The Medical Detective by Sandra Hempel ( Granta Books, £9.99 pb )
This book won the BMA Board of Science Award for the Public Understanding of Science 2007. It’s a lucid and sensitive account of the cholera epidemics that devastated British cities in the 19th century, and the role played by one doctor in stopping the disease. For any reader with an interest in infection control, this is a powerful reminder of how far we have come since the Victorian era.
Hempel describes how cholera spread across Europe, killing millions of people and creating a climate of panic intensified by poor understanding of the disease’s nature and mode of transmission. A London doctor, John Snow, dedicated his life to cholera prevention. His theory that the disease was transmitted through contaminated drinking water was largely ignored – until a sudden outbreak killed over 600 people in one block of streets
in Soho in 1854. Snow was able to demonstrate that the cause was a polluted water pump.
Snow died in 1858, his work appreciated only by a few disease specialists. But it laid the foundations of modern epidemiology. The infection control solutions he proposed had to overcome not only the prejudices of those (such as Florence Nightingale) who refused to believe in the concept of infectious germs, but also the water supply companies that obstructed attempts to bring modern sanitation to our cities.
There are powerful lessons here for anyone interested in the history of public healthcare in the UK, and more generally in questions of disease control. As Hempel reminds us, on a worldwide scale these dangers have not gone away.www.granta.com
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On Target readers who answer this question correctly:Is cholera caused by a bacterium, a virus or a parasite
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|Liar’s Paradise by Graham Edmonds ( Southbank Publishing, £9.99 hb ) |
Liar’s Paradise should be compulsory reading for anyone on an MBA course, any new recruits entering business for the first time and anyone who works there – so that’s most of us.
In this more serious (though still highly amusing in places) follow-up to Bullshit Bingo, Edmonds visits all levels of commercial lying: from bite-sized porkie pies (25% of us lie on our CVs) to some corporate buffet-sized whoppers – Enron, for example, affecting the lives of millions with (alleged) dodgy dealing.
There’s useful advice on how to spot corporate liars, how they scheme, their unshakeable faith in themselves – and how, when it all goes wrong, the “It wasn’t me, I was only obeying orders/didn’t know anything about it” routine comes into play. One bit that is perhaps missing is spotting them by the ‘reinforcement of how good they are’ subtext in their speech – listen carefully and you can hear why they are great, who is not great and who will get the blame when it all goes wrong. Corporate bullshitters are never wrong – remember that.
This book helps you to identify and classify the main bullshitters in any organisation (it really is an accurate guide) – but as I read through I began to think, rather horribly, that my own career had not used enough lies. Indeed, Edmonds goes on to suggest that very thing: lie more and get further! (Maybe.) Generally, but not always, lying miscreants get found out – but not before untold damage has been done to innocent bystanders.
I thoroughly enjoyed Edmonds’ easy style of writing, but it did leave me with a nasty taste in my mouth about the general way in which ‘business’ is conducted.
Tom Krikkit manages the sales team of a medical device company.
You can order Liar’s Paradise for the special price of £7.99 including free p&p in the UK (normally £9.99 + p&p) by phoning Turnaround Publishers Services on 0208 8293002 and quoting ‘Health publishing offer’.
|On Target special offer winners: free copies of In Stitches by Dr Nick Edwards were won by Mary Doran, Bill Rogerson, Ian Duncan and Doris-Ann Williams. Will it be you next time? |