Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Blood And Guts: A Short History of Medicine” as Want to Read:
Blood And Guts: A Short History of Medicine
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Blood And Guts: A Short History of Medicine

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  666 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Mankind's battle to stay alive is the greatest of all subjects. This brief, witty and unusual book by Britain's greatest medical historian compresses into a tiny span a lifetime spent thinking about millennia of human ingenuity in the quest to cheat death. Each chapter sums up one of these battlefields (surgery, doctors, disease, hospitals, laboratories and the human body) ...more
Paperback, 199 pages
Published June 26th 2003 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published October 31st 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Blood And Guts, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Blood And Guts

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 22, 2013 Warwick rated it liked it
Shelves: history, science, medicine
This is one of those ‘surrogate’ books – I bought it because I really wanted something else, so any disappointment is my own fault.

The book I wanted was Porter's The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, his mammoth tome on the history of medicine, but my friendly neighbourhood bookshops never seem to have it when I'm in the mood. Instead, I bought this, which I thought might tide me over.

To be fair, the clue is in the title. This history of medicine really is short – if you take off the notes, bibliogra
Uzun zamandır okuduğum en iyi popüler bilim kitabı -ki aslında uzun zamandır da bilim kitabı okumuyordum. Gerçi bunun için tam anlamıyla bir bilim kitabı da denemez; tarih yönü daha ağır basıyor. İyi ki de basıyor, zira bu tarih öğrenmek isteyeceğim bir dolu şeyi kapsıyor ve insanlık tarihiyle eşgüdüm ilerliyor.

Kitabın tek eksiği, 2000 yılı civarında yazılmış olması. Elbette ki 15 yılda tıpta bir sürü yeni gelişme oldu. Fakat tüm tıp tarihiyle karşılaştırınca bu oran önemsiz kalıyor. Zaten Roy P
Courtney Johnston
Factoids ahoy!

A slim introduction to the history of Western illness and medicine, with eight themes (disease; doctors; therapies; etc) addressed chronologically. Like the Sherwin Nuland book I read earlier in summer, 'Blood and Guts' illustrates how respect for conventions can lead people to ignore or attempt to explain away evidence that appears 'contrary', and how much we like a good framework (4 seasons, 4 humours), even if we have to jiggle the facts around to fit in.

My favourite chapter was
Jul 26, 2014 Nikki rated it it was ok
This didn't really work for me as a history of medicine, even a short one. Each chapter treads the same ground, but with a different theme, instead of following the history of medicine through chronologically.

That's not to say it wasn't interesting in places, and I liked the inclusion of so many images to go along with the text, but it didn't feel like there was anything to get my teeth into. I felt like it would have been much better done chronologically, even if it was in broad swathes of tim
Mar 21, 2011 Loren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morbid-books
This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. Roy Porter was a professor on the social history of medicine at University College London. His skill at delivering cogent, interesting lectures is readily apparent in this book. I wish I’d been able to sit in on his classes.

Blood and Guts breaks the long history of medicine into easily digestible chunks: Disease, Doctors, The Laboratory, Surgery, The Hospital. Each chapter sweeps over the span of medicine, picking out the choicest tidbits
Aslı M.
Feb 21, 2017 Aslı M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uzun zamandır bu kadar ilgimi çeken bir kitap okumamıştım. Okuma sürem diğerlerine nazaran daha uzun olsa da içeriğinde öğrenmek istediğim çok şeyi buldum.Tıbbın ilgili kısımları bölüm bölüm anlatılmış.Hastalık,doktor,beden... Keşke kitabın tüm içeriği aklımda kalabilseydi.
Daha önce çok popüler bilim kitabı/bilim kitabı okumadım diğerlerinde var mı bilmiyorum ama bu kitabın arkasında meraklıları için adeta ders kitabındakiler gibi gibi ayrıntılı çok hoş hazırlanmış bir kaynakça var.
Nov 22, 2012 Stuart rated it liked it
Shelves: science
By no means a bad book and it does cover the history of medicine as would be expected in a volume of this length. To those complaining that it is too brief I would have to respond with this question: why did you buy a book on the history of medicine that is stated online to be just 169 pages long after the deduction of notes? If purchased in a shop it is surely EVEN MORE OBVIOUS that intricate detail will not be found inside. I digress...

