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The Mysteries Within: A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths
Synopses & Reviews
In The Mysteries Within, the bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of How We Die takes us inside our own bodies to show how we continue to cling to myth and superstition even as our knowledge of our most hidden inner organs increases.
As a veteran surgeon, Sherwin Nuland is familiar with such organs as the heart, stomach, liver, spleen, and uterus. In folklore and legend, these organs have been given "personalities" or behaviors that often reflected prevailing philosophies of the time. Although we think of ourselves as living in a scientific age, we have inherited many of these folktales and illusions, and we are often comforted by what they tell us about ourselves, even when the legends are inaccurate.
In tracing these legends from primitive times to the present day, Dr. Nuland shows how our current knowledge of these organs has emerged from a rich history of imaginative speculation about how the human body works and what role each of these major organs plays. (Our early ancestors believed that the organs were independent creatures living within their bodies.) He illustrates his point by recounting riveting stories of operations, such as a stomach surgery to remove a mysterious substance from a six-week-old infant, an operation on a woman whose liver was badly damaged in an automobile accident, and heart surgery to open a valve in a dying woman. He explains how each of these organs behaved characteristically, then places this behavior in a historical context.
The Mysteries Within is a brilliant blend of myth and science, a lively exploration of medicine, history, and folklore. Eloquent and insightful, it is a book about the human body and, at the same time, an exploration of the human mind and spirit, especially our somewhat contradictory thirst for knowledge about ourselves and our quest for an immortality that transcends the physical body.
From the bestselling author of "How We Die" comes a fascinating exploration of the human body that combines a surgeon's experiences with the rich folklore and legends that surround our vital organs. "The Mysteries Within" brilliantly melds myth and science from the dawn of recorded history to the present day.
Table of Contents
Ch. 1. The stomach: a little boy's big secret — Ch. 2. The stomach: soul, spirit, and centrality — Ch. 3. The stomach: ghostly gases, mystical acids — Ch. 4. The liver: dumb luck and the surgeon — Ch. 5. The liver: source of life — Ch. 6. The spleen: organ of mystery, organ of melancholy — Ch. 7. The heart: cracking the valve — Ch. 8. The heart: the first and last dying — Ch. 9. The uterus: the hysterical passion — Ch. 10. Reproduction: babies in boxes.
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