The butchering art : Joseph Lister's quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine / Lindsey Fitzharris.

A dramatic account of how 19th-century Quaker surgeon Joseph Lister developed an antiseptic method that indelibly changed medicine, describes the practices and risks of early operating theaters as well as the belief systems of Lister's contemporaries.

Main Author: Fitzharris, Lindsey, 1982-
Published: New York : Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
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Review by Booklist Review

In the nineteenth century, surgery was not exactly science or art but rather a dicey and gruesome affair. Prior to the discovery and widespread use of anesthetic agents, patients were awake during their operations, enduring unimaginable pain and horror. And if they survived the surgical procedure, death from postoperative infection remained a big risk. Medical historian Fitzharris captures the chaos, personalities, and bumpy evolution of surgery during the Victorian period. The star of the story is the man who devoted much of his life searching for the source and solution to the problem of hospital infections. Born in 1827, Joseph Lister was religious and driven by scientific curiosity. He contracted a mild case of smallpox, suffered from depression, and was a bit of a hypochondriac. He experimented on frog legs and corresponded with Louis Pasteur. He was interested in how wounds healed. Lister's advocacy of antiseptic principles in surgery was revolutionary but a hard sell. He traveled across Europe and America, arguing for the acceptance of germ theory and promoting disinfection. Hygiene had its hero.--Miksanek, Tony Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

British science writer Fitzharris slices into medical history with this excellent biography of Joseph Lister, the 19th-century "hero of surgery." Lister championed the destruction of microorganisms in surgical wounds, thus preventing deadly postoperative infections. This was a radical approach inspired by French microbiologist and chemist Louis Pasteur's discovery of bacteria. Lister, whose Quaker father introduced him to the wonders of the microscope, became an evangelist for the germ theory of disease and the sterilization of both surgical instruments and doctors' hands. The medical community resisted Lister's procedures, but his successful treatment of Queen Victoria boosted his reputation and techniques-winning converts first in Scotland, then America, and finally London. "Lister's methods transformed surgery from a butchering art to a modern science, one where newly tried and tested methodologies trumped hackneyed practices," Fitzharris writes. She infuses her thoughtful and finely crafted examination of this revolution with the same sense of wonder and compassion Lister himself brought to his patients, colleagues, and students. "As he neared the end of his life, Lister expressed the desire that if his story was ever told, it would be done through his scientific achievements alone," Fitzharris notes, respecting his wish and fulfilling it in the context of a remarkable life and time. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Review by Library Journal Review

Our understanding of health and medicine has developed rapidly in the last 200 years. This book looks at a pivotal time in that development and one of the leading figures of modern medicine, Joseph Lister (1827-1912). Through observation, experimentation, and a passion to keep patients alive, Lister eventually overcame the prevailing beliefs of his day and saved countless lives. Readers will learn how breakthroughs such as pasteurization and the use of ether as an anesthesia led to a greater comprehension of bacteria and infection. Examples of cases, including personal accounts by patients, reveal frightening and painful surgery experiences. Descriptions of cringe-worthy hospital wards demonstrate how far we have come in our understanding of sanitation. Providing insight into Lister's character as well as detailing his life and death in England and Scotland are his personal relationships with colleagues, students, and his father. VERDICT A slightly gory, occasionally humorous, and very enjoyable biography of a man whose kindness, care, and curiosity changed medicine forever. An engaging read for history lovers.--Susanne Caro, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.