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Books, Journals, New Media
July 28, 2004

Medicine, Literature

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(4):507-508. doi:10.1001/jama.292.4.507

This anthology is clearly a labor of love with its 71 different excerpts and selections of poems, essays, stories, plays, aphorisms, and diaries by physicians, patients, and other authors. Its physician-editor lives in Strasbourg and has worked across Europe and Australia. His essays, reviews, and books of poetry have been widely published.

The title, an allusion to classic detective stories, also encompasses writings about the human body, including anatomical treatises. An erudite and witty essay introduces the study of the body in medical history, beginning with the publication in 1543 of Vesalius' anatomical atlas On the Structure of the Human Body. The author discusses the early "morbid anatomy's hunger for corpses and the work of the executioner" and the later emergence of serious physical examination during the Victorian era. In the present age of technological advances, the bedside examination of the body has been supplemented by technical medicine and analytic computer technology. Nevertheless, argues the editor, we should not "lose touch with ourselves as embodied beings, with the very corporeal source of our individuation."

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