editor of The New England...
Published on April 20, 2010 by Harriet Hall


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Layman's Resource, October 20, 2010
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Motley Wisdom (Southern California USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Breakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World (FT Press Science) (Kindle Edition)
I am a layman when it comes to science and medicine. That is why I thoroughly enjoyed and was informed by this book. It speaks of important medical history in language and style that a person like me can understand. It may be too simplistic for those in the field, and some reviewers think it wrong that he included a chapter on alternative medicine, which may be threatening to some, but I don't know how a serious author could just ignore the topic. It was an interesting and enlightening book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Read, August 27, 2014
Reading expands one’s mind and can cause one to be mindful. I was aware that I lived in an age where it is easy to take one’s health for granted – most infections are relatively minor, research and discoveries are honored, sanitation (in America) is an expectation to the point of being a “personal right.” In such an environment, it is important to be reminded of how those assumptions (and many others) came to be possible. This book opened doors I was unaware were closed and answered questions that had been of a nagging nature but knew not what to ask.
The book is divided into ten chapters and epilogue. Each chapter addresses the ten most important discoveries of medicine, as determined by polls taken by the British Medical Journal and Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control. Each chapter is well researched and amazingly brief considering the material covered in each segment. Moving from the invention of medicine (chapter 1), to Sanitation (2), germs (3), anesthesia (4), x-rays (5), vaccines (6), antibiotics (7), Heredity, Genetics DNA (8), Drugs for Mental Illness (9) and the “Re-discovery” of alternative medicine, the author gives a thorough overview of each discovery. I found myself highlighting much of each chapter as the facts were somehow apparent but surprising.
Of all the “ah HA!” moments I found in this book, the largest came early in the book. Sanitation ranks second behind the discovery of medicine (Hippocrates was the first to use disciplined methods to treat the sick) as the most important medical discovery. Having a clean environment keeps disease from: forming, spreading, evolving, etc. Sanitation is a relatively recent concept and is still a foreign idea in many parts of the world. What struck me the most about this discovery is the reality that history is repeating itself; sanitation was discovered to be hugely beneficial and we are becoming increasingly aware of how unsanitary we are making our entire environment.
This is not the kind of book one will read in one setting, but it is one any self-respecting “useless facts” Geek will refer to with frequency. I will use this book while preparing for my next big Trivial Pursuit tourney.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Strange "Milestone" Presentation Detracts From Educational and Entertainment Value, July 18, 2011
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Author Queijo has collected a vast amount of information about the scientific discoveries that preceded, or were loosely connected to, important changes in medicine (the "breakthroughs"). The ten major chapters address the discovery of medicine itself (Hippocrates), sanitation, germs, anesthesia, X-rays, vaccines, antibiotics, heredity and genetics, drugs for treating mental illness, and alternative medicine.

All are interesting topics, and Queijo writes reasonably well. But the presentation of the book is very strange. Each chapter includes (1) general discussion about the topic; (2) lengthy factoids, anecdotal stories about strange cases, or speculative musings by the author, all printed in italics; and (3) bold-face, PowerPoint-like subtopics (with discussion) called "Milestones".

The "Milestones" are puzzling, to say the least. First, the subtopic titles don't identify what each "Milestone" actually is. For example, in the chapter on the discovery of X-rays, "Milestone #2" is "A one-year firestorm and those 'naughty, naughty' rays". Second, the discussion of each "Milestone" often does not discuss a "milestone" as the word is generally defined (i.e., a significant event or stage in the development of something). In the X-ray chapter example, "Milestone #2" talks about the reaction of the public and the scientific community, as reported in newspapers and research papers, to the sensational, astounding discovery of rays that can "peek" under clothing and photograph the interior of the human body and other objects. Perhaps a year of media attention can be seen as a "stage" in the history of X-rays, but it hardly is significant enough to deserve a "milestone" label. All important discoveries gain a lot of media attention.