Anyway, worth a read if you want to put medical and surgic
This was a big disappointment. I know the subtitle includes the word "short" but this is far too brief. It reads more like an annotated outline of points the author wanted to cover in greater depth than an actual history. To be fair, this was published posthumously and I can't help thinking Mr. Porter wasn't quite done with it when he died. It's unfortunate that he didn't get a chance to finish because so many of the topics are interesting, and his take on the controversies is so well informed a ...more
For non-fiction this book was unusually atmospheric. Reading it was like strolling through a musty and over-stocked curiosity shop where papers have browned edges and specimens are sprawled on pins or suspended in jars. It's also inundating in the same way, full of quizzical facts that I loved observing but couldn't remember after closing the cover.
Emre Yavuz
Jan 27, 2016 Emre Yavuz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kitaplar
Dili fazla akademik olmasa, müthiş bilgiler barındırıyor içinde ama kitabın bazı yerlerini gerçekten anlamadığımı itiraf etmeliyim.
Çevirisi müthiş. 3 yıldızı da ona verdim zaten. Biraz daha sağlık sektörü dışında kalan insanların anlayacağı bir dilde yazılsaymış, 5 yıldızlık kitap olurmuş.
Reddy Katzy
Jul 25, 2014 Reddy Katzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Rhys Davies
Dec 22, 2016 Rhys Davies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is divided into eight thematic sections, going through 2500-odd years of medicine in terms of, to mention a few, disease, hospitals, doctors. Since you don't have to wallow in a particularly dry part of history for any amount of time, the book feels incredibly pacy. It's certainly a quick-read - I don't think it even took me a whole week. The downside of this is that at times, it can seem quite whistle-stop, simply name-dropping a doctor here and there, a drug, a disease, before moving ...more
Fun book, though rather opinionated at odd times-- sometimes rather openmindedly, im my view, and sometimes decidedly not. The scope is mostly limited to mainstream Western history. Disability rights folks will find some sections very frustrating.


"Anxieties about disease and doctors have, however, been omnipresent [through history]. And if, as we must, we regard the self as a mind-body continuum and sickness as in part psychosomatic, such fears must not be viewed as peripheral but as inte
Elizabeth Morgan
As others (including Porter himself) have noted, this is a pared-down version of The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity. If you wanted to actually learn the history of medicine, I'd start with that one instead.

