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Penelope Hunting. (Pp 344; £55+postage.) Medical Society of London, 2003 (available at 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB). ISBN 0905082-35-00.
The distinguished medical historian, Dr Penelope Hunting, has now produced a fascinating account of the Medical Society of London just as she did with her histories of the Society of Apothecaries (1998) and the Royal Society of Medicine (2001). This new book is privately published by the Society and recounts its 230 years as a London medical playhouse and the doctors who have strutted and enlivened its stage. What a stage and what players. The Duke of Edinburgh, in his elegant foreward, describes the Society as a forum for physicians, surgeons and apothecaries; where they could share their knowledge, experience and discuss problem cases, prevailing epidemics, and advances in therapy. Very much what the Postgraduate Medical Journal does effectively today. From 1825 reports of meetings could be read in the Lancet. Occasionally the proceedings reached the pages of a national newspaper or a parliamentary desk. The excitement generated by Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccinations was followed in 1818 by news of the first human blood transfusion; followed by anaesthesia and of bold surgery that became possible; and of Listerism expounded by the man himself. These and other medical milestones that came before the Society included Röntgen’s rays, laryngology by Morell Mackenzie, dermatology by one of its Presidents, Sir Erasmus Wilson, and Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. Orators included Hughlings Jackson, Jonathan Hutchinson, orthopaedic surgeon William Adams, Lord Horder, Manson Bahr, Dickson Wright, Lord Brock, and Julia Neuberger.
This book is a treasure trove of information for authors, biographers, and speakers. There are appendices from 1773 onwards listing Presidents of the Society, Fothergillian medallists, Lettsonian lecturers, Orators, and Registrars.