Review of Lindsey Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

Livia Arndal Woods Lindsey Fitzharris’s 2017 The Butchering Art is a compelling medical biography of Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgical theory and practice. Lister’s work, building on the germ-theories of Louis Pasteur, “Transform[ed] the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine” from a chaotic and deadly battle against seemingly inevitable infections to a more systematic and... Continue Reading →

Two Babies, Two Fathers, One Pregnancy: Superfetation in Myth and Medicine

According to early modern gynecological manuals, superfetation is “a repeated conception”—a rare but real medical phenomenon when a woman who is already pregnant becomes pregnant again. The anonymous author of The English Midwife Enlarged (1682) responds to those who dispute superfetation, explaining that when a woman is “animated with an earnest desire of Copulation,” the “overheated”... Continue Reading →

The Myth of Miscarriage: An Early Modern Legacy

If a medical school student or resident looked up “miscarriage” in the index of Blueprints Obstetrics & Gynecology (2013), they would be directed to “spontaneous abortion.” Denoting a pregnancy that ends before 20 weeks, spontaneous abortion occurs in 15% to 25% of all pregnancies, and this “number may be even higher because losses that occur... Continue Reading →

Teaching Invisibilia: Culture and Conceptions of Mind, Mental Illness and Sanity in the United States

Abigail Jane Mack In “The Power of Categories,” an early episode of NPR’s popular podcast, Invisibilia, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel spin a web of scientific inquiry and human interest stories to interrogate the role—the power—categories have in shaping our lives. They tell us how early infants learn to discriminate between cat and dog before... Continue Reading →

The Uncertainty of Medicine and Improv Comedy

  James Belarde "Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability." -William Osler The Big Sick, a 2017 romantic comedy written by husband-and-wife team Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, tells the true story of a mysterious illness that strikes Emily early in their relationship. The doctors initially overwhelm her family with medical... Continue Reading →

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