I want to tell you about a book I got for Christmas, one that I can’t put down. The book’s is The Butchering Art, written by Dr. Lindsey FitzHarris. That title is somewhat unfortunate, because the book is hardly about butchering. Instead, it is a thorough and dramatic biography of the famous British surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lister, the man who discovered, proved, and championed the scrupulous use of antiseptics to prevent the infection of surgical wounds (think, “Listerine”).
We see Dr. Lister’s dogged laboratory work with frog tissues and yeasts, and his mastery of both pre- and post-anesthetic surgical techniques. (Pre-anesthetics, a surgeon was noted for his speed with the knife, so that patient would endure pain for as short a time as possible.)
We watch as Dr. Lister navigates the hierarchical political structures of Victorian hospitals and universities; showing us, for example, why today’s modern senior doctors are curiously called “Attendings,” and why they are only loosely tied to their hospitals.
We also see Dr. Lister and his colleagues pause in their medical-school lectures to deliver criticisms of “homeopathy,” a false-science of the era. False-science persists even today and persuades many people to refuse vaccination in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic. Of course, the Spiritual Path of Continuing Creation always comes down on the side of Real Science.
The Butchering Art is a bestseller, with many fine reviews inside the cover, including praise from the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal, and The Spectator.
Here is a quote from the book’s back cover: “Fitzharris dramatically
reconstructs Lister’s career path in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection — and could be countered by antiseptics. Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.”