This was a bit of an interesting read that takes you back into the late 1700's and headfirst into the medical fields where surgery is starting to emerge from the barbers as a more prestigious field. And in the middle of this transition into scientific thinking and experiments and modern surgery is John Hunter.
The book was a lot denser than I would have expected just because there was so much information that didn't read as easily as a story would. But that is to be expected because it really is hard to condense a person's life into so many pages. It went from experiment to discovery and back to experiments with bits of John Hunter's life to connect them all. Which was fascinating when I cared about the experiment or didn't realize that Hunter had a hand in a discovery. But at times, it bogged down a bit and I just didn't care about some fantastical freak or strange exotic animal called the giraffe.
But the experiments were quite fascinating, and sometimes the name-dropping was interesting. Such as the knowledge that Hunter treated Lord Bryon, or his writing on whale anatomy would inspire the book Moby-Dick, or that he was the one to use vivid dyes to highlight veins and blood flow, or that he managed to be the first to understand human embryology by dissecting a pregnant lady, etc.
There were so many ethical issues! So many of his experiments would NOT have gone down in modern times. Stealing someone's dead body despite their last will? Pulling teeth from impoverished kids to implant into wealthy nobles? Digging up cadavers, injecting himself with syphilis and gonorrhea for an experiment, etc. My goodness!
But one very interesting thing that I kept noticing throughout the book was how there are still similarities from the late 1700's in modern medicine. Things like publication wars, differing opinions of certain surgeries, the lack of respect between different scientific professions, the disagreement between religion and science, the use of connections to get ahead... I can see a lot of it in the present world as well.
I found myself a little distracted with the title of the chapters because they weren't always exactly relevant to the central theme of that chapter.
Really, it was all very fascinating and quite cohesive, following a chronological flow.
Two and a half stars rounded up to three because it was a good read and I'm glad I read it. I won't read it again because I don't think there is any reason to revisit these experiments. It was enough to know that Hunter was a part of this revolutionary ideas. I've expanded my knowledge and learned something new. The book was interesting, but not enrapturing and completely engaging, so two and a half. But it was good, so I'm putting it up as three.
Only recommended for people who like biographies and a bit of a history lesson - with some interest in the medical field. This is a book for pretty specific interests.