Quackery A brief history of the worst ways to cure everything

Lydia Kang

Book - 2017

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2nd Floor 610.9/Kang Checked In
New York : Workman Publishing [2017]
Main Author
Lydia Kang (author)
Other Authors
Nate Pedersen (author)
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
viii, 344 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 21 cm
  • Elements: prescriptions from the periodic table. Antimony ; Mercury ; Arsenic ; Radium ; Gold
  • The women's health hall of shame
  • Plants & soil: nature's gifts. Opiates ; Strychnine ; Tobacco ; Cocaine ; Alcohol ; Earth
  • The antidotes hall of shame
  • Tools: slicing, dicing, dousing & draining. Bloodletting ; Lobotomy ; Cautery & blistering ; Enemas ; Hydrotherapy ; Surgery ; Anesthesia
  • The men's health hall of shame
  • Animals: creepy crawlies, corpses, and the healing power of the human body. Leeches ; Cannibalism & corpse medicine ; Animal-derived medicines ; Sex ; Fasting
  • The weight loss hall of shame
  • Mysterious powers: waves, rays, and curious airs. Electricity ; Animal magnetism ; Light ; Radionics ; The king's touch
  • The eye care hall of shame
  • The cancer cure hall of shame.
Review by Choice Review

This book, geared toward non-scholars, is chock-full of useful and bizarre information. Kang, a physician and author, and Pederson, a journalist, explore the history of quackery category by category. Section titles set the tone: "Tools: Slicing, Dicing, Dousing, and Draining," for example, includes discussions of bloodletting, hydropathy, and enemas, among other topics. "Animals: Creepy Crawlies, Corpses, and the Healing Power of the Human Body" deals with cannibalism, leeches, fasting, and more. One occasionally needs a strong stomach to get through the material, which aims to shock as well as to inform and entertain. The text is replete with "gee whiz" humor. Very well illustrated and obviously thoroughly researched, the book lacks footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography. Its greatest value is that it is thoroughly engrossing reading on a serious topic. The authors emphasize that medical junk science is still very much with us, and recognize that all modern quackery is a recycling of something that came before. Despite its jocular approach, this is a worthwhile addition to a scholarly library and would be of value to undergraduates as well as general readers. Employing an oxymoron: it is a nonfiction graphic novel! Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduates and general readers. --Irwin Richman, emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg Campus

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this informally written but well-researched history, physician Kang and journalist Pedersen expose the strange, and to modern eyes ludicrous, ways in which humankind has tried to cure all manner of diseases and afflictions over the centuries. The cures detailed in the book, which span the earliest recorded history to the 19th century, were typically based on scant scientific knowledge and often involved "cleansing" the body, whether through bowel movements, vomiting, sweating, or salivating. Ingesting dissolved gold, it was thought, could give one immortality and cure alcoholism. Bloodletting was thought effective for various ailments already in ancient times, and was often accomplished using leeches. In describing these bizarre practices, Kang and Pedersen offer a constant stream of sarcastic commentary and wisecracks, which can become wearying. The authors temper their mockery of the past, however, with the observation that, as bad as some early medical treatments could be, they were the products of experimentation that often led to effective treatments. Substances such as radium, opium and its derivatives, and strychnine eventually yielded beneficial applications, though the original applications and dosages were often fatal or addictive. Despite the book's overly flip tone, its distillation of the worst cures of all time is entertaining and informative. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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