The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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“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
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To the reviewers who complained about the lack of pictures: Instagram and YouTube are *visual* storytelling mediums. Giving a low star review based on *your* misconception that the book would have images because the authors social media has images is unfair to the author and, quite frankly, childish. Read the book and you will find it very descriptive - no need for artist's interpretation.
History buffs, science lovers, people in the medical profession, fans of the morbid, fans of shows like Bones (that maybe always hid their eyes during the gruesome scenes and yet always ended up watching), anyone looking for a little real-life old-school horror for their October... READ THIS BOOK.
I know that I can't wait to finish this book (and I'll update my review if needed once I finish).
I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this through NetGalley, and seriously, the second I finished it, I went and preordered it. This is one of the best and my favorite books of the year!
Even though I just read this, I'm already rereading this.
In short, This book really delves into the Victorian surgery practices and thanks to Joseph Lister, for forever changing what we know about surgery today. Seriously highlighted and now tabbing seems like half of the book. So fascinating and well researched.
Looking through the hardback copy, there is an index in the back and around 30 pages of notes on where the research came from!
I would recommend this to anyone interested in medical, history, science, an amazing well-researched biography....ok nevermind-I would recommend this to everyone.
Top international reviews
Lindsey Fitzharris’s new biography of Joseph Lister makes it all too clear how a failure to understand the causes of infection, combined with (to us) utterly horrifying disregard of even basic hygiene, led to death from sepsis, gangrene and other infections that we would now recognise arose from bacterial infection. And not only patients died, doctors who handled infected patients or who cut themselves during surgery (which had to be performed at lightning speed before anaesthetics became available) also died of infection. Ironically the advent of anaesthesia actually increased mortality because more operations could be performed.
Lister’s Quaker background and his father’s improvements to the microscope combined with Lister’s own talents as a surgeon resulted eventually in success after many years of struggling to improve patient survival rates and eliminate deaths from infection. But Lister had not only to develop methods of keeping wounds clean and free from infection, and a theory of why the techniques worked, he had also to fight a medical profession whose models of the causes of disease rejected any notion that ‘germs’ might have a part to play.
By the time my grandmother heard Lister lecture he was a grand old man of the profession, but that position was hard won. Without his persistence and meticulous scientific approach modern surgery would be impossible, deaths from even minor injuries common and childbirth frequently fatal. In a world threatened with the loss of antibiotics we do well to remember how critical his discoveries were. Lindsey Fitzharris has written a thoroughly researched and highly readable account of how Lister changed the world. What a pity there are no illustrations, nevertheless it makes a gripping read.
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Meticulously researched and brilliantly written, Lindsey recreates the horrors of early Victorian hospitals, where surgeons carried out surgical procedures without anaesthetic, in the most unsanitary of conditions. Against this grim background, she weaves the pioneering work of Joseph Lister, whose antiseptic régime saved thousands of lives. The Butchering Art is an inspiring story told through a compelling narrative - highly recommended!
The author uses a journalistic turn of phrase which will appeal to some readers but not others. The fact that in the 1850's surgeons were still opining, 'you stood a better chance at Waterloo than in a hospital', tells you everything about survival rates for even the most routine operation.
The main body of the work is about Lister's discovery of 'germ theory' and his struggle to convince a sceptical profession of the value of antiseptics. The biography ends rather abruptly with Lister's return to London around 1877 and the following 35 years of his life are condensed into a handful of pages. The author writes an 'Acknowledgements' section of heroic proportions.
Given the glowing reviews and status as top Non-Fiction of 2017, this is a strangely disjointed book. It is worth reading but is it a biography or a social history? Starts exceptionally well but then loses its mojo.
Despite being very science based, the book is 'laced' with fascinating anecdotes of Joseph Lister's work & career.
I found it very enjoyable & a fascinating insight into how surgery, anaesthesia & medical practices have evolved over the years, written in a way the lay person can understand.
There are no photographs or illustrations anywhere in the book. Not even of Mr Lister himself. She - the author - doesn't always give definitions of the medical terms used in the book. There is little background on many of the people in the book, such as Doctor Symes.
While it's an enjoyable read, it feels a little rushed in places.
A wonderful piece of history told with a great balance of Listers home aanad work life.
A must read!
I genuinely feel lost now i have finished this book.