Summary

A mesmerizing biography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the country's most famous museum of medical oddities
Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools - or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the middle of the 19th century.
Although he died at just 48, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time.
Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum.
Award-winning writer Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter's efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation - despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter's "overly" modern medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter's Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of 19th-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the "P. T. Barnum of the surgery room".
©2014 Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz (P)2014 Penguin Audiobooks
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Todd on 08-10-14

Creepy. Wonderful. Lost history.

I've been to the Mutter museum and it is fantastically wonderfully, odd, creepy and 100% American. After listening to this book, I have an entirely different context, and I want to go back to the museum tomorrow.

This is "lost history." We know the big stuff that happened, but this book is a wonderful example of the day-to-day lives of people, and of a city that wears its history on its sleeve.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By serine on 08-04-16

Morbidly wonderful

Living in Philadelphia, to me the Mutter Museum was a cool place that housed the strange tools of physician's past. When I think of Mutter, I think of awesomely creepy tales of how we once treated patients-- awake, screaming, and with devices that now serve as fodder for our better horror flicks. I had no idea that, in reading this book, I would come to know and love the dynamic and empathetic Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter. Though I already knew Mutter was long dead, I felt a real loss when the author took me to his death, back in 1856. Interestingly, Wiki has page for the Mutter Museum but not a page for Mutter himself! I am hoping this author might remedy that (or that someone less lazy than me will rise to the task).

In this book, Christian O'Keefe Aptowicz provides a rich history of the medical education undertaken by students as well as medical practices in early America through the 1900s. The author's focus is on one of the most innovative and compassionate doctors in history, Dr. Mutter. Mutter attended America's first and foremost medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He went on to play a pivotal role in helping make the newest medical school, Jefferson Medical College, a great success. In his time as educator and surgeon, he witnessed the birth of anesthesia (which he was oddly forbidden to use for quite some time), performed ground-breaking plastic surgery on burn victims, dealt with other doctors who were more interested in feeding their own egos than pushing medicine forward, and navigated Victorian society (which was decidedly less progressive than he). This book also touches on some interesting aspects of germ theory, women in medicine, and slavery and abolition (in both the North and South). It even provides a quick history of the famous students who were taught and inspired by Mutter. My only wish were that the book were longer and provided even more information about this incredible man's short but fruitful life that had quite an impact on the face of medicine.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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