Review: Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted

Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted
Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted by Gerald Imber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genius on the Edge is a fascinating portrait of Dr. William Stewart Halsted, who revolutionized dental surgery and also invented the gallstone extraction, the radical mastectomy, and the resident system of medical education. His disciples went on to found the disciplines of urology and neurosurgery, among other specialties. It’s hard to believe that one man could cast such a long shadow and yet virtually disappear from history.

Dr. Halsted achieved all of these momentous things while struggling with addictions to cocaine and morphine, the former addiction a sad byproduct of his work on dental anesthesia. He went on to a great career in teaching and research at Johns Hopkins, and is immortalized in an oil painting hung on the grounds that depicts him and the other three lights of Johns Hopkins’ early days.

I highly recommend Genius on the Edge for anyone with an interest in the history of medicine.

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