America's finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century "cabinet museum" setting.
The goal of the Museum is to help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.This is not a museum for the feint of heart, but their mission is so important. They provide an unflinching look at how our system of modern medicine evolved. The short version-- it was not pretty, people died horrific deaths, but lessons were learned and we are all better off for it.
Recently, the first ever biography of the man whose work, innovation, and collection made the museum that bares his name possible was released. Dr Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keepe Aptowicz is a fascinating, engaging and thought provoking read, especially now during the Halloween season, and especially for nonfiction readers looking for a slightly different season option.
It is also important to note that I have seen an increase in people’s interest in this tough look at the true horrors of the dawn of modern medicine with the success of Cinemax’s fantastic new series, The Knick featuring Clive Owen.
I thought my doctor husband and I were among a small group of weirdoes watching this series, until just this past Tuesday, while cleaning up from the library’s monthly Trivia Night, someone starting talking about The Knick and how great [but gross] it is. Here is more detail on the series:
Set in downtown New York in 1900, 'The Knick' is a new Cinemax drama series from Academy Award and Emmy-winning director Steven Soderbergh. It is centered on the Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff who work there, pushing the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. Soderbergh directs all 10 episodes of the series' first season.
Academy Award and Emmy nominee Clive Owen stars as Doctor John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon pioneering new methods in the field, despite his secret addiction to cocaine. He leads a team of doctors including his protégé Dr. Everett Gallinger; the young Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr. and Dr. Algernon Edwards, a promising surgeon who's been recently thrust upon him. The lively cast of characters at the hospital also includes Cornelia Robertson, the daughter of its benefactor, Captain August Robertson; surly ambulance driver Tom Cleary; Lucy Elkins; a fresh-faced nurse from the country; the crooked hospital administrator Herman Barrow; and Sister Harriet, a nun who isn't afraid to speak her mind.Of course, I joined the conversation about the show, and in the process mentioned the Mutter Museum and the new book about Dr. Mutter. This turned into a larger conversation about other books this person could read. [Yes I was providing horror RA, in a bar, under the official auspices of a library event. It was a dream come true.]
I figure if it came up in a bar, it could happen in a library so I should share it here too. Here are the other books I mentioned as possible readalikes:
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From The Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. This was the #1 Library Reads pick in September: “Part memoir, part expose of the death industry, and part instruction manual for aspiring morticians. First-time author Doughty has written an attention-grabbing book that is sure to start some provocative discussions...” This is a book for all fans of the macabre to try.
- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. From the publisher: "Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers some willingly, some unwittingly have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.”
- The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Brink of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum. Click here for my review.
I hope these suggestions help you to help some readers.