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Medicine Reviews

Medicine by Jean-Noel Fabiani, Philippe Bercovici


A Graphic History

Jean-Noel Fabiani, Philippe Bercovici

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: SelfMadeHero
Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Publication date: 7 Apr 2020
ISBN: 9781910593790

In Medicine: A Graphic History, surgeon and professor of medical history Jean-Noel Fabiani stitches together the most significant and intriguing episodes from the history of medicine, from chance breakthroughs to hard-fought scientific discoveries. Spanning centuries and crossing continents, this fast-paced and yet rigorously detailed graphic novel guides us through one of the most wondrous strands of human history, covering everything from blood-letting to organ donation, x-rays to prosthetics.

3 stars out of 5
1 May 2020

"The idea of a graphic history of medicine seems almost an impertinence right now. "

Married to Philippe Bercovici’s colourful, if somewhat literal, cartoons, Fabiani’s narrative rattles through classical history, the Renaissance and the modern age while diligently ticking off the prime innovators and key advances, including William Harvey’s discovery of circulation, Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine and Louis Pasteur’s identification of microbes. Yet as always in medical history, the most fascinating elements are less the milestones on the long road to progress than the detours and dead-ends that litter the way.


5 stars out of 5
Rachel Cooke
27 Apr 2020

"...this utterly brilliant comic will feed you vital and amazing information so painlessly you’ll barely realise how much you’re learning"

Naturally, I turned first to the chapter about the great epidemics, in which, in the course of just 18 pages, Fabiani and Bercovici tell the stories of the search for cures for smallpox, plague, cholera and syphilis. Even if you already know about, say, Edward Jenner and Robert Koch (I dimly remembered Koch’s name from school), it’s the details that capture the imagination – here, as elsewhere. The fact that it was the Persian physician Rhazes, who in the ninth century distinguished smallpox from the measles; that Napoleon vaccinated not only his army against smallpox, but also his baby son; that the intravenous catheter was invented in 1832 by an Edinburgh surgeon, Thomas Latta, who tried to rehydrate a cholera patient using a goose quill; that Baldwin IV, the Crusader king of Jerusalem, died of leprosy at the age of 24 (though his illness did not prevent him from first checking the ambitions of Saladin). And on and on. Truly, this book, witty and wise, is nothing less than a tonic. As we await a vaccine for Covid-19, its every page serves to remind us that where there is curiosity, determination and learning, there is always, always hope.