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The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine Hardcover – Sep 4 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling; 1 edition (Sept. 4 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402785852
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402785856
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 20.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #47,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"The writing is lively and the topics are varied  . . .  [Pickover] achieves his goals, and his brevity and breezy style should appeal to readers used to accessing information quickly on the Internet but who are still interested in picking up a book.” --Library Journal

About the Author

Internationally renowned author Clifford Pickover has published more than 40 books, translated into over a dozen languages. He is an associate editor for several journals and the author of over 200 articles on various subjects. Dr. Pickover received his PhD from Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He holds over 80 US patents for inventions dealing with computing technologies and interfaces, and his website,, has received millions of visits.

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By Pristine13 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 3 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bought this as a gift for a friend. She doesn't have much time to sit down and read for hours, so I thought this was a good book for her since it's only a page here and there. She loves it! Definitely an interesting book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book helps you learn what Medicine was all about before our time. I was astonished at how medicine was practiced, and just how much was done in the late 20 Century. We are perfecting a lot of these practices,now but a lot is still in practice now. Easy to read and hard to put down, makes a great book to pick up and read a little at a time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa17b5e40) out of 5 stars 42 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0ab193c) out of 5 stars The Medical Book Completes a Scientific Milestone Triology Aug. 10 2012
By Paul Moskowitz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Medical Book is the latest in a series of over forty scientific books by the author, Clifford Pickover. The Medical Book completes a trilogy on the theme of scientific milestones. The trilogy now includes the Medical Book, The Math Book and The Physics Book. Each book has the same format. There are exactly 250 milestones arranged in chronological order. Each milestone is provided with a two-page layout. On the left-hand page is a written explanation and on the right-hand page there is a full-page image. Among the images are paintings, photos, drawings from Untied States patents, and graphic representations associated with the milestones.

There is a progression in the scope of the subject matter covered in each of the three books. The Math Book, which is first in the series, covers a universe of abstract mathematical constructs while only occasionally touching on the physical world, e.g., the entry on the Bedsheet Problem. The Physics Book deals with the reality of space and time from the very large to the very small, beginning with the Big Bang and ending with the death of our Universe. The Medical Book takes us on a more personal journey. It starts with investigations of human anatomy, progresses through the discovery of the disease carriers, and eventually takes us on an exploration of the ever smaller: cells, bacteria, viruses, and DNA.

Pickover's genius lies in his ability to combine scientific explanation with thought-provoking images. My strategy for the Medical Book was to page through the illustrations and then to go to the written explanations. Among my favorite illustrations are the photographs: a Roman sewage system, 600 BC; a flea, representative of objects observed by Robert Hooke using his compound microscope, 1665; Mendel's pea plants, 1865; and a saber-toothed cat fossil illustrating PCR, 1963. Some of the connections between subject matter and illustrations show a certain leap of inspiration on the part of the author, who holds over one hundred United States patents according to the book jacket.

As a scientist, I could not help but notice a sub-theme running through the book. That is the role played by science, engineering, chemistry, and physics in the development of medical practice. Some specific examples that we take for granted today include the previously mentioned Roman-invented sewage system, clean water supply, the discovery of antibiotics, medical x-rays, PET, CAT, and MRI scanning.

This new entry in Pickover's scientific milestones trilogy is impressive. It goes well with the previous Math Book and Physics Book. If you like one, you will like the other two.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa29d2db0) out of 5 stars A Book of Medical Marvels Oct. 17 2012
By Ray Erskins - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Medical Book" is Clifford A. Pickover's latest in a series of colorfully illustrated books that highlight 250 milestones in the history of a specific body of knowledge. The first of three was The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics (Sterling Milestones), which won the BSHM Neumann Prize and was soon followed by The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics (Sterling Milestones), the second in what is now a trilogy. Each book is identical in size, shape, scope, and format, but they all contain the essence of their own unique and separate field of study.

"The Medical Book" begins with the very first milestone in medicine (circa 10,000 B.C.) with the "Witch Doctor" on page 16. One would have assumed that shamans, medicine men, etc. were the genesis of the prehistoric healing arts, and this seems to be the case. They were the earliest practitioners to utilize the "Placebo Effect" (page 404). And one can only hope that Stone Age witch doctors were more conscientious than the jokers who concocted a famous potion in the U.S. (circa 1890) known as Hamlin's Wizard Oil (page 294). This alleged cure-all contained alcohol, camphor, ammonia, chloroform, sassafras, cloves, and turpentine. Fortunately, Congress put a stop to "Patent Medicines" with mysterious and unlisted ingredients with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and today all medications are rigorously tested, labeled, and regulated before they are sold to the public, unless, of course, you buy them on the Internet.

