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Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  67 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
In his new book, David Dary, one of our leading social historians, gives us a fascinating, informative account of American frontier medicine from our Indian past to the beginning of World War II, as the frontier moved steadily westward from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean.

He begins with the early arrivals to our shores and explains how their combined European-taugh
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jun 30, 2012 Zoe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting topic but poor execution, I could not get through this author's wandering and redundant writing style. Plus, I wanted to hear more about nurses!
Lissa Notreallywolf
Thus far I am disappointed in this book. It's not that I am not learning anything, it's that I am not enjoying the process as much as I might like. I have preferred Finger's Doctor Franklin and Angelic Conjunction to this book. Some of my current concerns involve the understated tuberculosis epidemic in Europe and America, the fact that he states that at the time of the Civil War people were taking asprin in addition to self medicating with alcohol (asprin, a buffered form of an acid found in wi ...more
Mar 11, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing
Medical history has become over the past twenty years one of the most interesting sub-fields of American and world history as it shows, at its best, the plight of suffering of people in combat against pathogens and trauma and the efforts of physicians, nurses, and others to better the world one life at a time. In doing so, the history of medicine also becomes the history of towns, cities, states, nations, and cultures. It displays the trajectory of human evolution forward, away from superstition ...more
Jul 13, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
I did enjoy this book, although I have to say it was less through the skill of the author and more a result of the sheer interestingness of the topic. A history of medicine on the American frontier would, one would expect, be filled with gunshots and explosions, gruesome amputations and wild and wacky remedies, replete with many moments of 'ewww, they didn't!' And this was, don't get me wrong. It covers Native American traditions, Chinese medicine, midwives and women doctors, mountain men and mo ...more
Another [noun] who did [something related to the last anecdote] was [name]. Born...

If I see another second sentence beginning "Born..." I might have an apoplexy myself. This is the most boring interesting book I can remember reading. There is a lot of interesting stuff in here, and even more potentially interesting stuff--sometimes that potential is tantalizing. But as a historian, the author seems to have simply collected all his anecdotes, created some broad categories, and then within each ca
Feb 03, 2009 Beth rated it liked it
I am enjoying this read immensely. However, as much fun as it is for me to read wacky medical accounts that are listed with very little in the way of transitions, Dary would have done better for himself had he created a story chronologically, instead of topically, with so many different subdivisions. I ma enjoying myself, but it isn't a smooth ride with any kind of discernable arc.

Earlier: I can't WAIT to find time to read this one. Don't worry, I will tell you ALL about primitive surgery and ho
Lucy Gunn
Mar 28, 2015 Lucy Gunn rated it really liked it
I thought this book was interesting, have kept it around for years and read at least part of it more than once, which gets it 4 stars. My husband also enjoyed it. But... this book is too dense to find information. When I read it the first time I enjoyed the author's peripatetic style because I like the trivia and facts he brought to each section. Now that I want to go back and reread interesting tidbits I am having a hard time finding them. It's better as an armchair read on a fascinating topic.
Eric Mccutcheon
Dec 15, 2013 Eric Mccutcheon rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I did not care for this book. While the subject matter would seemingly be full of promise, the execution was poor. My biggest complaint is the lack of organization and the need to list every doctor he could find information about. Instead of concentrating on one or two doctors for the subjects he found interesting, and then using those doctors' stories as the framework for a discussion on those subjects, the author proved his point by repeating the same idea over and over again. Very dry and dis ...more
Connie Lindstrom
Jan 09, 2017 Connie Lindstrom rated it liked it
Better approached as a selection of interesting anecdotes. There didn't really seem to be much of a chronology or overarching purpose, and I feel like I'd read a lot of this material before, and covered more effectively, in other works focusing on more specific themes. But worth a read and useful for ideas on other things to read on related subjects (e.g. the frontier, the advancement of medicine, advertising).
This books spans American medicine from before the nation existed (Natives, trappers, colonists) through the end of the snake oil period of the 1930s. The bit about the Lewis and Clark exhibition was particularly interesting. They took serious pains to be medically prepared, and it paid off when they only lost one man (who likely died of a bust appendix, which they wouldn't have been able to treat anyway).
Apr 28, 2014 Nancy rated it liked it
The interesting bits were REALLY interesting, but the boring bits were REALLY boring. Some sections seemed to wander all over and back forth and have no direction. Decent, but could have been better. One can only read so many stats and numbers. Bonus points for the descriptions of the no anesthesia ovary-ectomy. Totally cool!
Anne Sanow
Feb 02, 2009 Anne Sanow marked it as to-read
Shelves: stopped-reading
Will pick this up again--right now it's languishing in a pile because I'm reading fiction instead.


Most recent fact learned: Meriwether Lewis died of syphilis! Or, more precisely, a self-inflicted gunshot wound due to madness/depression following from same.
Jul 08, 2014 Melissa rated it it was ok
Informative and interesting but rather dry with far too much excess information (such as where a medical pioneer grew up when that didn't influence his techniques). The book could honestly have been half as long if all of the "fluff" was removed.
Feb 05, 2009 Tom marked it as to-read
A birthday gift from Kate
Jan 21, 2009 J rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Some good observations of medicine past and present and oogie descriptions of medical practices, but read too often like an outline.
page 139. Have to stop here as it needs to go back to the library and I can't renew it. It's pretty good so far, but I am a little annoyed by the redundant writing style this author seems to have.
Sep 21, 2009 Meredith rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-borrowed
Interesting topic, however, it didn't always flow well from one subject to the next and some of the chapters were not knit well together.
Jan 25, 2009 Angela rated it liked it
This book was very interesting. I'm glad that we live in the times of medicine that we do now.
ok. some interesting facts, but writing style is rather boring.
Jul 26, 2012 Gregory rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction

Entertaining and interesting read on the evolution of modern medicine. An occasional detour into arcane recounts and Kansas folklore but otherwise enjoyable.
Rachel rated it liked it
Mar 31, 2017
Lynn rated it really liked it
Oct 15, 2015
Rowena Newman
Rowena Newman rated it really liked it
Dec 18, 2016
Taryn rated it really liked it
Nov 01, 2009
Bill Whalen
Bill Whalen rated it liked it
Aug 25, 2009
Quinn Rollins
Quinn Rollins rated it really liked it
Jul 04, 2012
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Sep 22, 2016
Zeke rated it liked it
Nov 03, 2011
Rita rated it did not like it
Oct 04, 2009
Daniel Vojta
Daniel Vojta rated it really liked it
Oct 20, 2015
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