From Publishers Weekly
Ostensibly a biography of Culpeper, who first translated Latin medical works into English in the 17th century, this book goes well beyond the life of one individual to document the transformation of medicine during one of the most traumatic periods in English history. Culpeper is best known today for Culpeper's Complete Herbal,
a comprehensive listing of English medicinal herbs along with directions on their use. Still in print after more than 350 years, the Herbal
is, in Woolley's words, "one of the most popular and enduring books in publishing history, perhaps the non-religious book in English to remain longest in continuous print." Emmy-winning British journalist Woolley (The Queen's Conjurer
) does a wonderful job of situating Culpeper (1616–1654) within the English civil war of the era. As he demonstrates, the politics associated with the creation of the medical profession were every bit as important as the science underlying specific treatments. Culpeper's lower-class, populist roots and sentiments are contrasted with those of William Harvey, a royalist and one of England's greatest scientists. As a member of the medical establishment, Harvey helped keep medical knowledge from the common people while Culpeper fought to do just the opposite. The book is enjoyable on many levels and in a time preoccupied with empowering patients and making information available on the Internet, this tale has particular resonance. 25 b&w illus.
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Once upon a time, in seventeenth-century London, there were doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries. The idea was that none should encroach upon the domain of the others. To cement that understanding, the influential College of Physicians engineered laws that would protect their turf and all but spell death to anybody too poor to visit a doctor. Along came a rebellious apothecary, Nicholas Culpeper, whose philosophy differed radically from that of most of his contemporaries. Feeling that people ought to be able to brew their own herbal remedies, he wrote The English Physitian
, better known as Culpeper's Complete Herbal
, "whereby a man preserve his Body in Health, or cure himself, being sick, for three pence charge, with such things only as grow in England." In a broad-stroke biography that embraces an entire era, Wooley paints a colorful portrait of Culpeper, often accorded a mere footnote in the annals of mainstream medical history, and dubs him the founder of modern alternative medicine. Donna ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved