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The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine Hardcover – October 17, 2017

4.8 out of 5 stars 921 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Fast-paced, thoroughly researched . . . Fitzharris documents her hero’s long struggle against naysayers and rivals, as well as the setbacks he faced in his personal and professional life, in an engaging journey into the past. This is popular history at its best.” ―Dean Jobb, The Scotsman

The Butchering Art is an absorbing medical and social history that will leave you feeling both enlightened and thankful to benefit from the advances Lister (and his wife) popularized.” ―Sarah Harrison Smith, Omnivoracious

“A fascinating account of how hospitals became places of healing rather than death.” The Daily Mail

“Atmospheric . . . The story it tells is one of abiding fascination” ―Jennifer Senior, The New York Times

"Vivid, gory" ―Agatha French, Los Angeles Times

“[A] vivid picture. . . Some of it reads as the brutal relic of a vanished past; some of it reads as a brutal relic of the present.”―Genevieve Valentine, NPR

"Readers interested in the medical field can’t go wrong with this one." ―Bookish

A Publishers Weekly Picks Books of the Week

". . . pulsating, technicoloured . . . [Fitzharris] has an eye for morbid detail, visceral imagery and comic potential." ―Wendy Moore, The Guardian

Book of the Day, The Guardian

"The Butchering Art is a formidable achievement ―a rousing tale told with brio, featuring a real-life hero worthy of the ages and jolts of Victorian horror to rival the most lurid moments of Wilkie Collins" ―John J. Ross, The Wall Street Journal

“[Fitzharris] paints a compelling portrait of a man of conviction, humor and, above all, humanity. . . The Butchering Art is thoroughly enjoyable."-- The Guardian

"In The Butchering Art, Lindsey Fitzharris becomes our Dante, leading us through the macabre hell of nineteenth-century surgery to tell the story of Joseph Lister, the man who solved one of medicine's most daunting and lethal puzzles. With gusto, Dr. Fitzharris takes us into the operating theaters of yore as Lister awakens to the true nature of the killer that turned so many surgeries into little more than slow-moving executions. Warning: She spares no detail!" ―Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake and The Devil in the White City

"With an eye for historical detail and an ear for vivid prose, Lindsey Fitzharris tells a spectacular story about one of the most important moments in the history of medicine: the rise of sterile surgery. The Butchering Art is a spectacular book―deliciously gruesome and utterly gripping. You will race through it, wincing as you go, but never wanting to stop." Ed Yong, bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes

"The Butchering Art is medical history at its most visceral and vivid. It will make you forever grateful to Joseph Lister, the man who saved us from the horrors of pre-antiseptic surgery, and to Lindsey Fitzharris, who brings to life the harrowing and deadly sights, smells, and sounds of a nineteenth-century hospital." ―Caitlin Doughty, bestselling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity

"The Butchering Art is a brilliant and gripping account of the almost unimaginable horrors of surgery and postoperative infection before Joseph Lister transformed it all with his invention of antisepsis. It is the story of one of the truly great men of medicine and of the triumph of humane scientific method and dogged persistence over dogmatic ignorance." ―Henry Marsh, bestselling author of Do No Harm

"Electric. The drama of Lister's mission to shape modern medicine is as exciting as any novel." ―Dan Snow, BBC presenter and author

"Excellent . . . [Fitzharris] infuses her thoughtful and finely crafted examination of this [antiseptic] revolution with the same sense of wonder and compassion Lister himself brought to his patients, colleagues, and students . . . a remarkable life and time." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Fitzharris knows how to engage readers in fascinating and shocking details about medical history . . . In deftly capturing an 'epochal moment when medicine and science merged,' the author also offers an important reminder that, while many regard science as the key to progress, it can only help in so far as people are willing to open their minds to embrace change." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A slightly gory, occasionally humorous, and very enjoyable biography of a man whose kindness, care, and curiosity changed medicine forever." ―Susanne Caro, Library Journal

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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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
921 customer ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on October 25, 2017
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Reviewed in the United States on October 20, 2017
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Top international reviews

Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 21, 2017
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Pauline Butcher Bird
4.0 out of 5 stars Main title is misleading
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 8, 2018
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Angela Buckley
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulously gruesome read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 20, 2017
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manic mother
5.0 out of 5 stars Horribly compelling!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 22, 2018
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Officer Dibble
3.0 out of 5 stars Biography or social history?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2018
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Spinelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be surprised by this gem.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 22, 2017
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Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars an unexpectedly good read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 14, 2019
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Bobster
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint-hearted!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 27, 2019
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Dan & Emma
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book - fascinating history in a very readable format!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 7, 2018
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zingabob
3.0 out of 5 stars Not without flaws.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 3, 2020
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Martin Arrowsmith
3.0 out of 5 stars Abruptly ends 35 years before Lister dies - leaving key questions unanswered.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 6, 2019
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Mrs L Nurse
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly an amazing read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 11, 2018
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Bill Brook
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 13, 2018
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Dr Samantha Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 9, 2017
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Partick Potter
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 29, 2018
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