- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (February 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316225797
- ISBN-13: 978-0316225793
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Man Who Touched His Own Heart: True Tales of Science, Surgery, and Mystery
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"These true stories about the heart pulsate with information and intrigue."―Tony Miksanek, Booklist (starred review)
"This delightful book is a page-turner, whose pulse never slows. In Dunn's hands, the evolution and history of the human heart is as engrossing, surprising, and vital as the heart itself."―Dan Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and author of The Story of the Human Body
"Dunn's books are always lively, informative, and full of fascinations, but The Man Who Touched His Own Heart is especially so, because he goes straight to the little-known history, medicine, and heart of our most symbolic organ."―Diane Ackerman, author of The Human Age
"A perfect mix of science, history and biology, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart is a delightful page-turner that reminds us of all that we have learned by standing on the shoulders of giants. Dunn recognizes the importance of historical and comparative perspectives -- historical in terms of our intellectual ancestors, and more broadly in terms of our evolutionary history."―Charles Nunn, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health at Duke University and author of The Evolution of Sleep
"These true stories about the heart pulsate with information and intrigue. Meshing medical history, biography, physiology, and evolutionary science, biologist Dunn scrutinizes a living pump that is simultaneously strong and vulnerable."―Tony Miksanek, Booklist
"We've all got to have heart, and Rob Dunn's wonderful book will help us have a better one. Or at the very least, it will help us be more informed about the heart we have, with its peculiar history and its fragile yet sturdy operation. Over the course of two billion beats, hearts break and are mended, and Dunn is there to chronicle their stories. In a gripping style, he shows us how our hearts are linked to those of ancient Egyptians, chimpanzees and lungfish, and how these linkages help us solve the modern heart's mysteries."―Marlene Zuk, Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota and author of Paleofantasy
"The Man Who Touched His Own Heart is a captivating journey through the history of the human heart. Author Rob Dunn weaves a fascinating tale of the science and humanism that underlie how mankind has worked to understand and control our most vital organ."―Aaron Baggish, Associate Director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center
"Dunn reminds us that the heart remains a fascinating, far-from-understood organ with an incredible biologic and cultural history.... A clear, engaging account of the heart's long and gruesome history.... Dunn is an impressive storyteller."―Bret Stetka, Slate
"An encounter with Rob Dunn can change the way you look at the world. Dunn is a modern day explorer who fearlessly and humbly ventures into the unknown. In his latest book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, Dunn brings his scientific curiosity, humanity, and uncanny eye for a good story to what many have called "the seat of our souls." In Dunn's telling, the human heart is an entrée to understand our basic biology, our connections to other animals on our planet and, even, one of the greatest scientific frontiers."―Neil H. Shubin, Senior Advisor to the President and Robert R. Bensley Distinguished Service Professor of Anatomy at the University of Chicago
"Fascinating.... [An] enticing weave of biography, social history and heart-related scientific drama.... Dunn's book is a great contribution to our understanding of the lifelong work of our beating hearts."―Alden Mudge, BookPage
"In this story of one of the body parts I worry about most, Rob Dunn brings the skills of a great writer and the knowledge of a fine evolutionary biologist together in the form of a gripping drama that gallops across thousands of years and from graveyard to surgical theatre to modern doctor's office. In the process Dunn sheds light not just on our own hearts but also those of all of the other animals with which we share Earth."―Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of The Population Bomb and Hope on Earth
"A suspense-filled account of error and discovery, peopled with creative and obsessive scientists, daring and compassionate doctors, inventors, improvisers and experts in odd things, including fungus, pollution and mummies.... Dunn combines his knowledge of scientific method with his impressive narrative powers to reveal the personal and scientific drama behind our understanding of the heart.... Dunn's great strength is his breadth of vision.... By the end of this expansive book, Dunn's readers will find in their hearts a deep sense of connectedness to the plants and animals of our magnificent planet, and they'll owe Dunn a heartfelt thanks for leaving us so enriched."―Elizabeth Dreesen, The News & Observer
"Dunn paints a detailed picture of the myriad ways our hearts can break and the men and women brave enough to try putting them back together."―Brenda Poppy, Discover
The Man Who Touched His Own Heart has "page-turning detail that at times reads more like a novel than nonfiction."―Leslie Barker, Dallas Morning News
