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A Brief History of Disease, Science and Medicine 1st Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0974946658
ISBN-10: 0974946656
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Editorial Reviews


"Although it is written primarily for an American audience, we could all learn from it. A unique book." -- Dr. JMT Ford, President of the Faculty, Diploma Course in the History of Medicine, Society of Apothecaries of London.

"Made me nostalgic for medical school...I very much enjoyed it and was reminded of things I once learned.." -- Sally Satel MD, Author of "PC MD. How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine"

"More than three decades of surgical practice and teaching are embedded in this wide-ranging book of historical reflections." -- C. Rollins Hanlon MD FACS, President of the American College of Surgeons 1969-86 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

The author is a retired surgeon who has taught interns, residents and medical students for 30 years. He now teaches first and second year students at the University of Southern California in a program called "Introduction to Clinical Medicine." The book developed from a series of lectures prepared by the author at the request of students. Medical history, which was once an integral part of the curriculum, is no longer taught in many medical schools. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Asklepiad Press; 1 edition (January 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0974946656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974946658
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Kennedy is a retired surgeon and amateur historian whose own book is listed on Amazon. Astronomy is another hobby and I have seen the 'sombrero' galaxy through a 16 inch telescope. Copernicus and Galileo are both prominent alumni of the medical school at Padua. Several years ago, with my daughter, I stood in the great hall of that institution beneath the busts of the two great men. The history of medicine and science will be enough to keep me busy for the next decade and I will be returning to the Mediterranean for more history this spring. I read four to five books a week and have them stacked everywhere in my home. I can't build bookcases fast enough to keep up.

That brief bio is almost ten years old now but the book is still selling and I appreciate every buyer. I still teach medical students and one of my students from 12 years ago had only a prepublication copy of the manuscript that I had given to students for their comments. He is now a professor in the department of surgery and I was able to give him a copy of the hard cover version from my small store of them. My travels have been curtailed but I have drafts of two other books on my computer and one of these days I will have one ready to publish. I have a series of lectures that I prepared for students, several of which cover topics that are not in the book. One is the medical history of the American Civil War. That one was given at the British Army Medical Corps headquarters, hence the reference to the "American" Civil War.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Brief this is not, but compared to some dry academic tomes it seems brief. University of Southern California professor Dr. Michael T. Kennedy has the all too rare gift of writing well which he combines with a passion for detail so that this history is packed with the bizarre, the fascinating, the arcane, and the all too often revolting facts of medical delusion, malpractice, and triumph that have characterized the long and tortured history of the healing arts.
Note well that this is a history not only of medicine and disease, but of science as well. The emphasis is on twentieth century developments, which is as it should be since so much has happened in recent times. This is not to say that the more distant past is neglected. Kennedy starts with the pre-history and follows the quest for health through Greek and Roman times to "The Rise of Islam and Arabic Medicine" (Chapter 5) with excursions into ayurvedic medicine (from India) and the traditional Chinese practices from antiquity. He even looks at European health, or the lack thereof, during the Dark and Middle Ages before the rise of science. When he gets to the modern or nearly modern era, Kennedy organizes less by chronology and more by subject matter. Some of the later chapters are about "Cardiac Surgery," "Transplantation," "Psychiatry," etc. I particularly liked the crisp way he dealt with psychoanalytic theory and the inefficacy of psychoanalysis.
Frankly, I don't know if there is anything else quite like this available.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Personally I always enjoy a historical book that actually discusses history and not some surgically altered history that only reports the things that went right. That is what you get with "A Brief History of Disease, Science & Medicine". Not only do you read about the great advances in medicine but also about the mistakes that were made along the way. Although the book was written with the first year medical student in mind it is easy enough to read and understand by those with only a passing knowledge of basic first aid. Perhaps one sentence from the Forward best describes the writing style - " has been written to be read, rather than studied."
Dr. Kennedy states that this book was not widely accepted by the academic presses and so was published independently. It is fairly obvious that one of the reasons this might be the case is his candid examination of the history of medicine. In an age when most practitioners of the medical profession seem to feel that they have perfect knowledge, Dr. Kennedy's book shows that they have often been wrong with tragic results. Take for instance the case of Ignaz Semmelweiss who worked in a hospital where there was a twenty-nine percent mortality rate for women giving birth. Through experimentation and deduction he came to believe that washing your hands between patients and after autopsies would cause this rate to drop. He ordered that hand washing would be done between patients and the rate of death dropped drastically. However, since he had not reason why it worked it was resisted, he eventually resigned (other historians have noted that he was forced to resign) and the doctors returned to their old habits and the old mortality rate.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is both an extremely ambitious and enormously entertaining history of the development of the medical treatment of human beings throughout the ages. It is ambitious in that the author attempts to survey the field from prehistory until the present day, and to do so in less than five hundred pages. The scope means that at times things of necessity have to be left out. For instance, the great story in science as a whole (and in medicine in particular) between classical antiquity and the early 17th century is the growth and eventual downfall of Aristotelianism, which provided the scientific background for nearly every branch of scientific endeavor during that time. Many of the key events of that story are briefly recounted, but many are not (e.g., allied discoveries by Galileo in astronomy that refuted Aristotelian assumptions). Still, given the limitations of space, this is an admirable treatment of the subject. To deal with every issue comprehensibly would have expanded dramatically the size of the book, which would have given the lie to the title. My one serious objection to the book is that the book does not have an overarching narrative structure. I'm not always sure what particular story is being told. Nonetheless, it is impossible to come away from the book without a far deeper appreciation for the remarkable journey medicine has undertaken over the centuries. It also makes me enormously grateful that I am alive today, and not in some previous century.
Above all, this is a fun, engaging, thoroughly entertaining book. Although the book sometimes veers towards the encyclopedic, the style at all times is anecdotal. The author loves his subject, and especially delights in the quirkier side of things.
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