What the "Milestone" presentation does, is allow the author to find a place in his book, somewhere, for every single medical fact or anecdote that he has uncovered and found to be interesting. To this author, absolutely everything is interesting, no matter how marginally related it is to the topic that is supposedly under discussion. This lack of selectiveness seriously detracts from the educational and entertainment value of the book. Reading it, I was constantly reminded of the old PBS show, "Connections", which unabashedly presented a lightning-fast series of anecdotes about discoveries that had led to other discoveries in other fields that were almost totally unrelated to the field of the original discovery.

Although I generally enjoy reading books that popularize the history of science, I found this one confusing and unsatisfying. For that reason, I rate it at 2 stars, even though the collection of medical history facts and anecdotes and the extensive bibliography are impressive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Invention of Medicine., March 23, 2011
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Jon Queijo writes about the "breakthroughs of medicine" that probably saved you or your loved ones' life at some point--when you consider the breakthroughs include everything from Hippocrates to alternative medicines.

I found the parts on germ theory and sanitation especially interesting. It is said that President James Garfield did not die as a result of the assassination attempt but by the doctors constantly probing (with dirty instruments as well as their dirty hands) the wound to try to find the bullet. I'm sure the doctors wouldn't have looked at that way, but they also didn't seem to feel the need to wash up between patients, thus spreading disease and infection.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis discovered this fact during his time spent in a maternity ward. He studied two maternity wards. One maternity ward had all babies delivered by physicians. In the other maternity ward, all babies were delivered by midwives. The maternity ward where the physicians worked had 3 to 5 times the amount of maternal death of the midwives' maternity ward. And women that delivered at home were unlikely to contract childbed fever. It took the death of his friend, Professor Kolletschka, for Dr. Semmelweis to realize the higher incidence of childbed fever in the doctor-delivered maternity ward was caused by the doctors actually introducing the infection into the woman's body. He had the doctors start using a chlorine solution to wash their hands after they had examined a cadaver and before they examined pregnant women. This made the doctor-delivered maternity ward's death rate to become lower than the midwives' delivery facility.

Many people have problems with the last chapter, which deals with alternative medicine. I don't see why it should be considered a "breakthrough" because alternative medicine has been around for many years. This chapter does not seem to be as well researched as the previous nine chapters. It may be because there has not been a wealth of research on alternative medicine. I didn't have a problem with this chapter as I have used alternative medical treatments in my life and have received benefits from them. I would have liked to see a little more documentation to back up the claims.I would have given the book five stars, but the last chapter was not as good as the previous nine chapters.

The book is well written and researched (except perhaps chapter ten). You don't need to have a medical dictionary at your side to understand and enjoy this book, which is a major plus. It's a quick read. I would recommend it to anyone wishing to know more about medical breakthroughs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars very insightful including the 10th chapter, January 4, 2011
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This review is from: Breakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World (FT Press Science) (Kindle Edition)
Very well written and entertaining book about the evolution of the medical science. It gives not only the historic review, but also a greater perspective on human nature, how we make mistakes and endeavor despite critics. Certainly recommended to everyone.

I think that critics of the 10th chapter about the success of the alternative medicine have missed the point. Nowhere the author claims that homeopathy or other types of quackery are working. In fact, he clearly says that they don't but that there is a reason for their popularity, namely, that the medicine of the western world is forgetting that its primary focus is on the patient, not disease. We have become enamored by technological advances that they are no use if the mental state of a patient is aimed towards destruction. It is time to consider wider perspective and holistic systems is a good source for new ideas.

Otherwise it is hard to explain why the United States with the most advanced medical technology and spending more money per patient than any other country is lagging behind in actual medical care. Countries with national health care like Canada or UK are actually doing better with less money. Withing this wider understanding a nationalized health care could save many lives and improve general well-being and be actually cheaper.

There are also an interesting controversy about obesity which has become endemic in certain parts of the world. Gaury Taubs argues that the regular recommendations of eating less and exercising more do not seem to work because doctors are missing greater perspective of what really drives people to eat certain amount of calories. Most doctors do not even care because it is so easy to say that it is a patient's fault for not following the regiment. However, this could be compared to AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa where many authorities try to deal with the problem by recommending abstaining from sex, instead of providing condoms. It is necessary to invent a "condom" against obesity because abstinence (from sex or food) may work in some individual cases but not in general. This is another case when greater focus on a patient and not only on a disease would be very beneficial.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, September 15, 2010
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Reminiscent in many ways of the Connections book and series by James Burke, this book pulls together the threads of discovery creating modern medicine into a mostly coherent whole. The discoveries and events which have created modern medicine did not occur overnight, or in most cases, over decades. There are numerous citations and references listed in the back of the book.

