Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941 Cover

Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941

ISBN/ASIN: 0307263452,9780307263452 | 2008 | English | epub | 400/0 pages | 3.00 Mb
Publisher: Knopf | Author: David Dary | Edition: First Edition

In his new book, David Dary, one of our leading social historians, gives us a fascinating, informative account of American frontier medicine from our Indian past to the beginning of World War II, as the frontier moved steadily westward from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean.

He begins with the early arrivals to our shores and explains how their combined European-taught medical skills and the Indians’ well-developed knowledge of local herbal remedies and psychic healing formed the foundation of early American medicine.

We then follow white settlement west, learning how, in the 1720s, seventy-five years before Edward Jenner’s experiments with smallpox vaccine, a Boston doctor learned from an African slave how to vaccinate against the disease; how, in 1809, a backwoods Kentucky doctor performed the first successful abdominal surgery; how, around 1820, a Missouri doctor realized quinine could prevent as well as cure malaria and made a fortune from the resulting pills he invented.

Using diaries, journals, newspapers, letters, advertisements, medical records, and pharmacological writings, Dary gives us firsthand accounts of Indian cures; the ingenious self-healings of mountain men; home remedies settlers carried across the plains; an early “HMO” formed by Wyoming ranchers and cowboys to provide themselves with medical care; the indispensable role of country doctors and midwives; the fortunes made from patent medicines and quack cures; the contributions of army medicine; Chinese herbalists; the formation of the American Medical Association; the first black doctors; the first women doctors; and finally the early-twentieth-century shift to a formal scientific approach to medicine that by the postwar period had for the most part eliminated the trial-and-error practical methods that were at the center of frontier medicine.

A wonderful—often entertaining—overview of the complexity, energy, and inventiveness of the ways in which our forebears were doctored and how our medical system came into being.

Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941

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