Light in the Skull

Ronald J. Glasser, Author
Ronald J. Glasser, Author Faber & Faber $24.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-571-19916-7
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
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The truly great advances in medicine, writes Glasser in this complex study of life processes, were made by physicians who ignored dogma and relied upon their own observations. The achievements of scientists such as Jenner, who discovered the smallpox vaccine, or Snow, whose statistical analysis proved that the 1854 cholera epidemic in London was caused by water from the Broad Street pump, are now well known and respected--but at the time they were ignored, if not vilified. Today we vaccinate our children and drink clean water, but in other ways, Glasser explains, not much has changed. Prejudice, egotism and moralizing continue to slow progress in the research and treatment of today's epidemics--most notably, AIDS. The author, a pediatric nephrologist and rheumatologist and author of six previous books (including 365 Days), shows that today's medical research calls upon chaos theory, mathematical probability, evolution theory and knowledge of cellular and molecular functions to make fundamental connections that challenge such assumptions as the widely held belief that viruses do not cause cancers. Glasser traces cutting-edge research on bacteria, viruses, genes, cellular processes and antibodies, and stresses the importance of scientists' trusting their results. Readers without a strong biology background might struggle with the book's level of detail and the labyrinthine course through which discoveries unfold, but the author summarizes effectively and adds dramatic touches from case studies. His fascination with the processes of life and death--and his moral outrage at ""the disconnect between what we know and how we act""--will be shared by those who persevere with this difficult but important book. Author tour. (Apr.)
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