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The Butchering Art

Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine
Narrated by: Sam Woolf
Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: History, British
5 out of 5 stars (185 ratings)

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Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris, read by Sam Woolf.

In The Butchering Art, historian Lindsey Fitzharris re-creates a critical turning point in the history of medicine, when Joseph Lister transformed surgery from a brutal, harrowing practice to the safe, vaunted profession we know today.

Victorian operating theatres were known as 'gateways of death', Fitzharris reminds us, since half of those who underwent surgery didn't survive the experience. This was an era when a broken leg could lead to amputation, and surgeons were still known to ransack cemeteries to find cadavers. And in squalid, overcrowded hospitals, doctors remained baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high.

At a time when surgery couldn't have been more dangerous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: Joseph Lister, a young Quaker surgeon. By making the audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection - and could be treated with antiseptics - he changed the history of medicine forever.

With a novelist's eye for detail, Fitzharris brilliantly conjures up the grisly world of Victorian surgery, revealing how one of Britain's greatest medical minds finally brought centuries of savagery, sawing and gangrene to an end.

©2017 Lindsey Fitzharris (P)2017 Penguin AudioBooks

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One man can change the world

I have been fascinated by Joseph Lister since first reading about him for a school project when I was just 10 years old. The children’s encyclopaedia I consulted then, however, gave little hint of the drama and intensity of the uphill battle Lister had to convince the medical profession that using antiseptic methods was not a mere whim. It is hard for us in the C21 to imagine that time when, although Pasteur had documented the reality of microbes in his work, yet many doctors could not get their heads around the idea of “ the germ”.

Lindsay Fitzharris’ book supported by his clear and careful narration had me seizing every opportunity to listen in. There were many shocking moments in the story, some of which, with their detailed descriptions of operations when Lister first entered medical school, could perhaps deter a less determined reader from going on. But for me the most harrowing story was of the time Lister had to operate on his own sister who had developed breast cancer. It is hard to imagine how he must have faced up to this trial knowing every other surgeon had refused to operate.

Lister changed the world of medicine for ever. There was no one else even close . Everyone should know about this gentle and determined and brilliant man. We take for granted the notion that when surgery is necessary everything will be conducted in a way to maximise the healing process and minimise the possibility of infection. Indeed today antibiotics are also at the doctors disposal should infection arise. Lister and his fellow surgeon had no such fallback and most post op infections led to death or at best amputation.

Reflect on these things.

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Very interesting book

I knew a little about early surgery - but learned a lot more! A fascinating account of how early operations were performed, and butchery is certainly the right word. Amazing that anyone survived before Joseph Lister and his contemporaries began to fully understand the implications of opening up a body.

It was perhaps a little long ..... but highly informative. More really a biography of Joseph Lister. Recommended.

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Very interesting.

An interesting and informative view into the world of the surgeon before, during and after clean, antiseptic and aseptic treatment was introduced by Dr Lister. Also a view at the collision of two sciences that showed the world why medicine needed to co-join biology and chemistry. Showing surgery and medicine as the science based craft it was a pulling physics, chemistry and biology together to improve hospital practices.

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Animal lovers:B Beware

Couldn't bring myself to read anymore after a horrific description of a live vivisection of a dog.

Was so disturbing, it reduced me to tears.

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Fab!

We certainly have a lot to be grateful for!

Thank you Misters Lister and Monseur Pasteur!

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Loved the book

Great insight as to the grisly way surgery used to be done. Highly recommended for history lovers.

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Awesome

I never thought to want the read this kind of book, but I found it fascinating and compelling.

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A horrific journey into the past of surgery A+

A highly intriguing look into the history of surgery and the horrors that accompanied it. Highly recommended.

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Exquisite gory informative

A wonderful way to learn about the medical profession’s early days. Sam Woolf reads very well & even the Scots’ accents are good. Well done to Fitzharris for a compelling book.

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Brilliant

This book is fantastic! It gives a real insight into surgery in Victorian times, and just how much Joseph Lister changed medicine and surgery. Very well written, and very enjoyable. I am looking forward to what else Lindsey Fitzharris writes.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-06-20

Super interesting

I loved both the story and the narration. I strongly suggest listening to this book to someone who is interested in medicine.

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  • Kerryn
  • 29-03-20

Beautifully read and inspiring story

inspiring story in these troubling times. Hopefully we get many Listers in the coming months.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-12-18

Excellent

This book is not for the faint of heart... it is a true glimpse to Victorian times, with all of the gory, messy details. But it's also beautifully written (and performed), and gives us a real sense of what medicine and life was like at the early days of the industrial revolution. It's not overly academic and not overly literary - it's just the right amount of both.
And truly, what a unique and compelling story to tell. Wonderful.
I should also mention Sam Woolf for his excellent narration, not a dull moment.

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  • Nora
  • 06-11-18

Fascinating!

Truly remarkable piece of medical history and the discovery of germs. At times a little gross and graphic, it only serves to highlight how far we have come. I have a new hero!