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The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity Paperback – 1 Feb 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Fontana Press; New Ed edition (1 Feb. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006374549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006374541
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 5.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Samuel Johnson once called the medical profession "the greatest benefit to mankind." In the 20th century, the quality of that benefit has improved more and more rapidly than at any other comparable time in history. With all the capabilities of modern medicine's practitioners, however, we as a people are as worried about our health as ever.

Roy Porter, a social historian of medicine at London's Wellcome Institute, has written a dauntingly thick history of how medical thinking and practice has risen to the challenges of disease through the centuries. But delve into its pages and you'll find one marvellous piece of history after another. The obvious highlights are touched upon--Hippocrates introduces his oath, Pasteur homogenises, Jonas Salk produces the polio vaccine and so on--but there's also Dr. Francis Willis' curing of the madness of King George III, W.T.G. Morton's aggressive use of ether in surgery and research on digestion conducted using a man with a stomach fistula (if you don't know what that means, you may not want to know). Porter is straightforward about his deliberate focus on Western medical traditions, citing their predominant influence on global medicine, and with The Greatest Benefit to Mankind he has produced a volume worthy of that tradition's legacy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘A superb book – fluent, lucid, scary and even funny…essential reading.’ Sunday Times

‘Magnificently erudite and compellingly humane.’ New Statesman (Books of the Year)

‘Yet another compulsively readable, astonishingly encyclopaedic book from Roy Porter…his best to date: an epic, one-volume narrative history of man’s struggle with the infirmities of his body, from Aesculapius to AIDS.’ Simon Schama

‘Whether you are interested in the advent of the stethoscope, the history of yellow fever, the bubonic plague or, closer to home, coronary heart disease, the feminist influence on medicine, drug abuse, childbearing or cancer, this book provides the historic background to these and other medical questions…”The Greatest Benefit to Mankind” is a first-class introduction to medical history. Like a well constructed broadsheet leader, it excites thought and discussion, as well as providing many answers.’ The Times

‘Hypochondriac heaven – a gripping, scholarly, fact-packed, must-have book.’ Daily Mail

‘A monumental work… magnificent.’ Independent on Sunday


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THESE ARE STRANGE TIMES, when we are healthier than ever but more anxious about our health. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By manic_w on 14 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I have had this book since it was first published and it has been worth it's weight (considerable) in gold. I was nursing at the time so obviously had an interest in the medical side. However, this is an excellant history book and of interest to those who like to find out odd facts or the roots of colloquialisms.
It is so interesting it hooks you into actually reading all of it. I have, so has my daughter and my best friend (also a nurse).
However, it is factually correct and written well enough to be deemed a suitable source for academic studies. So after reading it for pleasure I found it was a recommended course book for a module in my Health & Social Policy degree. My friend has also delved into it again for her Nursing Studies degree.
This is a book that you keep and visit now and again, not like other academic texts that you cannot wait to sell on the Marketplace.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By emmabelle on 21 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
This book balances the social history with the anecdotes that bring the history of medicine alive It's incredibly dense and stands a lot of rereading an excellent history of medicine with fascinating looks at some often neglected areas such as Jewish and Arabic medicine of the Middle Ages
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A customer VINE VOICE on 19 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The late professor Roy Porter wrote Medical History like none of his peers.

This 850 pages book was his best and in it he poured all his wisdom to tell the full history of medicine.

It can be a rather dry subject to read by Mr Porter added a nice human touch to every story making it more interesting.

It covers from ancient history to moderm times ( early XXI century ) makes emphasis on the discoveries of the XIX century.

This volume will appeal to everyone ,even those without a medical background.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By inkylittlefingers on 7 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of Porter's works. Exceptionally gifted, he won a double first at Oxford. His teaching, as well as his apparel, was somewhat flamboyant and unorthordox, but he engaged his students in such a way that he always had about him a core following of avid listeners.

Regarding his writing, his research is always well founded, his style accessible and appealing. And yet he was never condescending, never dumbed history down. He expected his readers to be intellegent and trusted them to use their own judgement when confronted with new thoughts and theories.

I shall mourn his loss for many years. I shall also mourn the future works he may have produced.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith Hopper on 12 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is so easy in our century to take the exceptional standard medicine for granted. This book traces the history of medicine exploring the good the bad of early medicine that we have much to be thankful for. Any one with an interest in medicine good health or just simply curious would find this book insightful. Any student engaged either in area of medicine may benefit from ist content.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Yarwood on 22 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book encompasses the broad sweep of the history of medical discovery and medical care from the earliest times and illuminates the story with accounts of scientific method explained in layman's terms and illustrated with anecdotes that range from the revelatory to the highly entertaining. Quite a heavy tome but unputdownable none the less.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Steele on 26 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought as recommended reading for my OU course. Howver I was amazed that I read it start to finish and thoroughly enjoyed it. Would recommend to anyone looking for an informative, enjoyable read withtout the boredom level often associated with a historical text book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on 26 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought book in advance of my forthcoming OU course as it is a course book, WHOW what a piece of work, a bit heavy but very informative and fascinating
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