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Diagnosing Giants: Solving the Medical Mysteries of Thirteen Patients Who Changed the World 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199937776
ISBN-10: 019993777X
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"[M]edical biographies provide a unique perspective on our heroes, reminding us of their human frailties. Retrodiagnosing, however, skirts all this agony. The 'patients' are long past helping, so the intellectual satisfaction of solving a diagnostic puzzle can be enjoyed without any of the pressure. It's the difference between reading a detective novel and doing real police work." --The Wall Street Journal


"Dr. Mackowiak is to be congratulated for making the CPC format enjoyable, educational, and thought-provoking for current and future physicians." --Clinical Infectious Diseases


About the Author


Philip A. Mackowiak is Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019993777X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199937776
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.8 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book and it turned out to be both more and in some ways less than anticipated. I was expecting some big surprises but was actually okay with the lack of them. The book is part history and part medical conjecture based on records, letters, some modern day tests and deductive reasoning by the author. It's a book that wanders gently through the years stopping to focus on various historical figures and the physical complaints that affected their lives and eventually the end of their lives. At times the medical terminology gets confusing, but overall the book was a fascinating and different approach to history and medicine. The author's final conclusion regarding the advances and limitations of medicine rang profoundly true.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really dislike writing an unfavorable review, but in this case I find that I really must. I am a retired medical professional, and I also have a Bachelor of Arts in History.

I am comfortable with the medical jargon, and there were relatively few typos. Riga Veda instead of Rig Veda. I'd also question the contention that John Paul Jones' raid up the Firth of Solway was the first foreign invasion of England in more than 700 years. The Spanish Armada? (along with numerous others.) I thought the cases were interesting, and he writes well, but. . .

In his chapter on Eleanor Roosevelt, he has FDR dying in March of 1945. It was April. He's old enough to know better. This could be checked quite easily with Doris Kearns Goodwins' "No Ordinary Time" which he cites as a source. It would take 5 seconds to Google it and check it. Someone should have caught this, but much worse is yet to come.

He states that Eleanor lost her father when she was 8 and her mother in the same year. He cites Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time" as his source. As soon as I read this, I knew it was wrong. I checked my copies of "No Ordinary Time" and that is NOT what Goodwin wrote. He completely bungled it. Anna Hall Roosevelt died when Eleanor was 8; her father, Elliott, died when Eleanor was 10. Goodwin does not give the actual dates, but you can find them easily: Anna Hall Roosevelt died on December 7, 1892, when Eleanor was 8. Elliott Roosevelt died on August 14, 1894. That is 20 months apart, not in the same year. Her 4-year-old brother, Ellie, also died in 1893, so in that 20-month period, Eleanor was orphaned and lost 1 of her 2 brothers.

I will grant you that he's not a historian, but slipshod research is slipshod research no matter the subject.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subject has great potential, but that potential is not realized in this book. The author spends far to much time delivering potted and questionable biography. His causes of deaths analyses are dry and unconvincing
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Format: Hardcover
Diagnosing Giants was a disappointment. In each chapter, without mentioning him by name, the author details the life of a "giant" of history. Then, after recounting the historical figure's death the author reveals the historical figure's identity. This is followed by a discussion of what killed the patient.

However, the revealing of identity of the patient is usually anti-climatic. For instance in the chapter on Lincoln, the reader knows the "patient" is Lincoln by the very first paragraph. Also, usually the manner of death is clear cut (e.g. Lincoln was shot in the head).

The book is further weakened because, medical terms, like pleurisy, that a layman might already understand are explained, while long and unfamiliar terms are often not defined.

Occasionally, in the narrative there is an interesting discussion of alternate diagnoses or sharing of unique historical information, but there is not enough of either to merit giving Diagnosing Giants more than three stars.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a retired teacher of Anatomy and Physiology, I wish that I had this book earlier. Presenting medical symptoms like a mystery would have intrigued my students.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even if you simply like science and investigations of difficult to solve problems....easy reading, good book to read a bit at a time or all at once if you wish.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daughter, a physician, was given a copy as a Christmas gift, so I read it while she was visiting. It was so fascinating that I recommended it to yet another daughter, a science teacher, who recommended it to some of her colleagues. It does require some scientific and historical knowledge, but it would make a great teaching device for advanced biology and/or pre-med students. In addition, I suspect that some smug MD's would find it humbling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very well written and convincing. Scientifically sound and thoroughly researched. Not some crazy conspiracies, but real medical science. The chapter on the Buddha especially informative.
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