From Medicine to Manuscript: Doctors with a Literary Legacy (Hardcover)

From Medicine to Manuscript: Doctors with a Literary Legacy Cover Image


An eminent surgeon, who has written books on the history of medicine and cartography, profiles physicians past and present who have also published works in the humanities.

Throughout history doctors have felt the need to express themselves in prose and poetry, often on subjects far removed from their medical interests. Renowned surgeon Seymour I. Schwartz felt this same compulsion to write and eventually decided to investigate other authors with a background in medicine. The result is this informative and entertaining compilation of biographical profiles spanning the Middle Ages to the present era.

In many cases, literary fame has eclipsed memory of these authors' medical expertise: Most people today talk about Maimonides, Rabelais, Locke, Schiller, Keats, Conan Doyle, and Chekhov because of their literary works, not because they practiced medicine. But the lesser-known individuals are just as interesting in many ways: such people as Cadwallader Colden, the loyalist lieutenant governor of New York during the American Revolution, who wrote the first English history of the Iroquois; Margaret Georgina Todd, author of popular novels in the Victorian era, which promoted the idea of women in medicine; and Rudolph John Chauncey Fisher, who was not only a physician, researcher, and radiologist, but played a role in the Harlem Renaissance as an orator, musician, musical arranger, and literary figure.

Concluding with profiles of contemporary doctors who are also respected authors, this diverse collection shows that, despite increasing specialization, medicine and the humanities continue to complement each other to enrich our lives.

About the Author

Seymour I. Schwartz, MD, Distinguished Alumni Professor of Surgery at the University of Rochester, is a world-renowned surgeon and the author of Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery, which in its ten editions and translations has sold more than 300,000 copies. He is also the author of a history of American surgery called Gifted Hands: America’s Most Significant Contributions to Surgery. Dr. Schwartz is equally renowned as a cartographic historian and is the author of many books on historical maps, including Putting “America” on the Map: The Story of the Most Important Graphic Document in the History of the United States. Recently, he has also written a work on colonial American history titled Cadwallader Colden: A Biography and on Renaissance medical history titled The Anatomist, the Barber-Surgeon, and the King: How the Accidental Death of Henry II of France Changed the World.

Praise For…

“Beginning with Maimonides in the twelfth century and ending with Siddhartha Mukherjee in the twenty-first, this masterful treatise examines the lives and output of sixty-five physician writers. It is a sparkling treasure trove of information about each one’s medical career, and lucid commentary on their literary contributions. Meticulously researched and succinctly written, it should have a permanent place in every bibliophile’s library.”

—Patrick Taylor, MD, Professor Emeritus and New York Times–bestselling author

"Why are so many physicians also writers? What began as a personal and professional question has produced a collection of engaging biographical sketches—life stories of very diverse physicians who have penned poetry, short stories, novels, plays, essays, and histories. With the skills of a natural storyteller, the author explores some well-known examples and a number of surprises. The effect of reading these life stories together gives an answer to the question of why doctors write. It is a natural and necessary part of medical practice. Science is central to the practice of medicine, and so are stories. We are the stories we hear and the stories we tell.”
—Stephanie Brown Clark, MD, PhD, associate professor and director at the Division of Medical Humanities and Bioethics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

“The biographical vignettes in Seymour I. Schwartz’s marvelous new book, From Medicine to Manuscript, affirm my bias that there is no obligatory chasm between the humanities and the medical sciences. Even more convincing, however, is Schwartz’s life and his lifetime of intellectual productivity itself.”
—Glenn D. Steele Jr., MD, chairman of xG Health Solutions

“Schwartz has given us a wonderful compendium, a labor of love, of physician writers through history. But it is so much more than that—he attempts a synthesis, a quest for a common mechanism. The breadth of his literary scholarship might make you forget he is a legendary surgeon and educator; indeed his life and this volume are an example of why we read and why we write, and why our craft is both art and science.”
—Abraham Verghese, MD, Department of Medicine, Stanford, and author of Cutting for Stone

“Dr. Schwartz introduces us to physician-writers from Maimonides through to Danielle Ofri, illustrating how the symbiosis of medicine and art helps illuminate our humanity.”
—Dr. Leah Kaminsky, author of The Waiting Room and Writer, M.D.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781633884335
ISBN-10: 1633884333
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication Date: August 14th, 2018
Pages: 375
Language: English