Notes & Thoughts The Doctors’ Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis by Sherwin B Nuland, W. W. Norton & Company 2003, 191 pages
for Citizen Reader’s Book Menage, May 23
As is typical of books I check out from the library, I have returned it before writing the review. I did take notes, so let’s see what I can piece together (new stuff is in green, definitions in blue). This may turn into a big vocabulary lesson.
i ISBN 0393052990 is written down but according to goodreads.com this gives page count at 160. I know I had the 191 page version.
119 lucubration - a piece of writing, typically a pedantic or overelaborate one.
127 Klein’s son-in-law ?! - (I don‘t remember what this is nor why it was note-worthy, perhaps my next jottings will lend a clue:) why does NO one else DUPLICATE the theory in lab work?!
149 sinecure - a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit. (I just love this word; I want a sinecure, (perhaps I have one…))
152 beleagured – (I love this word, too.) beset with troubles. (maybe it’s the definition that I like)
156 logorrheic (couldn’t find, but did find) logorrhea – “pathologically incoherent, repetition incessant or compulsive talkativeness, wearisome volubility/voluble“
If PATHOLOGIC means ‘diseased’, then is this a double entrendre?
Basically, it was 543 pages of unreadable crap (I think I am paraphrasing Nuland’s paragraph describing Semmelweis’s final written defense.)
158 bombastic (another groovy word I like because it sounds like its meaning) - high-sounding language with little meaning, used to impress people.
166 profligacy - shameless dissoluteness / reckless extravagance / great abundance
157 – DOH WOW!! (again, I barely recall what I am reacting to, please someone tell me?) OMG – SO SAD!
um, if TV, it would have been murder (WHAT?! am I wondering if ‘they’ air a made-for-TV drama?)
170 rara avis – a rare person or thing
172 – maladroit (for some reason, I had never quite given real thought to this being the opposite of adroit.) – awkward, bungling, tactless
173 “as so often happens in psychopathology, self-concept exists side by side with its opposite … Apparent disloyalty and deeply insecure men unable to take obvious next step.” ? huh.
175 Aeschylus, Sophocles: deeply insecure, yet arrogant?
180 encomia - a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.
190 Reference to 1949 Morton Thompson’s The Cry and the Covenant – has anyone read this?
I found Dr. Semmelweis and his behavior very fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed Nuland’s theories of Early Onset Alzheimers. I was saddened by what happened to the poor guy. Though I sort of knew the story going in, I was not aware the time between his commitment to the Insane Asylum and his death was so very short. Which made the next book (The Birth of Love) even MORE fascinating and I am so glad I chose to read this first.
What I didn’t get nor understand was WHY no other doctors anywhere in the world, took up Semmelweis’ ideas and tried to prove or unprove the germ theory! Was it some professional code that the so-called experts needed the originator to present something/anything in order to run a counter proof? It just seems odd that SO MANY years went by with his friends’ only trying to persuade Semmelweis to publish rather than someone just taking it and running their own experiments.
And, really. Knowing what we now know of germ theory and our culture’s current paranoia of washing everything carefully or we might DIE , it’s a wonder that anyone in the Vienna hospitals back then survived at all. It’s so hard not think of all Semmelweis’ opponents as damnable and arrogant assholes.
Very interesting book; I recommend.
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