Book Notes
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Book Notes

Michael C. Gerald. The Drug Book: From Arsenic to Xanax, 250 Milestones in the History of Drugs. New York: Sterling, 2013. 528 pp. Ill. $29.95 (978-1-4027-8264-0).

This book takes a chronological look at 250 drug discoveries that have had notable impact on human history, beginning with the use of herbs such as yarrow in 60,000 BCE burials and ending with gene therapy. Michael Gerald’s stated goal in writing it is to “inform and entertain general readers” (p. 13), and the lavishly illustrated book is free of jargon and technical discussions. Entries feature key scientists and physicians who developed these drugs, such as Henry Hallett Dale, Joseph Lister, Paul Ehrlich, and others, as well as a “Notes and Further Reading” section that provides the resources for more in-depth study. Among other trends, Gerald’s timeline notes the explosion of biologic drugs that target specific disease mechanisms at the molecular level and that can now be mass-produced.

Gerrit Bos and Y. Tzvi Langermann, eds. Maimonides: On Rules Regarding the Practical Part of the Medical Art. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2014. 123 pp. Ill. $89.00 (978-0-8425-2837-5). In Arabic and English.

The writings of Moses Maimonides, one of the most celebrated rabbis in Judaism, include influential philosophical and medical treatises in Arabic and important works on Jewish law. On Rules Regarding the Practical Part of the Medical Art was lost to scholars for centuries, cataloged originally as a copy of another Maimonides work before the editors discovered it in the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid. This new translation marks the first time the Arabic manuscript and Gerrit Bos’s English version have been available to a modern audience in any form. It is written in the fuṣūl format Maimonides favored—short, standalone paragraphs—and contains some unique aphorisms on surgery treating serious abdominal wounds, which most likely reflects Maimonides’s experience with battlefield casualties.

Maria Pia Donato. Sudden Death: Medicine and Religion in Eighteenth-Century Rome. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2014. 229 pp. $124.95 (978-1-4724-1873-9).

The sudden deaths of the title terrorized Rome during the winter of 1705–6, claiming residents of all ages with no apparent cause or recognizable symptoms. Pope Clement XI ordered a public investigation and autopsies on the dead, the first medical inquiry to be performed in a European city and one of the earliest modern scientific investigations into death. Maria Pia Donato divides this book into three parts: the first on sudden death and the physician’s societal role, the second on sudden death in medical theory and practice, and the third on ethical and religious issues. The aim of her book, she says, is “to explore an early episode in the long (and uneven) history of how physicians gained control over death” [End Page 372] (p. 5), describing papal physician Giovanni Maria Lancisi’s treatise “De subitaneis mortibus” as part of the “first conceptual, ideological and technical foundations of the medicalization of death that we still experience in our times” (p. 5).

The Editors [End Page 373]


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