Twisted True Tales From Science: Medical Mayhem
The practice of medicine has been part of human activity since the dawn of civilization. Some of the “common sense” things we do today (such as the five-second rule and personal hygiene) have evolved from medical practice. This book lists some of what we would now consider bizarre medical practices but were considered standard practice during their day. The book is divided into three parts, each containing about ten chapters. The first part focuses on medical practices in the ancient world, the second looks at practices during the medieval era, and the third brings us to pre-modern times. Each chapter consists of about half a dozen pages of text and illustrations. The books and some of the websites cited in the bibliography are geared toward middle school students, facilitating further research for that age group.
The narrative not only outlines the medical practice but also tries to provide readers with an understanding of the prevailing medical theories of the day and hence justification for the bizarre practice. This added effort brings a humanizing facet to those who endured the practice and helps contemporary readers appreciate the evolution of modern medicine. My only regret is that the book does not provide as wide a geographical scope as it could. The ancient times, for example, do not include Greek or Roman practices. Medieval times looks at China, but rarely explores medical practices in India, the Muslim world, or Central Asia. Pre-modern practices focus exclusively on Europe and North America.
This book is clearly aimed at middle-school students. Its size, illustrations, and narrative do not make it intimidating for that age group and may even entice those reluctant to read. While the book does have its shortcomings, for the price, readability, illustrations, and thoughtful bibliography, it is highly recommended for middle-school students (and curious adults).