Today, astonishing surgical breakthroughs are making limb transplants, face transplants, and a host of other previously un dreamed of operations possible. But getting here has not been a simple story of medical progress. In Blood and Guts, veteran science writer Richard Hollingham weaves a compelling narrative from the key moments in surgical history. We have a ringside seat in the operating theater of University College Hospital in London as world-renowned Victorian surgeon Robert Liston performs a remarkable amputation in thirty seconds—from first cut to final stitch. Innovations such as Joseph Lister’s antiseptic technique, the first open-heart surgery, and Walter Freeman’s lobotomy operations, among other breakthroughs, are brought to life in these pages in vivid detail. This is popular science writing at it’s best.
Glove up and dive in to what Hollingham describes as a “whistle-stop tour” of a gruesome and fascinating field. The BBC journalist and author (How to Clone the Perfect Blonde) is a deft storyteller who probably never met a dry fact he couldn't infuse with juicy detail. But there's more here than the drive, energy and bravery of medical pioneers, both doctors and patients, from Galen treating gladiators in the second century B.C.E. to Stuart Carter, the first person to have electrical brain implants to treat Parkinson's disease. Hollingham gives us a tribute not only to saving lives but to making them better. Still, it's the missteps that remind us of the human fallibility of even the greatest doctors. “[Robert] Liston's operations were messy, bloody and traumatic,” Hollingham writes of Britain's most famous 19th-century surgeon, describing a procedure in which Liston accidentally lopped off an assistant's fingers. “The patient died of infection, as did the assistant, and an observer died of shock. It was the only operation in surgical history with a 300 percent mortality rate.” What better medical history than one that recounts both successes and failures with honesty and gratitude. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Dec. 8)