Boneheads and Brainiacs
190 pages

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190 pages

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Even the greatest minds in medicine have been terribly, terribly wrong.

The inventor of the lobotomy won a Nobel prize in medicine for destroying his patients' brains. Another Nobel laureate thought malaria cured syphilis. The discoverer of anaphylactic shock also researched the spirit world and ESP. A pioneer of organ transplants was an ardent eugenicist, while the founder of sports physiology heroically spoke out against Nazism.

Boneheads and Brainiacs profiles the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine from 1901 to 1950—a surprisingly diverse group of racists, cranks, and opportunists, as well as heroes, geniuses, and selfless benefactors of humanity. Forget all the ivory tower stereotypes of white-coated doctors finding miracle cures. Boneheads and Brainiacs reveals the messy human reality behind medical progress, in a highly entertaining book written for the ordinary reader.

Some were bad scientists; others were great scientists and lousy human beings. But the majority of these researchers produced knowledge that now saves millions of lives—priceless discoveries like the role of vitamins in nutrition, the dangers of radiation, treatments for diabetes and deadly infectious diseases, and more. Boneheads and Brainiacs showcases the enthralling, all-too-human personal lives that made modern medicine possible.



Publié par
Date de parution 10 mars 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781610353687
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Moira Dolan, MD
Boneheads and Brainiacs: Heroes and Scoundrels of the Nobel Prize in Medicine
Copyright 2020 by Moira Dolan. All rights reserved.
Published by Quill Driver Books
An imprint of Linden Publishing
2006 South Mary Street, Fresno, California 93721
(559) 233-6633 / (800) 345-4447
Quill Driver Books and Colophon are trademarks of Linden Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 978-1-61035-350-2
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file.
The Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize Rules
Chapter 1: The First Nobel Prize
Chapter 2: The Parasite and The Pest
Chapter 3: A Bright Future
Chapter 4: Science Promotes a Slave State
Chapter 5: His Eminence
Chapter 6: The Mistaken Observerand Dr. Bacteria
Chapter 7: The Obvious Suspects
Chapter 8: Immunity Wars
Chapter 9: Accidental Harm, Chocolate, and the Nobel Prize
Chapter 10: The Perpetual Chicken
Chapter 11: Another Eugenicist
Chapter 12: Balance
Chapter 13: Fighting Infection
Chapter 14: Blood, Sweat, and Sugar
Chapter 15: The Gentile and the Jew
Chapter 16: The Canadian Diabetes Discoveries
Chapter 17: Reading the Secrets of the Heart
Chapter 18: Dead Wrong
Chapter 19: Fever Therapy and War Crimes
Chapter 20: Of Lice and Men
Chapter 21: Hidden Vitality
Chapter 22: Of the Type ThatSaved Millions of Lives
Chapter 23: Greatest Influence from the Lowest Profile
Chapter 24: The Brain Is Not the Mind
Chapter 25: American Genesis
Chapter 26: Eat Your Liver
Chapter 27: Shades of Cloning
Chapter 28: Brain Chemistry 101
Chapter 29: Starting at the Wrong End
Chapter 30: Matters of the Heart
Chapter 31: Brimstone
Chapter 32: Bleeding Chickens
Chapter 33: Hitting a Nerve
Chapter 34: The Rediscovery of Penicillin
Chapter 35: Godzilla in the Making
Chapter 36: Sugar Metabolism
Chapter 37: The Making of a Silent Spring
Chapter 38: Scrambled Brains
Chapter 39: More Hormones
Chapter 40: Nobel Influences
Points of Interest
T his book covers the first fifty years of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine-from 1901 to 1950-a period that saw two world wars, the atomic bomb, and Nazism. These horrific events gave plenty of opportunity for boneheads to shine and brainiacs to struggle. On hearing the Nobel Prize, most people think of a prestigious award for the loftiest achievements in the world given to the best of the best who have made the most useful contributions to the betterment of humankind. It is natural to idolize our heroes, so there is a tendency to presume that prizewinners are the smartest, kindest, fairest, and overall preeminent people in the world. The Nobel Prize conjures images of selfless geniuses dedicating their entire lives to a relentless pursuit of advancing knowledge for the benefit of all the peoples on Earth.
These were certainly my presumptions when I first heard about the Nobel Prize in Medicine. I was a teenager eagerly applying myself to my studies with the goal of becoming a doctor. My role model was Albert Schweitzer, a French-German physician and theologian who made his career in the deepest reaches of Africa, bringing hope and healing as a Christian medical missionary. Schweitzer won the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of reverence for life in which he bucked the modern trend of science that had sunk into materialism devoid of ethical responsibility. Schweitzer lived his creed by placing human rights and dignity above all else.
It was a shock then to be faced with cynicism and contempt when it came time for my medical school admission interviews. I was repeatedly asked, Why do you want to be a doctor?
To heal people, of course! I readily replied.
