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

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 the Hardcover edition.

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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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've just started to read this, it was bought as necessary for my OU module on the History of Medicine. So far, I have found it easy to read and comprehend and would recommend it to other students or anyone with an interest in this subject.
I bought this book second hand and was very impressed with Fleet Bargain Books. The book arrived in good time, packaged well and was in the condition I expected.
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By Mr. G. Morgan TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Jun. 2015
Format: Paperback
One of my favourite three medical books, this is a staggering achievement and I read it for pleasure and with pleasure too, straight through. It wrecked my sleep for three days/nights! We are taken to the very beginning of medicine, when it was as crude as you can imagine, to the latest developments in the field. Sadly his premature death, from a heart attack, claimed him shortly after he had retired to Sussex to write books like this, robbed us of a brilliant teacher and a marvellous synthesizer of his compendious reading and a teacher of outstanding qualities. One reviewer finds this dull? Reminds me of the Thurber couple leaving Macbeth and one remarking to the other "Well, I couldn't see anything funny about it at ALL!". Without wishing to be rude, such a remark tells you much about the reviewer, nothing about the book. It is in fact an absorbing and invaluable history, suitable for one studying the subject or 'merely' interested in the body, its ailments and their treatment from the year dot until the 1990s. Quite a swansong by the irreplaceable Porter, a generous and brilliant man of supreme humanity. A legendary personality with his medallion man bling, stubble and warmth, he was a great teacher. He is doing that here. His loss was tragic indeed.
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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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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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