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Reviewed by:
  • The Human Body: The Story of How We Protect, Repair, and Make Ourselves Stronger by Newquist
  • Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Newquist, HP The Human Body: The Story of How We Protect, Repair, and Make Ourselves Stronger. Smithsonian/Viking, 2015 112p illus. with photographs (Invention & Impact)
ISBN 978-0-451-47643-2 $18.99 Ad Gr. 5-9

“We’re going to see how flesh and bone have given way to wood and metal, glass and gold, carbon fiber and computers,” says the introduction to this overview of medical innovations. The first section, “Body Parts,” which takes up more than half of the book, focuses on the history of prosthetics and replacements, from glass eyes to dental implants to artificial hearts; the middle section, “The Medicine Cabinet,” focuses on soap, aspirin, and antibiotics; a final section, “Tools and Treatments,” [End Page 319] talks about the development of surgery, ways to peek inside the body and its processes from stethoscopes to MRIs, and vaccines. The Body Parts section is an interesting overview of human ingenuity and engineering, exploring developments from thousands of years ago through today and hypothesizing about the future. Subsequent sections are less successful, though; they’re briefly summarizing ground that’s often better trodden elsewhere, and the attitude of uncritical celebration is disappointingly superficial given topics that can result in considerable negative consequences and provoke some intense discussions of ethics. Nonetheless, the chronicle of invention is inspiring, and the short chapters will allow readers to cherry-pick the most useful parts. Reproductions of period and contemporary images, sometimes adding a gross and/or a cool factor, enliven the pages; a list of web and print resources and an index are included.