Dr Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine

Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe
Gotham 2014
ISBN 978-1-592-40870-2
360pp
Date finished: 2014-09-29

Thomas Dent Mütter was a 19th-century surgeon who spent most of his career in Philadelphia and was a pioneer of plastic surgery and early champion of antiseptics and anesthetics. His collection of surgical specimens and wax models formed the nucleus of the Mütter Museum. This biography traces his career, from his sad childhood in Virginia to his early schooling in Paris and his role in Philadelphia's medical schools, ending in his declining health and early death at 47. Aptowicz paints vivid images of Mütter, the medical practices of the time, and the historical Philadelphia and Paris where he lived. This was heightened for me because I read the middle section of the book while actually visiting Philadelphia and could picture where everything was, so I tore through the book quickly and with excitement.

On the other hand, while the author can write a memorable scene -- an imagined lecture on gynecology by Mütter's rival Dr Meigs is uncomfortably affecting -- she doesn't speculate or interpret very much, leaving me with a lot of questions. What was his lifelong illness? What did he think of rivals such as Meigs? Mütter dressed flamboyantly and while married, never had children; was he secretly gay? What did his wife think of him? I'd have liked more interior insight, but oh well; a skilful account of just the particulars is more than interesting enough.

Tagged: biography, medicine

Permalink: http://books.amk.ca/2014/09/Dr_Mutters_Marvels.html

%T Dr Mütter's Marvels
%S A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
%A Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe
%W http://www.aptowicz.com
%K biography, medicine
%G ISBN 978-1-592-40870-2
%I Gotham
%P 360pp
%D 2014
%@ 2014-09-29
%* *

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