A "fascinating book on the mysteries of the human heart.... Rob Dunn's The Man Who Touched His Own Heart shows that the organ's complexities extend beyond the science."―Sam Kean, Wall Street Journal
"The writing in this book is clear and understandable.... An extensive collection of medical anecdotes and fascinating history.... I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the heart, in medical history, or in dramatic and improbable stories from the field of medicine."―Yevgeniya Nusinovich, Science
"From the tale of the African American doctor in a poor hospital who first dared pierce a beating heart with a surgical needle, Rob Dunn's stirring chronicle of the triumphs and tragedies that have informed our fragile understanding of the heart beats with the energy and emotion worthy of his subject."―Jamie Shreeve, Science Editor at National Geographic
"With the engaging prose that has become his trademark, Dunn plumbs the depths of the heart, through the eyes of the ancients, early researchers, and contemporary scientists."―Bob Grant, The Scientist
An "entertaining history of cardiac research and treatment."―Publishers Weekly
"A lively, sometimes humorous, and very helpful book."―Terri Schlichenmeyer, Naples Daily News
"The account is brisk and accessible...knowledge hoarders will relish Dunn's vivid historical scenes and explanations of cutting-edge research, not to mention the lifeblood pumping through them: the author's enthusiasm."―Brian Howe, The Independent Weekly
About the Author
Rob Dunn is a professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University. He is the author of The Wild Life of Our Bodies and Every Living Thing, and his magazine work is published widely, including in National Geographic, Natural History, New Scientist, Scientific American, and Smithsonian. He has a PhD from the University of Connecticut and was a Fulbright Fellow. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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Top Customer Reviews
The tales are especially clever at pointing out how a scientist’s personal life facilitated his work. A good example is the renowned medical scientist Galen, who was born in AD 129 and was the first person to take a patient’s pulse and use it as a gauge of health. Galen was a physician to gladiators, and their gruesome wounds enabled him to see the internal workings of the human circulatory system almost 2000 years before modern imaging techniques allowed less invasive peeks into our inner workings. In another chapter I was intrigued by Dunn’s hypothesis of the influence of the parents of Argentinian doctor Rene Favaloro, a founder of bypass surgery, on their son. Favaloro’s mother was a seamstress and his father a artful carpenter, and Dunn describes him as operating “with a carpenter’s strength and a seamstress’s subtlety.”
Author Rob Dunn is not a physician or a physiologist but an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at North Carolina State University, and I think the book benefits tremendously from this broader perspective. He does not limit his attention to humans but also describes the insights we have gained from other animals, ranging from chimpanzees, whose hearts are so similar to ours that in 1964 a chimpanzee heart was transplanted successfully into a human patient, to the lowly sponge, which has the simplest circulation system of any living organism. We even learn that cannibals might be expected to be at a slightly lower risk of atherosclerosis than other meat-eating humans, although Dunn does not suggest research to test this possibility.
As Dunn points out, one of the reasons heart disease is considered such a modern problem is that in earlier times most people simply did not live long enough to get it. He comments, “May your children live long enough to worry about heart disease.” And may there always be scientists like the ones he describes who will be looking for better ways to treat and prevent it.
This is an engaging book. Readers who liked The Emperor of All Maladies or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will enjoy this one. It is well written, very readable, and flows as well as a novel.
Dunn starts with the first heart surgery in 1893 (and actually an unpublished one in 1891) and why the heart had not been touched before that. He takes us back to Galen, physician to gladiators, observer of human anatomy and prolific writer. We then travel through the Dark Ages, DaVinci and the age of knowledge and beauty, then Vesalius and his anatomy studies.
We read of Forssmann, the first man to insert a tube up a vein in his own arm, pushing it until it reached his right atrium, the first man to touch his own heart. (1929) Surgeons in Germany thought the act outlandish and Forssmann was relegated to ordinary and obscure medical work. Americans pursued the technique, however. He must have been shocked when he, along with two American doctors, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1956.
Dunn continues with the development of the heart-lung machine, pacemaker, transplant experiments, artificial heart, finding that atherosclerosis is ancient, bypasses, angioplasty, the role of cholesterol, the tetrology of Fallot operation, hibernation and longevity, and the future.
This is a very interesting book. I was amazed at how recent effective heart treatment is, basically in my own lifetime. Well written and very informative, I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of heart treatment.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.