The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present - Roy PorterLondon: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Hint of sunning to the spine. Pages very gently age-tanned.
3rd impression, first published 1997. Contains: Further reading list; Black & white photographs; Black & white drawings; Frontispiece;
From the cover: “Medicine advances ever faster, and with it a capacity not just to overcome sickness, but to transform the nature of life itself. Beginning in antiquity, Roy Porter’s titanic history examines the traditions of both East and West to chart how this revolution came about and how life for human beings, in some parts of the world at least, has ceased to be nasty, brutish and short.
The growth of civilization has unleashed successive new plagues upon humanity: The Greatest Benefit to Mankind demonstrates how our need to understand where these diseases come from, how they are transmitted and what we can do to control them has — perhaps above all else — inspired developments in medicine through the ages. It also explores how medicine is integral to, and develops out of, the wider religious, scientific, philosophical and political beliefs of the culture which surrounds it. It is against this background that Porter describes the rise of medical science — the emergence of specialisms such as anatomy, physiology, neurology and bacteriology — and the development of wider medical practice at the beside, in the hospital and in the ambitious public health systems of the twentieth century. It ends with a brilliant and controversial chapter on the future of medicine.
The book is also a treasure trove of historical surprises: Porter relates how the ancient Egyptians treated incipient baldness with a mixture of hippopotamus, lion, crocodile, goose, snake and ibex fat; how a mystery epidemic devastated ancient Athens and brought to an end the domination of that great city; how lemons did as much as Nelson to defeat Napoleon; how yellow fever, carried by African mosquitoes to the Americas, led the French to fail utterly in their attempts to recover Haiti after the slave revolt of 1790; and how the explorers of the South Seas brought both syphilis to Tahiti and tuberculosis and measles to the Maoris. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind becomes from the moment of publication the standard work on its subject. It is also a magnificent entertainment and a delight to read.”