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Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates
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Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  93 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
We all face disease and death, and rely on the medical profession to extend our lives. Yet, David Wootton argues, from the fifth century BC until the 1930s, doctors actually did more harm than good. In this controversial new account of the history of medicine, he asks just how much good it has done us over the years, and how much harm it continues to do today.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2006)
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Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
The material is interesting but the 'I'm going against the grain! Look at me! Against the grain! Here is my against the grain thesis statement once more!' tone made me kind of wary. I'm also not sure what he says about ancient medicine and its influence is entirely correct. I just didn't really get a sense that Wootton knew what he was talking about - most of it sounded like cherry picking. It's a shame because the idea - trying to find out why medicine took as long as it did to advance - is int ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing and terrifying investigation into the history of medicine. Read with a sick bag handy, if of weak disposition.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting, brisk potted history of medicine written for people like me who have read some history of science but don't know much about the history of medicine. Unfortunately, it's marred by the author's weird, grandiose attempts to turn minor disagreements with mainstream historical interpretations into existential critiques of academic history. For example, Wootton dates the birth of modern medicine in 1865 with the rise of Listerian antiseptic surgical practice. Other academic his ...more
Endre Fodstad
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wootton's book is thought-provoking for a number of reasons, especially when you, as I am, are interested in early technology. His point about the basis of Hippocratic/Galenic medicine (as apart from remedies not related to the underlying theory, and practical surgery) being complete ineffective nonsense - which, of course, is essentially true - should be made more often by the historians of ancient, medieval and early modern medical history. I knew the system was stubbornly maintained long beyo ...more
E. Davies
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Terrific. Brief, pointed, thoughtful and superbly original. Wootton, who is not a doctor, points out what they rarely do - that throughout human history, going to see a doctor has generally been bad for your health. He explores why this was and why it changed, all with gripping prose and a surprisingly small number of pages.
Luke Echo
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Randomly picked this up at Oxfam the other day. Its quite interesting stuff and really gets going towards the end. I thought it needed a rather more thorough editor though. Its a bit plagued by repetition in parts.
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it
- choppy, accusatory argument that medicine, as an organized profession and historical fallacy, plotted to hinder progress, resist life-saving innovations, and experiment with vivisection
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
K. Codell Carter's books are far better in explaining the history and philosophy of medicine.
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MA, PhD (Cantab), FRHistS

David Wootton is Anniversary Professor of History. He works on the intellectual and cultural history of the English speaking countries, Italy, and France, 1500-1800. He is currently writing a book entitled Power, Pleasure and Profit based on his Carlyle Lectures at the University of Oxford in 2014. His most recent book is The Invention of Science, published by Allen Lane.