An informative retrospective of medical pioneers and their innovations.



A physician and medical journalist describe 10 clinical cases that helped to revolutionize medicine.

Tanchanco found an early inspiration for this book in a story he’d read about a heart failure patient whose life was saved by the 1958 invention of an implantable pacemaker rudimentarily molded from a can of shoe polish. The author then sought out other accounts of patients whose cases had spurred breakthrough therapies, treatments, and lifesaving devices and essentially become medical game-changers. He begins with Benjamin Jesty, an English farmer who controversially experimented with introducing the cowpox virus into human tissue in the late 1770s, hoping to initiate an immune response against smallpox. Jesty didn’t publicize his work, but physician Edward Jenner did, and Jenner usually gets the credit for developing the vaccine. The book features other historical medical revolutionaries like English obstetrician James Blundell, responsible for developing successful blood transfusion techniques that turned the formerly stigmatized procedure into a lifesaving protocol for severe hemorrhagic cases. Other chapters applaud patients who inspired breakthrough technology like the cardiac defibrillator and early advancements in the identification of HIV and treatments for AIDS. In a section notably demonstrating his knack for compelling and factual prose, Tanchanco presents young mother Anne Miller, the first woman injected with penicillin in 1942 and subsequently cured of her recurring strep infection; it was “as though the drug banished a dark demon” and “every tissue, taxed to exhaustion from protracted sepsis, now craved nourishment.” Another fascinating chapter on disease-transmitting mosquitoes credits the death-defying courage demonstrated by a group of enterprising doctors and an Army Surgeon General who used the insect itself to help analyze and eradicate yellow fever and malaria in Cuba and near the Panama Canal. Many subjects of this book suffered horribly from their maladies, but their cases inspired a host of radical therapies, some of which remain efficacious today. Tanchanco tells their stories chronologically and in a smooth, clear style that’s impeccably researched but devoid of potentially off-putting clinical jargon. That approach makes this book ideal reading for anyone intrigued by medical innovations.

An informative retrospective of medical pioneers and their innovations.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2022

ISBN: 979-8-9853937-2-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: First Hawk Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?