Dr. Mutter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine

Author(s): Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

Biography/Memoir

Named one of the best books of 2014 by: NPR's Science Friday, The Onion's AV Club, io9.com, The Guardian, Library Journal, Amazon.com, and More.


America in the early 1800s was an easy place to die, especially for those unlucky souls so severely deformed that medicine at the time literally classified them as monsters. Enter Thomas Dent Mütter, a brilliant and audacious young mid-nineteenth-century plastic surgeon who revolutionized American medicine with his daring surgical work, pioneering the use of anesthesia, championing the sterilization of surgical tools, and advocating for a compassion-based vision for helping even the most seemingly hopeless of patients, despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. With Dr. Mütter's Marvels, author Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz gives us both a front-row seat to the good, the bad, and the grotesque of the evolution of American medicine and a riveting biography of a man so flamboyant, in life and in the operating theatre, that he would be crowned the ' P.T. Barnum of the surgery room.'


'Dr.Mütter's Marvels is narrative nonfiction at its best.' The Onion'sAV Club


' Aptowicz's poetic eye is ezactly what makes Dr. Mütter's Marvels a marvel itself . . . Aptowicz keeps a steady hand on her historical scalpel, even as she wields it with a winning flourish.'NPR Books

'Aptowicz's prose works the same way Mütter did - with speed, elegance, and tactile accuracy.' Los Angeles Review of Books


'The cover, the title, and the topic promise the macabre and the grotesque, and this story delivers . . . A ruminative, sometimes moving work.' Omaba World-Herald


' O ne of those historical science tales that seems too weird to be true . . . Aptowicz unravels an engrossing story.' Io9.com


' A beautifully detailed biography . . . A dual portrait of the driven doctor and a medical field transformed by scientific, if sometimes eccentric, pioneers.' Nature


'The research is meticulous, and the author recounts Mütter's lifewith flair. It's a fantastic yarn . . . A compelling tale.' The Austin American-Statesman


'A fitting tribute to a long-forgotten hero of his time.' San Francisco Book Review

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[Aptowicz s] poetic eye is exactly what makes "Dr. Mutter s Marvels" a marvel itself. . . . With clinical precision, Aptowicz lays bare the facts of Mutter s colorful, tumultuous life. . . . For a book so immersed in the intimate perspective of its subject, it also brings a broad perspective about everything from the development of modern medicine to women s issues of the nineteenth century, not to mention how norms of beauty and the definitions of monstrosity have inspired and held us back over the centuries. With "Dr. Mutter s Marvels," Aptowicz keeps a steady hand on her historical scalpel, even as she wields it with a winning flourish. " NPR Books" Ms. Aptowicz rescues Mutter the man from undeserved obscurity, recreating his short life and hard times with wit, energy, and gusto. Her book, like the Mutter Museum, is a reminder that the course of human suffering and the progress of medical science are often messy, complex, and stranger than can be imagined. " The Wall Street Journal" As a huge fan of the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, I was excited to get my hands on this rich biography of the real doctor, Thomas Mutter, a nineteenth-century surgeon who treated people with misunderstood conditions and amassed a fascinating collection of medical oddities. " USA Today" Austin-based poet and writer Aptowicz, a woman whose various awards and publications attest to her formidable skill and style when dealing with an impressive diversity of subjects . . . provide[s] such a thorough and compelling account of Mutter s life and times, his medical innovations and personal fortitude, his enduring legacy, as is to be found between the well-designed covers of this new book. " The Austin Chronicle" Aptowicz does an excellent job of establishing the context of the times and competing personalities. . . . As Aptowicz clearly shows, [Mutter s] legacy lives on in many aspects of medicine we now take for granted. " The Seattle Times" Aptowicz has a keen eye for the era s grotesque details (amputation accidents, for one thing) and an obvious sympathy for Mutter s passion and legacy. " The Boston Globe" Aptowicz shows Mutter, beloved by his students, evolving from a mischievous, impatient young doctor to an increasingly spiritual man beset by premature illness, and her writing is as full of life as her subject. "Publishers Weekly "(Starred Review) "Dr. Mutter s Marvels" is both an insightful portrait of a pioneering surgeon and a reminder of how far medicine has come. " BookPage" "Dr. Mutter s Marvels" is narrative nonfiction at its best. . . . Aptowicz is refreshingly careful with her language, keeping the narrative speculation to a minimum, painting most of her scenery with the weight of her research. She revels in the details, but largely lets the reader draw their own conclusions. The result is an approachable history of a man and of a time period that does exactly what narrative nonfiction should do: answers the questions the reader never realized they had. " A.V. Club" In her deftly crafted narrative, the author provides an absorbing account of the charismatic surgeon s life and career as well as a vivid look at the medical practices and prejudices of his time. Aptowicz draws nicely on Mutter s speeches and lectures to reveal the depth of his empathetic philosophies and humanist approach. " Kirkus Reviews "(Starred Review) Aptowicz penned a fast-moving and popular history of the early- to mid-nineteenth-century American and Parisian medical worlds, making the most of works by and about Mutter s contemporaries. " Library Journal "(Starred Review) Aptowicz pens a fascinating and muscular biography of Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter, splendidly re-creating the doctor s medical advancements, the age in which he worked, and the conditions and practices he sought to change. "Library Journal," Wyatt s World Aptowicz approaches her subject with passion and finesse, so that the book reads more like fiction than nonfiction, ensuring that it will appeal to a wide audience. " Publishers Weekly," Galley Talk Cristin O Keefe Aptowicz s true tale of intrigue and innovation at the dawn of modern medicine is such a captivating, gripping, and intensely interesting historical tale that even the reader who has mere casual interest in the subject will find themselves devouring Aptowicz s text in a matter of days, if not hours. " Fanboy Comics" Ms. Aptowicz rescues Mutter the man from undeserved obscurity, recreating his short life and hard times with wit, energy, and gusto. Her book, like the Mutter Museum, is a reminder that the course of human suffering and the progress of medical science are often messy, complex, and stranger than can be imagined. " "Dr. John J. Ross, author of" Shakespeare s Tremor and Orwell s Cough: Diagnosing the Medical Groans and Last Gasps of Ten Great Writers" An extraordinary, moving, and humbling story about a remarkable and compassionate surgeon who changed the face of medicine forever. Cristin O Keefe Aptowicz immerses us in the strange world of Dr. Thomas Mutter and unfolds the tale of his pioneering approach to surgery with verve, wit, and sensitivity. We are all of us the richer for Dr. Mutter s visionary work and the legacy he left us in the shape of one of the world s most beguiling museums. " "Wendy Moore, author of "The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery" "

Cristin O Keefe Aptowicz is an award-winning writer of "Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam "and popular touring poet and spoken-word performer. She lives in Austin, Texas."

General Fields

  • : 9781592409259
  • : Penguin Publishing Group
  • : Gotham Books
  • : September 2015
  • : 229mm X 152mm X 28mm
  • : United States
  • : January 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : en
  • : 617.092
  • : 384
  • : 80