When this drew snickers and once even derisive laughter, I gradually changed my answer to just generally wanting to help people. That only caused cynical head shaking, but a few schools accepted me nonetheless.
As a first-year med student, I spent a great deal of time in the anatomy lab performing dissection. I was good at it and deftly went about our daily assignments in a workmanlike fashion, cutting through the gut, the heart, the brain. This attitude carried me right up until the last week, when we had to dissect the feet. Just as I was about to cut into the sole of the foot, I noticed that my cadaver had a Dr. Scholl s corn plaster on his little toe. It made me consider the life of the person who had been, and I was infused with a sense of the soul of the man. I lost all enthusiasm for hacking into his body because it suddenly felt like an irreverent and callous activity.
Another memorable event occurred in my second year, when our class was treated to a visit from sales representatives of the drugmaker Eli Lilly. They distributed expensive stethoscopes to the entire student body, totally free. Free in the short run, yes, but it was Lilly s attempt to begin forging the bonds that would influence prescribing habits for a professional lifetime. When I questioned the ethics of accepting these gifts, I was in the definite minority. Little by little, my lofty image of the noble calling of medicine was being eroded.
By my third year, well into clinical hands-on medicine with real live patients, I noticed gross insensitivity had worked its way into our everyday language on the medical wards. The juvenile diabetic we called the twelve-year-old girl admitted with seizures due to her sugar being out of whack. The seventy-five-year-old man transferred from the nursing home with a gangrene infection was simply referred to as the black foot on 4North. Then there were the heart attacks, the fevers of unknown origin, and, of course, always a dreadful assortment of nutcases.
I was in my internship and residency program in the years before the law mandated that patients be asked at the time of hospital admission for their advanced directives, or living wills. Therefore, every patient who stopped breathing was immediately subjected to a resuscitation effort, complete with chest compressions and attachment to machines for artificial respiration. Most of these efforts failed, but occasionally there would be a survivor who was stuck on a machine with so much loss of blood flow to the brain that he or she would never recover a meaningful life. The general attitude was to take no responsibility for such outcomes: hey, we did our jobs. My experiences of modern medical care were drifting further away from my ideals, which seemed increasingly unrealistic.
One day we were engaged in a resuscitation effort on a ninety-five-year-old woman with multi-organ failure -she was simply dying. The attending physician phoned in and insisted we cease and desist. He then told me that, decades ago, the patient had been on a team of Nobel Prize-winning researchers who discovered vitamin B12, and if she survived our CPR, she would surely be brain dead. What kind of life is that for such a stellar mind? It rekindled my interest in Nobel Prize winners in the field of medicine. By then I was disillusioned by the insensitivity of modern medical care but still held on to ideas that once upon a time medicine was widely practiced as a noble profession. I returned to the writings of Albert Schweitzer, who had this to say about being compassionate: The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others. Schweitzer warned, If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life. 1
After thirty years in medicine, I now have the luxury to write about my fascination with the Nobel Prize. I discovered some interesting histories of the prize-winning characters little known outside the academic world, based on a great deal of contemporary and autobiographical accounts. This is thanks to both the resources available through out-of-print book finds on the internet and the policy of the Nobel committee to unlock sealed records after fifty years have elapsed.
I was alternately delighted, surprised, and dismayed by what I found. There were plenty of noble characters among Nobel Prize winners, but alas I discovered that some of my historical medical heroes were far from the honorable stars I had idealized. What I learned along the way has changed my view of the Nobel Prize in that I no longer assume the winners are necessarily the best or the most honorable or the fairest in the land, but it hasn t dampened my keen interest in their fascinating stories. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed the process of composing it.
Moira Dolan, MD Austin, Texas

1 . Harold E. Robles, comp., Reverence for Life: The Words of Albert Schweitzer (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993).
The Nobel Prize

Cartridge filled with dynamite, with Nobel s signature on the paper wrapping
The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind .
-Alfred Nobel, last will and testament 1
T he reading of Alfred Nobel s last will and testament upon his death in 1896 must have been a shock to his relatives. He left 94 percent of his fo

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