A Scientist in Wonderland: A Memoir of Searching for Truth and Finding Trouble

Edzard Ernst. Imprint Academic (Ingram, dist.), $29.90 (200p) ISBN 978-1-84540-777-3
Ernst, the former chair of the department of complementary medicine at England’s University of Exeter, documents his transition from a rebellious young musician into an esteemed doctor, writer, alternative-medicine researcher, and academic with meticulous, though stolid, detail in this memoir of a remarkable medical and academic life. From his time as a medical student through his first job at a Munich homeopathic hospital—where he learned the “incredible power” of the placebo effect—to a brief stint working at a psychiatric hospital in England, Ernst’s trajectory propels him to the heights of academia: he became a professor in rehabilitation medicine in Hannover by age 40 and, in short order, chairman of rehabilitation medicine at the vaunted Vienna Medical School. Now an alternative-medicine skeptic, Ernst excoriates Prince Charles in a long chapter on the royal’s affinity for alternative therapies; this portion may surprise Americans, but it’s a measured, if biting, critique. Yet what stands out is Ernst’s extraordinary research at Exeter and how alternative practitioners have rejected his scientific approach. His stated “mission impossible” to “shine the cool, dispassionate light of reason on to the whole topic of alternative medicine” is exhilarating in both scope and impact, and this should be a must-read for practitioners and patients. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014
Release date: 02/01/2015
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