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The Making of Modern Medicine

Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, we have become accustomed to medical breakthroughs and conditioned to assume that, regardless of illnesses, doctors almost certainly will be able to help—not just by diagnosing us and alleviating our pain, but by actually treating or even curing diseases, and significantly improving our lives. 

For most of human history, however, that was far from the case, as veteran medical historian Michael Bliss explains in The Making of Modern Medicine. Focusing on a few key moments in the transformation of medical care, Bliss reveals the way that new discoveries and new approaches led doctors and patients alike to discard fatalism and their traditional religious acceptance of suffering in favor of a new faith in health care and in the capacity of doctors to treat disease. He takes readers in his account to three turning points—a devastating smallpox outbreak in Montreal in 1885, the founding of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School, and the discovery of insulin—and recounts the lives of three crucial figures—researcher Frederick Banting, surgeon Harvey Cushing, and physician William Osler—turning medical history into a fascinating story of dedication and discovery.

Compact and compelling, this searching history vividly depicts and explains the emergence of modern medicine—and, in a provocative epilogue, outlines the paradoxes and confusions underlying our contemporary understanding of disease, death, and life itself. 

112 pages | 26 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2011

History: American History, General History



“The talented author and historian Michael Bliss has done it again. This concise, eloquent, and elegant volume is brimming with important insights and exciting ideas. It is the perfect introduction for anyone who hopes to understand the modern history of medical discovery and its impact on contemporary society.”

Howard Markel, author of The Anatomy of Addiction:  Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug, Cocaine

"A book of 112 pages could not hope to cover the vast topic of modern medicine. However, Michael Bliss has managed to condense it to an overview that relates to current debates and discussions, particularly around the effect that religious beliefs can have on medical treatments. . . . The author’s style of writing is open and accessible. A topic that could easily have been something reserve for the attention of medical researchers is made accessible to a wider audience. This is more than a historical text; it is a delight for all curious minds."

Nursing Management

Table of Contents



I Fatalism: Montreal, 1885

II The Secular Saints of Johns Hopkins

III Mastery: Toronto, 1922

Epilogue: The Collapse of Life Expectancy

Notes  Index

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