The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity (The Norton History of Science)

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W. W. Norton & Company, Oct 17, 1999 - Family & Relationships - 831 pages
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"To combine enormous knowledge with a delightful style and a highly idiosyncratic point of view is Roy Porter's special gift, and it makes [this] book . . . alive and fascinating and provocative on every page."—Oliver Sacks, M.D.

Hailed as "a remarkable achievement" (Boston Sunday Globe) and as "a triumph: simultaneously entertaining and instructive, witty and thought-provoking . . . a splendid and thoroughly engrossing book" (Los Angeles Times), Roy Porter's charting of the history of medicine affords us an opportunity as never before to assess its culture and science and its costs and benefits to mankind. Porter explores medicine's evolution against the backdrop of the wider religious, scientific, philosophical, and political beliefs of the culture in which it develops, covering ground from the diseases of the hunter-gatherers to today's threat of AIDS and ebola, from the clearly defined conviction of the Hippocratic oath to the muddy ethical dilemmas of modern-day medicine. Offering up a treasure trove of historical surprises along the way, this book "has instantly become the standard single-volume work in its field" (The Lancet). "The author's perceptiveness is, as usual, scalpel-sharp; his manner genially bedside; his erudition invigorating." - Simon Schama

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The greatest benefit to mankind: a medical history of humanity

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Porter examines what healers have done and the impact of their ideas and actions. His focus is on Western medicine "because Western medicine has developed in ways which made it uniquely powerful and...uniquely global." (LJ 2/15/98) Read full review

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As a survey of the history of medicine from the Greeks to the present day, "The Greatest Benefit to Mankind" is unsurpassed. It bridges Western and Eastern cultures and is packed with vivid anecdotes of patients and practitioners, including the 18th-century London surgeon John Abernethy, who commanded his fat lady patients: "Madam, buy a skipping rope." Porter, the eminent British historian who died in 2002 at age 55, writes that "the historical record is like the night sky: we see a few stars and group them into mythic constellations. But what is chiefly visible is the darkness." Still, he deftly illuminates much of medicine's historical landscape and shows how our expectations of health and life have been transformed by modern medicine and science. - 8 Oct 2008 - The Wall Street Journal Europe - By Stephanie Snow - Just What the Doctor Ordered - 5 best books on Medicine 

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About the author (1999)

The late Roy Porter was professor of the history of medicine at University College, London. His books include The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

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