I only mention Hamlin's Wizard Oil in connection with witch doctors because the history of medicine is bizarre - so much so that it has often resembled a freak show in a carnival or a sci-fi horror movie. Some of this may be due to the sheer number of unusual and inexplicable maladies that have afflicted humans over the centuries, which forced doctors to use their imagination and creativity in peculiar and even desperate ways. Yet even as far back as 3000 B.C. sutures were being successfully applied to close wounds (page 22) and eye surgery was performed as early as 600 B.C. (page 36). Medicine has also had its great humanists (Hippocrates - page 40) and innovators (Galen - page 50) as well as pioneers in surgical technique (William Stewart Halsted - page 280). It has also had more than its share of charlatans, quacks, and butchers, but over the millenniums the human species has been driven to develop medical science and technology to its current state out of sheer necessity. And today we possess capabilities that Hippocrates and Galen would regard as unimaginable wonders. It's almost as if medical miracles have become routine.

To an ever increasing extent, this has become our modern problem. We, or our loved ones, emerge from ICUs or the operating rooms of hospitals around the U.S. as if assembly line cures and recoveries are an every day occurrence. Others simply take prescribed medications and live year after year with death or disability literally knocking at their door. But because we have transcended untimely death, disability, or disfigurement to such a degree, we face entirely new challenges. One, of course is: How do we pay for these modern marvels of medicine? Another is: How can we make informed decisions when faced with life and death situations at the doctor's office or in the hospital?

Of course, those questions will have to be answered at some point in our future, whether we like it or not. And to do it right we will need reliable and up to date knowledge. The old adage that "Knowledge is power" is still true and never more so than in today's so-called "Information Age." We are flooded with misinformation and what amounts to propaganda on a daily basis via the Internet, or, through specious advertisements in all aspects of the mass media. Consequently, discussions of healthcare have become increasingly acrimonious around the water cooler due to the sheer amount of cognitive dissonance that afflicts our Reason.

"The Medical Book" can help dispel those demons of cognitive dissonance. It is a compelling digest of medical history that provides much needed clarity and cutting edge understanding of a complex field, as well as the science behind it, and at a pivotal moment in its history. Carefully written explanations and conscientiously selected illustrations will enlighten and inform the discerning mind as to the best, and worse, practices of medicine throughout the ages. In that sense, it is a history book about our future.

We've come a long way since witch doctors and Hamlin's Wizard Oil. Let's keep up the good work. Hippocrates and Galen would expect no less from us.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1cb07b0) out of 5 stars "Dr. Pickover obviously loves to teach..." Aug. 27 2012
By James Kozloski - Published on
Format: Hardcover
From the abstractions of mathematics to the far reaches of the universe and its innermost workings, Dr. Pickover has taken us on quite a ride with his first two books in a series: "The Math Book" and "The Physics Book." Now with his third volume, "The Medical Book," he helps us delve into that most intimate realm of our bodies, and explore the craft that has grown up around managing, treating, and at times healing its maladies.

What sets "The Medical Book" apart from the other two, and from others in its class, is that Dr. Pickover selects entries that show not only how the technical field has advanced, as his subtitle states, "From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons," but also how fundamental knowledge of the body has transformed to evolve medicine from a craft of reputation to a practice building on a scientific understanding of the body.

We're left with page after page of beautiful images that stoke the imagination. Dr. Pickover obviously loves to teach on each of the mysteries he presents, first visually, as shown by the pictures he carefully selects, and then masterfully and concisely, matching each with a single page explanation. Even the seemingly simple story of the discovery of vitamins provokes excitement with stories from the sea and scurvy matched with vivid color micrographs of vitamin C crystals.

This book puts the work and efforts of doctors, nurses, medical students, and all health care professionals in an appropriately deep and meaningful context. It's the perfect source for those who want to become oriented not only to the practice, but to the history and future of medicine. We should all look forward to the continuing positive trajectory Dr. Pickover has laid out with each new entrant into the medical field.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa29d2d74) out of 5 stars Another great milestone book from Cliff Pickover Aug. 27 2012
By Daniel Isaac - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine" is the third in a series of books by renowned author Cliff Pickover. His first two in the series, "The Math Book" and "The Physics Book," took the reader along a journey of some of the greatest/strangest/most interesting milestones in Physics and Math. Now, he is taking us into the world of medicine. The book is in the same great format as the others, with a description that is both in-depth and easy to understand. Each entry is accompanied by a dramatic color picture representing the entry. Starting thousands of years before the Common Era, we learn about such things as trepanation -- showing how ancient humans performed major operations on the skull, and often the recipient had a favorable outcome (in the sense that he or she actually survived for years after the surgery). The eye-catching illustrations and photographs draw the reader in as does the photograph on page 137, which I soon discovered was a flower from a plant used to treat many forms of heart ailments. Even items as common as the medical thermometer have entries that are filled with information many readers will likely not know, such as how the thermometer stays at its highest point allowing it to be read. This book combines history, explanations, trivia, art, and science to engage, teach, and amaze all who read it.
As a side-note, I have already impressed friends and family with knowledge I have gained from reading this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa20318f4) out of 5 stars The Medical Book - Another Marvel by Cliff Pickover Sept. 4 2012
By Teja K. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine (Sterling Milestones)