The Worst of Evils


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The Fight Against Pain

Thomas Dormandy

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This riveting book takes the reader around the globe and through the centuries to discover how different cultures have sought to combat and treat physical pain. With colorful stories and sometimes frightening anecdotes, Dr. Thomas Dormandy describes a checkered progression of breakthroughs, haphazard experiments, ignorant attitudes, and surprising developments in human efforts to control pain. Attitudes toward pain and its perception have changed, as have the means of pain relief and scientific understanding. Dr. Dormandy offers a thoroughly fascinating, multi-cultural history that culminates with a discussion of today’s successes—and failures—in the struggle against pain. 

The book’s exploration is fused with accounts of the development of specific methods of pain relief, including the use of alcohol, plants, hypnosis, religious faith, stoic attitudes, local anesthesia, general anesthesia, and modern analgesics. Dr. Dormandy also looks at the most recent advances in pain clinics and palliative care for patients with terminal disease as well as the prospects for loosening pain’s grip in the future.

Thomas Dormandy, M.D., is consultant chemical pathologist and retired professor of chemical pathology, Whittington Hospital, University of London, and Brunel University, London. He is the author of the prizewinning book The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis.

"More has been written about the technical aspects of anesthesia than on the cultural history of pain and its control. Thomas Dormandy’s book triumphantly combines these two major themes in medicine and culture. It is a major achievement and a joy to read."—W. F. Bynum, MD, PhD, FRCP, Professor Emeritus, University College London

"...riveting...' - The First Post

“[An] interesting and witty collection of anecdotes of the history of pain relief. … Dr Dormandy breathes life into stories…” - Marc Mullen, Wood & Vale

"Under Dormandy's masterful hand, the story of surgical anesthesia unfolds like a Wagnerian opera, complete with convoluted plotline and tragic—or tragicomic—heroes. . . . Dormandy combines a scientist's passion for accuracy with a historian's delight in the quirky backstory. His ebullience overflows the main text into a river of footnotes that could, in their own right, form a small novella. His wry humor, in the quintessentially British tradition of Kingsley Amis or P.G. Wodehouse, enlivens even the footnotes."—Judy Goldstein Botello, San Diego Union-Tribune

“[A] remarkable cultural history of pain. … Dormandy’s splendid study…ends on ‘a note not of despair but of hope’.” - PD Smith, The Guardian

“Dormandy makes clear, that it is only through pain that an individual truly learns who they are. … This is a remarkable history…of an important aspect of illness and medicine [and] this is an excellent read.” - Professor Lewis Wolpert, Camden New Journal

"Thomas Dormandy has produced a major work of medical history that deserves to be read. It is not dry toast, either, but is spread with bon mots and anecdotes. . . . This book was a pleasure to read."—Charles Thornsvard, The

"In his historical account of the pursuit and conquest of pain the author... moves between science, literature and the history of the ancient and new worlds with consummate ease... a near perfect historical record of the struggle against pain, although the hard won victory is as yet incomplete."---British Medical Journal

"The Worst of Evils is a valuable addition to studies in the history of pain and is recommended for both general readers and scholars."—Martha Stoddard Holmes, New England Journal of Medicine

"Interspersed throughout the 500-plus pages are many stories surrounding medical discoveries as well as interesting personal accounts regarding self-experimentation, insanity, suicide, and fights over discovery rights. . . . This book would likely be of most interest to faculty with a strong background and interest in medical history. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"...intriguing...The Worst of Evils is an intrepid, and tentatively hopeful account of a territory few of us will not come to know."---Brian Dillon, The Irish Times

"It is one of the merits of this account of mankind's struggle to overcome pain...that it considers all aspects of the struggle...[Dormandy] is generously alive to other traditions and outlooks...and pays more than usual attention to psychological factors, making his book more subtle than other histories of the subject."---Anthony Daniels, The Tablet

"The quest to overcome suffering has profoundly impacted the direction of the human story, a history recounted thoroughly and expertly by physician-author Thomas Dormandy in The Worst of Evils. . . . Dr. Dormandy has performed brilliantly in his exhaustively researched, thoroughly credible, and frequently fascinating book. . . . The Worst of Evils belongs in the library of anyone interested in the history of medicine."—Wesley J. Smith, First Things

"A rare book. It manages the Herculean tasks of being both vast in scope and yet simultaneously making you feel as though you are in a small seminar course with the author—an erudite scholar and an entertaining conversationalist. . . . Fascinating, engaging, and thought-provoking."—Julie Schnur, PsycCritiques

"With Dormandy's skilful strokes the nature, meaning and treatment of pain and the story of surgical anaesthesia unfold. . . . A fascinating documentary on the advent and context of painless surgery in particular and an education on the history of medicine in general. It is strongly recommended to all pain specialists and to anaesthetists with an interest in medical history."—E. Shipton, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care

“Dormandy is to be congratulated not only in the sweep of his narrative but also by the frequent use of the telling anecdote or humorous aside…This book is well written…I would recommend this book.” - Gabriel S. Panayi, The International Journal of Environmental Studies

"[An] encyclopedic examination of the nature, meaning, and treatment of pain [in Western civilization]. . . . Engaging and often entertaining style. . . . Ambitious. . . . Provide[s] an intriguing overview of pain as a distinct and universal human experience."—Linda Migl Keyser, The Sixteenth Century Journal
ISBN: 9780300186758
Publication Date: July 31, 2006
576 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

Reality's Dark Dream

Thomas Dormandy

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