Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution

W. W. Norton & Company
7
Free sample

"Excellent…Tucker’s chronicle of the world of 17th-century science in London and Paris is fascinating." —The Economist

In December 1667, maverick physician Jean Denis transfused calf’s blood into one of Paris’s most notorious madmen. Days later, the madman was dead and Denis was framed for murder. A riveting exposé of the fierce debates, deadly politics, and cutthroat rivalries behind the first transfusion experiments, Blood Work takes us from dissection rooms in palaces to the streets of Paris, providing an unforgettable portrait of an era that wrestled with the same questions about morality and experimentation that haunt medical science today.

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About the author

Holly Tucker is the author of City of Light, City of Poison and Blood Work, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, and is a professor of French at Vanderbilt University. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and Aix-en-Provence, France.

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4.6
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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Mar 21, 2011
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780393080421
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Modern / 17th Century
Medical / History
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The 17th Century Parisian doctor who made blood transfusion history...

In 1667 a Parisian doctor by the name of Jean-Baptiste Denis performed an operation that had never previously been attempted - he transfused blood into another human being. This was the first attempt at a procedure that over subsequent centuries was to save the lives of thousands of people. But at the time Denis was nearly convicted of murder.

The victim of Denis's experiment was a middle-aged man suffering from mad rages. Denis believed that by transfusing the blood of a calf into the man the man would assume the placid nature of the calf. The experiment appeared to work. The highly toxic blood made the man in question very ill and therefore very placid. It is now believed that the man was in fact suffering from syphilis, which induced his violent behaviour. The symptoms of the syphilis would also have been relieved by the high fever that the toxic blood would have induced.

Encouraged by this apparent success, though unaware of the reasons for it, many other people attempted similar experiments.

Eventually the man died and Denis was arrested for his murder. Further investigations revealed however that the man had not in fact died from the blood transfusion (although he certainly would have done so very shortly) but from cyanide placed in his food by his wife.

Giving an insight into the first attempts at a procedure that has gone on to be developed for the benefit of humanity, and into the symbolism of blood throughout the history of medicine, Blood and Justice raises ethical issues that are as relevant today as they were at the time.
In a riveting, groundbreaking narrative, Russell Shorto tells the story of New Netherland, the Dutch colony which pre-dated the Pilgrims and established ideals of tolerance and individual rights that shaped American history. 

"Astonishing . . . A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past." --The New York Times

When the British wrested New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, the truth about its thriving, polyglot society began to disappear into myths about an island purchased for 24 dollars and a cartoonish peg-legged governor. But the story of the Dutch colony of New Netherland was merely lost, not destroyed: 12,000 pages of its records–recently declared a national treasure–are now being translated. Russell Shorto draws on this remarkable archive in The Island at the Center of the World, which has been hailed by The New York Times as “a book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past.”

The Dutch colony pre-dated the “original” thirteen colonies, yet it seems strikingly familiar. Its capital was cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic, and its citizens valued free trade, individual rights, and religious freedom. Their champion was a progressive, young lawyer named Adriaen van der Donck, who emerges in these pages as a forgotten American patriot and whose political vision brought him into conflict with Peter Stuyvesant, the autocratic director of the Dutch colony. The struggle between these two strong-willed men laid the foundation for New York City and helped shape American culture. The Island at the Center of the World uncovers a lost world and offers a surprising new perspective on our own.
The horrific series of conflicts known as the Thirty Years War (1618-48) tore the heart out of Europe, killing perhaps a quarter of all Germans and laying waste to whole areas of Central Europe to such a degree that many towns and regions never recovered. All the major European powers apart from Russia were heavily involved and, while each country started out with rational war aims, the fighting rapidly spiralled out of control, with great battles giving way to marauding bands of starving soldiers spreading plague and murder. The war was both a religious and a political one and it was this tangle of motives that made it impossible to stop. Whether motivated by idealism or cynicism, everyone drawn into the conflict was destroyed by it. At its end a recognizably modern Europe had been created but at a terrible price.

Peter Wilson's book is a major work, the first new history of the war in a generation, and a fascinating, brilliantly written attempt to explain a compelling series of events. Wilson's great strength is in allowing the reader to understand the tragedy of mixed motives that allowed rulers to gamble their countries' future with such horrifying results. The principal actors in the drama (Wallenstein, Ferdinand II, Gustavus Adolphus, Richelieu) are all here, but so is the experience of the ordinary soldiers and civilians, desperately trying to stay alive under impossible circumstances.

The extraordinary narrative of the war haunted Europe's leaders into the twentieth century (comparisons with 1939-45 were entirely appropriate) and modern Europe cannot be understood without reference to this dreadful conflict.

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