If I Die in the Service of Science : The Dramatic Stories of Medical Scientists Who Experimented on Themselves
If I Die in the Service of Science (First published as Guinea Pig Doctors) details the lives, experiments and discoveries of eight medical doctors who, in the course of their scientific investigations, used their own bodies to verify their revolutionary medical theories. Beginning with John Hunter's work on "the pox" in 18th century England, the book recounts the fascinating, colorful lives of these "guinea pig doctors":
the Hartford dentist who "discovered" anesthesia by experimenting on himself with laughing gas
the German scientists who toasted his rival with a solution laced with deadly cholera bacteria
the famous case of Jesse Lazear, who let himself be bitten by a mosquito carrying yellow fever-and died-to prove to his colleagues that the disease was not spread by bacterial infection.
The authors re-create these dramas in absorbing detail, focusing on the misconceptions and superstitions of society and the medical establishment against which each doctor struggled bravely-and won. The result is a rare blend of historical entertainment and incisive examination of the motivations-psychological, financial, social, professional-that drove these doctors to gamble their own lives on their theories. It is a marvelous and instructive study in human dedication.
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October 29, 2003
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