This excellent book is the story of Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, a nineteenth century physician who revolutionized American medicine, and specifically the field of surgery. Orphaned at an early age, he managed to make his mark on the world, beginning with his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Medical College at the age of twenty.
Mütter didn’t just want to be a good doctor, he wanted to be a great doctor. To do that he traveled to Paris where many American doctors studied due to its “inexhaustible field for observation.” Each and every French citizen was entitled to free medical care and there were several hospitals in Paris, two of them devoted solely to the treatment of syphilis, for instance.
The medical techniques and patients he observed made a deep impression on Mütter. By the time he had finished studying the work of pre-eminent Parisian surgeons, he knew that was his calling as well. His specialty would be plastic surgery.
After returning to the United States and settling in Philadelphia, Mütter struggled to gain a foothold and a solid reputation. Author Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz does a great job chronicling Mütter’s life, his health struggles and his stunning success as a plastic surgeon and medical educator.
He was always impeccably dressed, said to have worn pink suits to perform surgery. Someone once described him as the “P.T. Barnum of the surgery room.” His work and dedication to healing the maimed was not for show. Aptowicz brings out aspects of Mütter’s humanity and his absolute dedication to those who came to him, sometimes begging him, to re-make them so they weren’t considered “monsters” any longer.
Throughout his storied career, he amassed a collection of hundreds of specimens and drawings. His dying wish was that these artifacts be housed in a unique museum, today known as Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if you are interested in the history and evolution of American medicine, then you will also find it a great read.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.