Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cunningham, Andrew (2007): The Making of Modern Medicine (BBC Radio Collection)

What is it about?

While not a book but a radio series, the book covers - as the title aptly suggests - the development of medical know-how, theory, treatment and medicine (or "drugs") from the Hippocratic times until around 1970 when the first organ transplants were more or less successfully performed.

The series consists of 30 episodes, each focusing on a theme (e.g. th egerm theory of disease, or the discovery and early use of antibiotics), and running for about 15 minutes. The episodes are "slightly dramatized" (e.g. re-enacing a historical dialogue or a speech), but not to a disturbing degree.

Was it good?

I really liked the series and especially the clear thematical arrangement (i.e. an episode per theme), in contrast to a general timeline in which things are interwoven in a complex way.

Perhaps a more "scholarly style" would have been to my linking (c.f. e.g. the lecture series by The Teaching Company of Modern Scholar), but the "slightly dramatized" style made some quite plesant and easy-to-follow listening.

The main take-away for me?

As with so many similar historical accounts, I was once again reminded of how much we (or at least I) take for granted - e.g. that diseases are transmitted by germs, or that the heart circulates blood in veins - that was at its time quite controversial and required a lot of work by very bright people to be established as factual knowledge. Corespondingly, I kept wondering, what people, say, 100 years from know take for granted that we are completely unaware as of today.

Who should read the book?

This series is quite umabiguously of general interest, and should appeal to basically everyone. Moreover, the subject matter is presented in a very accessible manner.

The collection on the BBC website: The making of modern medicine

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