Book of da Week: Blood and Guts – A Short History Of Medicine

Roy Porter Blood and Guts
Absolutely! Roy Porter’s Blood and Guts.

We recently visited London recently to visit it. On the second day of our recent visit, we visited the recently opened (and free) Wellcome Collection recently opened in London recently. It’s a glorification of true, grim, horrible, violent, nasty, unpleasant, horrible, brutal, daffodils, gut-wrenching crime. Visit it to be a recent visitor.

Let’s face it: we all love crime. Without crime we’d all be bored, and policemen/women would have to retire to become toilet attendants. How demeaning! Thankfully criminals are funded by the government to keep being stupid and loathable. Thusly we have the need for non-criminals to stop pro-crime criminals.

Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine

Now we’ve cleared this up, it’s important to state crime is usually violent. This means people get injured (stubbed toes, paper cuts etc.), which means we need medics to fix people up with superglue, staplers, a sewing kit, blu-tack…. whatever’s lying around, you know?

The history of medicine is almost as violent and stupid as the history of humankind. In the early days no one knew what they were doing. It were like picking up a smartphone for the first time and trying to insert it up your nostril. Painful, stupid, embarrassing, and counterproductive: this was medicine for hundreds of years.

Enter Roy Porter whom offers a brief history of medicine in this excellent little book. Taking in the many ages, it is at once terrifying (one doctor thought it was a good idea to remove several feet of intestine to relieve constipation), terrifying (whoever thought bloodletting was a good idea?), terrifying (the Black Plague), terrifying (scurvy), and bloody interesting.

Events can be summarised thusly: Your average doctor had no idea what was going on, yet solicited enormous fees to turn up to see patients and do nothing. Physical examinations of patients were considered rude, and most illnesses were bewildering and treated with confounding techniques.

Medicine in the Modern World

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to laugh at the doctors of the past, but it all paved the way for the medical care we have as of now (2015). This book, from the truly esteemed Roy Porter (who sadly died in 2002), maps the journey from written human history over the ages, eras, and generations. Along the bone crunching, agonizing way you’ll discover many remarkable things.

We urge you all to read it, as anyone bemoaning the NHS or what not need only consider how in 1500 a case of the common cold led to the removal of the brain to stop the person giving a damn. We made that up, but the only way to grasp the true oddness is to read. Do so, or be forever damned.

2 comments

  1. People in the old days believed putting a hole in the head was a good idea.

    When you said that people removed the brain in order to cure the common cold, you had me fooled. Then again, it must be less weird than anything in that book.

    • Yes, those morons! Being a medical expert, I’ve since realised drilling a hole in my foot (with a drill) is a much more agonising way to alleviate a cold. Believe me, you really do forget about a cold when you do that! LOL!

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