Book Menage Day 2: The Doctors' Plague
24 May 2011
Welcome to Day 2 of our Book Menage! I thought today we'd discuss Sherwin Nuland's The Doctor's Plague (nonfiction first--after all, we're primarily about the NF around here), tomorrow we'd handle The Birth of Love, leave Thursday open for any questions you might want to ask of the group (leave them in the comments or send me an email with them at firstname.lastname@example.org), and Friday we'll have a round-up. Sound like a plan?
For anyone who hasn't read it, Nuland's The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis is an entry in the "Great Discoveries" series published by Norton, and it relates the story of Dr. Ignac Semmelweis, a nineteenth-century Hungarian doctor. Dr. Semmelweis is best known for tackling the problem of "childbed fever," which was responsible for the death of hundreds (if not thousands) of women who went to European hospitals in the mid-1800s to give birth. The problem? Most of the doctors in such hospitals were dissecting cadavers and working with other patients with communicable infections directly before they would perform not-always-so-gentle internal exams on laboring mothers, introducing the bacteria that caused the infections that would kill them. The solution that Semmelweis found? Doctors washing their hands better (basically). The problem with Semmelweis's solution? He wouldn't do experiments to prove it, he wouldn't write down his case in article or book form, and he basically alienated everyone around him until his premature and sad end.
So what to ask? Here's the questions I had:
1. Did you enjoy this book? Did you find it interesting? Why or why not?
2. What aspect of this story (if any) did you find most intriguing?
3. Did you find Semmelweis a tragic character? Why or why not? Do you think his "difficult" nature was part of what helped him solve the initial childbed fever riddle?
4. If you had to pick one, how would you categorize this book? Biography, history, or science?
Have at, and have fun!