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Picks and Pans Review: Images of Healing

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edited by Ann Novotny and Carter Smith

Even laymen who don’t spend a lot of time wondering how Nuck’s gland or the zonule of Zinn got their names or how much hernia surgery cost in Hartford, Conn. in 1846 will find facinating material in these heavily illustrated books. Knight, a Welsh doctor-lawyer-author, traces the history of medicine back to cave drawings, which revealed an inchoate knowledge of anatomy. His main concern is eponymy, the practice of naming discoveries after their discoverers. Anton Nuck, for instance, was a Dutch anatomist who first described the smaller salivary glands in 1685, while Johann Gottfried Zinn, a German professor, wrote about the zonule, a membrane on the lens of the eye, in 1755. If Knight’s writing is heavy going at times, his sketches of medicine’s great explorers are arresting—Hippocrates, for instance, thought the brain’s function was simply to produce mucus. The author also includes historic medical art, full of erroneous anatomical depictions. (Lippincott & Crowell, $17.95)

Images concentrates on medicine in the U.S. from 1730 to 1930, with a running chronicle of mile-posts and happenings. For example, British general Lord Jeffrey Amherst gave smallpox-contaminated blankets to the Ottawa and Seneca tribes, his enemies during the French and Indian Wars in 1763, and in 1908 Chicago became the first major city to require the pasteurization of milk. While there is a lot of what seems to be spacefilling artwork, there’s a winning photograph of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, an early-20th-century public health expert, demonstrating his anti-contagion “Osculatio Antiseptica.” That’s antiseptic kissing—or pecking a baby on the cheek. (Macmillan, $16.95)