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Bleed, Blister, And Purge: A History Of Medicine On The American Frontier
Bleed, Blister, and Purge traces the fits and starts of medical progress on the western frontier. With the authority of a scholar and the sparkle of an old-time storyteller, Dr. Volney Steele takes the reader from rotgut whiskey to modern anesthetics, from castor oil to antibiotics, and from barroom surgery to modern hospital operations. Dr. Steele wrote Bleed, Blister, and Purge to shed light on and celebrate the dedication and humanitarianism of those many physicians, nurses, shamans, and people of sound practical sense who saw their patients often friends and family through the adversities that bedeviled them. Citing everything from government reports to first-person remembrances, combined with his own sensitive interpretation, the author creates a full, clear, and colorful picture of illness and the healing art in the old West. The reader will find fascinating descriptions of the mysterious rituals of Indian medicine men; the spread of venereal disease among gold camp hurdy-gurdy girls; how military surgeons grew vegetables to combat scurvy; pioneer home remedies such as applying fresh cow manure to wounds; the cure-all tonics of traveling medicine-show quacks; the horse-and-buggy house calls of homestead doctors; and much more. Nearly one hundred historical photographs and a glossary of medical terms enhance the text.
Interesting anecdotal history of frontier medicine
By Elizabeth Clare "author, To the Ends of the E...
- August 1, 2006
In the first part of this book, Steele covers a wide range of topics, from native medicine to Lewis & Clark to folk medicine, quackery, and the pioneering physicians who first came to the West. A section on women physicians is both inspiring and troubling: one admires the women who defied convention to become doctors, but shudders at the stories of women's health in the era and how poorly understood were needs such as prenatal care and birth control.
In the second section, Steele talks about public health, including early hospitals, sanitation, and epidemic disease. Again, with a good eye for telling details, stories, and photographs, Steele reveals an unfamiliar story with what he calls a "mixture of awe and distress."
I've always been interested in epidemics, and found particular fascination in the discussion of the frightening diseases that stalked the frontier, especially the resistance of civic leaders and ordinary citizens to take the appropriate measures... read more
Concise and well written
By H. S.
- August 23, 2005
This book refers to the 1800s in Montana through the eyes of various doctors and medical personnel. Well written and filled with interesting facts from the era. An excellent read and well worth your time. If you are studying medicine in the Old West, this is the book for you.
An informative and beguiling overview
By A. Gardner
- November 27, 2010
I loved this book and read it with an almost ecstatic compulsion. Although I was familiar with some of the basics from history and science professors, I had never had an opportunity to see the rich and varied history of this profession interact with such a charming and brutal historical context, and there wasn't anything dry about this narrative. For a non-fiction book, it is warm and engaging, and while many of the things described are brutal and stomach churning, the humanity of the book shines through. Some of the previous reviewers felt that it was lacking in the explanation of certain medical terminology, and certainly there were some things that could have been better defined for an average reader, who may occasionally have to find the definitions for some words in an outside source (yes, there is a glossary, but I didn't find every word I needed there). Another reviewer mentioned that they would have preferred more first person accounts and information on certain subjects... read more
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