THE MYSTERY OF THE EXPLODING TEETH
And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine
Written by: Thomas Morris
Read by: Thomas Morris & Ruper Farley
9 Hours and 8 Minutes
PRHA | Imprint: Penguin Audio
Genre: Medical – History
Release Date: November 20, 2018
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
“Delightfully horrifying.”–Popular Science
One of Mental Floss’s Best Books of 2018
One of Science Friday’s Best Science Books of 2018
This wryly humorous collection of stories about bizarre medical treatments and cases offers a unique portrait of a bygone era in all its jaw-dropping weirdness.
A puzzling series of dental explosions beginning in the nineteenth century is just one of many strange tales that have long lain undiscovered in the pages of old medical journals. Award-winning medical historian Thomas Morris delivers one of the most remarkable, cringe-inducing collections of stories ever assembled. Witness Mysterious Illnesses (such as the Rhode Island woman who peed through her nose), Horrifying Operations (1781: A French soldier in India operates on his own bladder stone), Tall Tales (like the “amphibious infant” of Chicago, a baby that could apparently swim underwater for half an hour), Unfortunate Predicaments (such as that of the boy who honked like a goose after inhaling a bird’s larynx), and a plethora of other marvels.
Beyond a series of anecdotes, these painfully amusing stories reveal a great deal about the evolution of modern medicine. Some show the medical profession hopeless in the face of ailments that today would be quickly banished by modern drugs; but others are heartening tales of recovery against the odds, patients saved from death by the devotion or ingenuity of a conscientious doctor.
However embarrassing the ailment or ludicrous the treatment, every case in The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth tells us something about the knowledge (and ignorance) of an earlier age, along with the sheer resilience of human life. https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/580443/the-mystery-of-the-exploding-teeth/
Thomas Morris’s THE MYSTERY OF THE EXPLODING TEETH is the perfect read for any doctor, or people who, like me, find medial procedures and history fascinating but have not studied medicine. With Audible, Audiobooks.com, Amazon, etc, you can still arrange for someone to receive this hilarious, and not seriously gross, volume in print, ebook, or audio for the doctor replaces your blood with port wine. mats by the big day! listened to this book over the course of about two days, but with its vignetted style, someone could easily dip in and out to of the book for several weeks while reading other books, The style also makes it good for when you only have short periods of time to concentrate, unless you are recovering form illness or surgery on anything other than your sense of humor.
If the book focused more on salacious humor it would be less funny and informative. I felt a little guilty for laughing at the serious medical stories about which Morris writes — I sure those experiencing them did not find them at all amusing. Imagine, you’re a woman bleeding out after delivery and the doctor, after manually stopping the hemorrhage, replaces some of your blood with port wine! Okay, that would be funny even, perhaps, to the patient. Morris focused on human foibles and the meandering path medical science has followed; the “body humors,” poor anatomical understanding, lack of anesthesia, and more are explored. I am always amazed by what people can be convinced to swallow: needles, knives, heaven only knows what else, are swallowed and extracted by intrepid, bumbling or genius medical practitioners. How did our species ever survive the lack of medical knowledge and our own supreme idiocy. If you’re curious about the types of medical strangeness on which Morris writes check out his blog post about a waiter who swallowed spoons to amuse patrons: http://www.thomas-morris.uk/the-spoon-swallower/.
There is a bit of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” in the author’s style, but seriously it is hard to believe anyone would want to swallow needles or stick other items into their own body. The narration is excellent and the two different narrators change it up, but it’s not because the material is too dry, rather it reflects the accents of the letter or article writer. I think both the author and Farley did very well, I especially like non-fiction to have author narration as their understanding of the subject often lends credibility to the ideas presented. I also enjoyed the usually well-done accents. While the history seems focused on British and American medicine, other countries medical oddities are considered as well.
I enjoyed listening to the stories and my husband did as well, making it a good choice for road trips. Warning though, if you laugh too hard pull over!