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A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities
by Jan Bondeson
ISBN 0801434319 / 9780801434310 / 0-8014-3431-9
Publisher Cornell Univ Pr
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The history of medicine is a tale of human attempts to understand, explain, and predict the workings of nature. Sometimes those attempts can take strange turns, as Jan Bondeson shows in this diverting collection of medical oddments. A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities takes in matters such as stomach-dwelling snakes, not-unjustified fears of being buried alive, gigantism, lice-borne diseases, spontaneous combustion, and assorted monstrosities. Bondeson, a London-based medical researcher, combs out-of-the-way archives to populate his essays with strange case studies, among them the story of the California Indian Julia Pastrana, "a normal, intelligent woman of gentle disposition" who, owing to her unfortunate werewolf-like appearance, spent much of her life as a circus freak. Bondeson retells Pastrana's tragic tale, and many others, with sympathy and imagination. [via]