Clocking in at just under 200 pages and spanning over 2000 years, this was not just a highlights reel, it was a greatest hits. There is no discussion of any negative consequences at all, with the exception of a brief extra line for Thalidomide, until the final few
Jul 31, 2008 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three-and-a-half stars really. This book delivers exactly what it promises: it's a short history of medicine. I've become spoiled by the modern nonfiction books, full of anecdotes and Malcolm-Gladwell-style chapters. So I think that affected my opinion of this book. This felt very much like a friendly textbook, dashing to cover large swaths of human history, while stopping to point out a person or development. It doesn't fall into the trap of just spitting out dates and places, and I liked that ...more
Oct 11, 2014 saizine rated it really liked it
A very good introduction to the history of medicine; however, it is very much that: an introduction. If you have any background at all in the study of the history of medicine, then this will be a reiteration of basic historical and theoretical knowledge. It is, like all of Roy Porter's work, a joy to read: lively, atmospheric, and engaging. Certainly a solid choice for a first foray into the subject, especially since the further reading section is full of great suggestions. The included images a ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Aurelien rated it liked it
Well, it's all in the title, it's a 'short history of medicine' so, here we have a romp through a vast topic that doesn't leave much space (sadly) for big informations, even relevant anecdotes. The whole indeed is just a fast paced race focusing on things that are quite common knowledge (from the big names to the issues now faced by our modern health care system), providing each time just that little bit extra details to make it all interesting. It's still a great introduction, and, its structu ...more
This book was well-written, if erudite in nature. Many times the sentences seemed to run on longer than necessary - with interjections of unneccessary details. Overall, however, I found it informative, interesting and thought-provoking, especially with regards to the current state of healthcare/medicine in the US today. The book focuses on the evolution of the practice of medicine and does at times read like a textbook, albeit a captivating one. Props to Mr. Porter - I thoroughly enjoyed his sum ...more
Ellen Keim
Sep 29, 2013 Ellen Keim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Because this book delivered what it promised, it left me wanting more. It is indeed a short history of medicine, but it does seem to do a decent job of hitting the highlights. I didn't think the writing was particularly witty or entertaining, but it was readable. I especially found the chapter on hospitals to be enlightening--I had no idea that the hospital we have today is a relatively recent phenomenon. The whole book laid the foundation for the last chapter which was a discussion about the st ...more
Mar 01, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is an incredible book - not only in its frankness of how modern medicine and surgery were pioneered but also of the failures and challenges those pioneers faced along the way. Modern medicine is something we all take for granted these days or at the very least under appreciate what people have put in to is - (and in many cases sacrificed). Sadly this book was written to accompany a TV series something I didn't realise till after I had read the book which is a shame as if it as illuminating ...more
Apr 28, 2009 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a concise overview of the history of medical science. Would have given it a better review, but a few of the middle chapters were kind of boring. The first few and last 2 chapters are great, though. Clearly summarized, no moralizing. Lots of period prints throughout the book make it a fun read. Some interesting useless facts, of course. Reading this book, it seemed like every sentence could have corresponded to an entire book, but it was not too dense to be a relaxing non-fiction read.
Emily Mellow
This book was a little too much info squeezed into too small of a book. I would rather delve deeply into a few interesting topics, than skim such a broad range of topics. I didn't get far before giving up on it, wishing the author had chosen to narrow his scope. Also, it wasn't in the least bit humorous, a major drawback. Please, authors, go ahead and include the funny bits with our history lessons. Thank you.
Allison Reimers
Jun 11, 2012 Allison Reimers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this one at the same time as F. Gonzalez-Crussi's 'A Short History of Medicine' and I liked this one a lot more, much more readable. Interesting that surgeons were once surgeons/barbers and that they were considered greatly inferior to physicians. It is amazing how far medicine has come in the last 200 years, heck the last 100 years. I recommend this book as a nice overview for anyone who wants to know more but not too much.
Thanks to Samantha for this recommendation (or, at least, she put it on her to-read list). I loved the sections on the history of disease and doctors, but the medical research sections were too short. I'm never going to remember most of what I read. For example, the development of pasteurization and cultures took all of two paragraphs. Still, it was a fun read.
May 21, 2015 Nichola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
A social history of medicine, covering perceptions and accompanying realities of disease, patients, hospitals, doctors and more. This was a fun quick read, by the kind of author you would love to meet in person. I felt like he knew so much about his subject that he could write one confident line and convey a lot.
Simon Howard
There are some interesting historical stories in here and some great pictures, but the arrangement into topics rather than chronology means that it lacks an overarching narrative. Combined with its brevity, it comes across as a bit like a bullet pointed list of interesting things, rather than a coherent whole.
Jan 21, 2017 Karim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good introduction to the history of medicine in the West starting from the Greek civilisation ( Hippocrates) the father of medicine to the development of the National health service (NHS) in the UK in the 20th century. It will give you a brief insight into the development of medicine such as hospitals, surgeries, therapies, laboratories; just to name a few, between these periods.
Jun 14, 2007 Janine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't just a recommendation for my pre-med buddies! This is an easy-to-read introduction into the history of medicine- just like it says. This book is a shortened form of The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. If you've ever wondered- who discovered veins? - what was the first operation?- this is a must read for you!
Jerry Mahn
Jul 08, 2013 Jerry Mahn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be interesting and informative. Fascinating brief history of medicine, how we got to where we are today. I would disagree with the review that says it is entertaining, and full of wit - lots of great information, though.
Aug 30, 2015 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este libro me permitió conocer distintas categorías necesarias para pensar la medicina y el cuerpo. Las imágenes me hicieron comprender varias implicaciones sociales y estéticas de la medicina en Occidente.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine
  • A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities
  • The Black Death: A Personal History
  • The Deadly Dinner Party: and Other Medical Detective Stories
  • Pox: Genius, Madness, And The Mysteries Of Syphilis
  • Death, Dissection and the Destitute
  • Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce
  • The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
  • Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and The Haunted Men Who Made It
  • The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera
  • Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates
  • Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine's Beautiful Idea, and Our Difficulty Swallowing It
  • The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers--How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death
  • Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex
  • The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis
  • Viruses, Plagues and History
  • The Hour of Our Death
Roy's books cover several fields: the history of geology, London, 18th-Century British ideas and society, medicine, madness, quackery, patients and practitioners, literature and art, on which subjects (and others) he published over 200 books are articles.

List of works can be found @ wikipedia ( )
More about Roy Porter...

Share This Book

“Of the thousands of medicaments in official use, few were truly effective: among these were quinine for malaria, opium as an analgesic, colchicum for gout, digitalis to stimulate the heart, amyl nitrate to dilate the arteries in angina and, introduced in 1896, the versatile aspirin.” 0 likes
More quotes…