I was rather disappointed in the inclusion of "alternative medicine" or CAM as a breakthrough, since many of the schools of thought mentioned were old before Hippocrates was born. The scientific method, which was pointed out time and time again showing that a theory was correct, is glossed over by comments which explained that because treatments are so personalized, it is dificult or impossible to compare CAM to allopathic (modern) medicine. I know numerous physicians who use the same arguments, "My patients are different", as to why they should not have to follow a protocol yet treat all of their patients the same for a condition.

One glaring mis-statement that I found, was in the chapter on CAM which stated that "For example, in 2008 (NCCAM), released results from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) which showed that in 2007, half of all Americans-- 38% of adults and 12% of children-- used some form of CAM". Huh? not even close to true, as can be seen by reversing the statement: 62% of adults and 88% of children did NOT use some form of CAM.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting and Approachable, August 17, 2010
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This review is from: Breakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World (FT Press Science) (Kindle Edition)
I read the entire book (not just a preview as other reviewers did) and enjoyed it immensely. The author was able to take normally dry-as-dust information and make it very readable and approachable for all ages from YA up, and for those who have no medical background or knowledge. The breakthroughs listed were all very insightful, and the background given on each was detailed and informative without being stoodgy or an information overload. The 10th chapter, on alternative medicine appears somewhat controversial, but it is still very interesting reading. It also provides a real-life example of the human stubbornness, close-mindedness, and adversion to change that made all the prior 9 breakthroughs have to wait years, decades, even generations, before they were accepted. An excellent, easy read, and highly recommended for anyone looking for a little insight on how medicine has changed peoples' lives through history. Incidentally, what breakthroughs to list were not determined by the author, but by a general poll, where the 11,000+ responses were broken down to a 'top 15' and then to a 'top 10' (this is explained in some detail in the introduction/preface).
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4.0 out of 5 stars medical discoveries, August 8, 2011
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It seems that all great discoveries (medical and otherwise), have a story behind them which reveals the discovery to be part hard work, part inspiration, and part luck. This is the story of ten medical discoveries, and the stories of their discovery. Queijo provides the backstories for X-rays, sanitation, penicillin, genetics, vaccines, and of course, the discovery of medicine itself. Each chapter discusses the life saving effects of the discovery, and tells of it's emergence. While the book is well written and the narrative holds together very well, the chapters are divided into somewhat disparate milestones, each of which tells of another step forward until the final culmination of the medical breakthrough. I would have personally preferred a contiguous narrative, but that is personal preference, the book holds together very well, and is very enjoyable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely informative . . ., November 30, 2010
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. . . and written for the reasonably informed layman.

"Breakthrough" is at once a look at the history of medicine as well as personal accounts of the individuals who discovered and/or created these breakthroughs.

Any book of this sort will be somewhat subjective, but the author has succeeded in promoting a list of 10 breakthrough moments in medical history -- and most people would probably agree with most of the list.

Item: Hippocrates, and the foundation for the basis of modern medicine.

Item: The germ theory and the discovery of antiseptics.

Item: Smallpox and the discovery/invention of the vaccine.

Item: The discovery of the X-ray.

Item: The discovery of anesthesia.

Item: The discovery of antibiotics.

And the list goes on . . .

Highly recommended!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great expository read, October 25, 2012
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I love reading articles about science and medicine, especially medical history, so I was excited to read "Breakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World." I am definitely not an expert, and this book is extremely readable for the scientific layperson. It's broken into sections (each great 'discovery') and within each of those there are several sub-sections; the organization of the book reminds me of a timeline, which I really enjoyed/appreciated. It's not a piece of nonfiction that you have to read start to finish, in order; you can jump around and read everything in whatever order you want. A great book to have by the bed or in the bathroom.
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