Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. Gotham, $27.50 (384p) ISBN 978-1-592-40870-2
Performance poet Aptowicz (Words in Your Face) turns her attention to the birth of modern American medicine, and the astonishing degree to which it was influenced by one man, in this moving and delicately crafted biography. As chief of surgery at Jefferson Medical College, one of the U.S.’s first teaching hospitals, Thomas Dent Mütter (1811–1850) transformed medicine with technical innovations like the surgical skin flap that has saved millions of burn victims. Mütter instinctively understood the value of sterility long before germs were discovered—establishing cleanliness standards in hospital wards, operating rooms, and surgical recovery rooms—and viewed anesthesia as a triumph that rendered certain surgical horrors a thing of the past rather than a Satanic tool. Mütter also transformed the profession via his attitude, entertaining and involving students instead of lecturing at them, and told patients the truth about their illnesses, respecting their “right to know” a century before the patient autonomy movement. Aptowicz shows Mütter, beloved by his students, evolving from a mischievous, impatient young doctor to an increasingly spiritual man beset by premature illness, and her writing is as full of life as her subject. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/28/2014
Release date: 09/04/2014
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-59240-925-9
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