How medical learning gained for itself an audience is the central argument of this book, but the journey, as Getz shows, was an intricate one. Along the way, the reader encounters the magistrates of London, who confiscate a bag said by its owner to contain a human head capable of learning to speak, and learned clerical practitioners who advise people on how best to remain healthy or die a good death. Islamic medical ideas as well as the poetry of Chaucer come under scrutiny. Among the remnants of this far distant medical past, anyone may find something to amuse and something to admire.
When a deadly diphtheria epidemic swept through Nome, Alaska, in 1925, the local doctor knew that without a fresh batch of antitoxin, his patients would die. The lifesaving serum was a thousand miles away, the port was icebound, and planes couldn't fly in blizzard conditions—only the dogs could make it. The heroic dash of dog teams across the Alaskan wilderness to Nome inspired the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and immortalized Balto, the lead dog of the last team whose bronze statue still stands in New York City's Central Park. This is the greatest dog story, never fully told until now.