The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

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Winner, 2018 PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing
Short-listed for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize
A Top 10 Science Book of Fall 2017, Publishers Weekly
A Best History Book of 2017, The Guardian

"Warning: She spares no detail!" —Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake

In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. She conjures up early operating theaters—no place for the squeamish—and surgeons, who, working before anesthesia, were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the riddle and change the course of history.

Fitzharris dramatically reconstructs Lister’s career path to his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection and could be countered by a sterilizing agent applied to wounds. She introduces us to Lister’s contemporaries—some of them brilliant, some outright criminal—and leads us through the grimy schools and squalid hospitals where they learned their art, the dead houses where they studied, and the cemeteries they ransacked for cadavers.

Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.

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About the author

Lindsey Fitzharris has a PhD in the history of science and medicine from the University of Oxford. She is the creator of the popular website The Chirurgeon's Apprentice, and is the writer and presenter of the YouTube series Under the Knife. She writes for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Lancet, and New Scientist. Visit her website at www.drlindseyfitzharris.com, follow her on Twitter at @DrLindseyFitz, and find her on Instagram at @drlindseyfitzharris.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Oct 17, 2017
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780374715489
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Medical
History / Modern / 19th Century
Medical / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Impresionante e iluminador, De matasanos a cirujanos celebra el triunfo de Joseph Lister, un personaje visionario cuyo propósito de unir ciencia y medicina nos catapultó al mundo moderno.

Premio PEN / E. O. Wilson de literatura científica 2018

Tras la pista de un héroe perdido de la ciencia, este libro nos desvela el truculento mundo de la cirugía victoriana conjurando el ambiente de las primeras salas de operaciones y sus admirados «matasanos»: hombres sin miramiento elogiados por su habilidad y fuerza bruta al operar, antes de la invención de la anestesia.

En vísperas de una profunda transformación de la medicina, estos pioneros, conscientes de que las secuelas de la cirugía eran más peligrosas que las dolencias mismas, estaban desconcertados por las recurrentes infecciones que se producían tras las intervenciones y que mantenían las tasas de mortalidad obstinadamente altas. Pero, en un momento en que la cirugía no podría haber sido más peligrosa, una figura emergió inesperadamente de las sombras: un joven médico, un cuáquero de talante melancólico llamado Joseph Lister, que resolvería el mortal enigma de la causa de las infecciones y cambiaría el curso de la historia de la medicina.

A lo largo de estas páginas, Fitzharris nos retrata el siniestro período comprendido entre 1850 y 1875, presentándonos a un elenco de personajes -algunos de ellos brillantes, otros directamente criminales- que frecuentaron las sucias escuelas de medicina y lúgubres hospitales donde aprendieron su oficio, las macabras morgues donde estudiaron anatomía, y los cementerios ocasionalmente saqueados en búsqueda de cadáveres que diseccionar.

Reseñas:
«Su biografía de Lister restituye a este olvidado paladín de la observación científica y lo vuelve a situar en el centro de la historia de la medicina [...] Un logro extraordinario.»
The Wall Street Journal

«Con ojo para los detalles históricos y talento para la prosa, Lindsey Fitzharris nos cuenta uno de los momentos más estelares de la historia de la medicina: el desarrollo de la asepsia quirúrgica. De matasanos a cirujanos es un libro espectacular, horriblemente delicioso y adictivo.»
Ed Yong, autor de Yo contengo multitudes

«Impactante y estremecedor.»
Kirkus Review

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