This is a non-fiction book about the travails of blood transfusion in the mid-1600s. The epilogue put the topic into perspective: how science and its discovery is historically taboo based on religion and other inhibitions of society and then, many times, transformed into well accepted practice.
In Catholic France transfusion experiments were shunned while in Protestant England experimentation was acceptable. The times however were well before blood circulation or blood types were known. Known science considered blood something akin to todays oil. Science still considered the four humors, black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm as determinative of a person’s health and disposition.
The first transfusions were done with animals and then animal to human. The cultural world views played a significant role in the toleration of medical research. The French feared animal to human transfusions would create dog-headed men and the like.
In 2006 President George Bush in his State of the Union address warned against the travails of unrestrained medical research that could create atrocious creatures of animal and human substance. However by 2006 medical science was using pig valves in humans. The point is that the same fears and religious world views still influence the highest reaches of leadership that affect acceptable medical research.
I want to direct any one who is remotely interested in the cultural aspects of medical research hundreds of years ago and today to read this book. I also want to direct anyone so interested to listen to my friend, Dr. Ginger Campbell, in her podcast interview of the author Holly Tucker. This one hour interview expounds on the issues raised in the book and was a serious compliment.