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IMSS Book Club: The Butchering Art

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International Museum of Surgical Science

1524 North Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, IL 60610

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IMSS Book Club: Reading Between the Spines

Are you interested in diving deeper into the themes explored through our collections and exhibitions? Do you love reading? Then you’re in luck, IMSS is launching its very own book club!

Our first meeting will be Wednesday February 27th, 2019. The Museum will be open from 5:30-7:30, but you can drop-in anytime during those hours.

At each meeting there will be a round table style book discussion, refreshments and an opportunity to either explore objects from our collections or get hands-on with interactive activities that are thematically relevant to the text.

This program is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 5:30 and the book discussion will begin around 6pm.



To kick it off we will be reading The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris.

About the Book:

The story of a visionary British surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world - the safest time to be alive in human history

In The Butchering Art, historian Lindsey Fitzharris recreates 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, when surgeons often lacked university degrees, and were still known to ransack cemeteries to find cadavers. While the discovery of anaesthesia somewhat lessened the misery for patients, ironically it led to more deaths, as surgeons took greater risks. 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, melancholy 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.

About the Author:

Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris is a bestselling author, and medical historian with a doctorate from the University of Oxford. Her debut book, The Butchering Art, won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science in the United States; and was shortlisted for both the Wellcome Book Prize and the Wolfson History Prize in the United Kingdom. She is the creator of the popular blog, The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice, as well as the host of the YouTube series, Under the Knife. She has written for a variety of publications, including Scientific America, The Guardian, The Lancet, New Scientist, and The Huffington Post. Her next book will be on the birth of plastic surgery told through the incredible story of Harold Gillies, the pioneering surgeon who first united art & medicine to address the horrific injuries that resulted from World War I.


Purchase The Butchering Art in our Museum Store

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Check it out from the Chicago Public Library

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International Museum of Surgical Science

1524 North Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, IL 60610

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