The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery

Monday, July 5, 2010
Wendy Moore

This book is both repugnant and fascinating. Anatomist John Hunter had an insatiable curiosity about the human body, as well as those of animals. He had no qualms about dissecting hundreds of bodies, nearly all "resurrected" from their graves, some acquaintances (such as a giant who thought his friends would prevent his being cut apart by Hunter), and preparing specimens from them for his collection. His collection included women at different stages of pregnancy. Hunter also conducted human experiments, including one on himself to test his theory regarding venereal disease. The discoveries Hunter made and the surgical techniques he developed helped spur new thought regarding medicine, which at the time still prescribed bloodletting as a treatment for disease. And what's more fascinating than anecdotes about Hunter's work? He married, had children, and continued to dissect people in his house.

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