From Medicine to Manuscript: Doctors with a Literary Legacy

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Writing and medicine make great companions. While medicos know to be absolutely precise in their work, literary pursuits allow creativity and imagination to soar. Physician Seymour Schwartz, with lengthy careers in both fields, profiles scores of men and women who have continued or sidestepped their medical training to write.

Taking as his starting point the 12th century Maimonides, he includes authors who are household names such as Conan Doyle, Somerset Maugham and Anton Chekhov, and others less known but also remarkable.

Schwartz’s brief biographies include titles of written works, whether fiction or non-fiction and either demonstrating medical expertise or omitting it. Some, like the nineteenth and early twentieth century Sir William Osler, achieved fame on both sides of the Atlantic. Recognized as a leader in the ‘transformation of medical education from the lecture room to the patients’ bedsides, he wrote about Renaissance medical history and single-handedly penned the 1,050 pages of ‘The Principles and practice of Medicine,’ popularly acknowledged as the first great textbook of modern medicine.

Following the centuries one reads how Sir Richard Treves wrote about the ‘Elephant Man,’ whom he spotted in a London freak show, how Erasmus Darwin was widely celebrated like grandson Charles Darwin, and Arthur Schnitzler whose work was damned as pornographic but wouldn’t raise eyebrows today.

Present day names include Britain’s Gordon Stanley Ostlere (a.k.a Richard Gordon) whose books became a series of comedy ‘Doctor’ movies, neurologist Oliver Sacks exploring facets of the human mind, Tess Gerritsen forsaking her medical practice as she completed 19 novels, and the beloved Lewis Thomas. Many produced a vast body of work over a range of subjects challenging our belief in the truism that a day has only 24 hours.


Reviewed By:

Author Seymour I. Schwartz
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 368 pages
Publisher Prometheus Books
Publish Date 2018-Aug-14
ISBN 9781633884335
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue December 2018
Category History
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