This book provides an overview of the most important developments in the history of medical science. Queijo is a journalist with a longstanding interest in medicine. In this book, he selects 10 developments in medical history, describes how they came about and details their impact on public health. The developments Queijo chose for this project include Hippocrates and his approach to scientific medicine, sanitation, germ theory, anesthesia, X-rays, vaccines, antibiotics, genetics, psychoactive medications, and alternative health care. In each chapter, Queijo provides a brief description of the historical context in which the development or discovery was made, often including case histories, then he identifies a series of "milestones", illustrating that these historic developments were not instantaneous discoveries, but rather long, often vitriolic processes, in which a series of crucial clues had to be uncovered, discussed, and further researched before being accepted as scientific truths or proper practices. End material includes a listing of the milestones and a list of references for further reading.
I found this book quite interesting as well as informative. Queijo's descriptions of key medical discoveries, while brief, include background details that aren't as well known as the popular myths that have grown up around such stories as Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin. What makes Queijo's accounts unique is that he stresses the long processes of discovery, and he emphasizes throughout the book that when evidence necessitating a paradigm shift is discovered, acceptance of the new ideas is not immediate, but rather takes many years and repeated efforts on the part of the researchers. Current practitioners may be extremely skeptical, and may never accept new approaches to old problems, despite the overwhelming evidence.
Although the book is quite well-written, Queijo's choice of the last two topics, psychoactive medicines and alternative health care seem a bit idiosyncratic and out of balance with the rest of the book. These topics are certainly important, but it's hard to see them as having the same magnitude of effects as the previous topics. Perhaps because these developments are still under way, their full impact is not yet apparent. If I were to enumerate my own choices of the 10 most important developments for medicine and public health, I would want to include the application of statistics and double-blind trials somewhere on the list, a topic that might subsume both psychoactive medicines and alternative health care. In any case, the book provides an informative and critical overview of medical history and the ethics of medical research.