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Publisher's Summary

When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his gothic horror story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he based the house of the genial doctor-turned-fiend on the home of John Hunter. The choice was understandable, for Hunter was both widely acclaimed and greatly feared.

From humble origins, John Hunter rose to become the most famous anatomist and surgeon of the 18th century. In an age when operations were crude, extremely painful, and often fatal, he rejected medieval traditions to forge a revolution in surgery founded on pioneering scientific experiments. Using the knowledge he gained from countless human dissections, Hunter worked to improve medical care for both the poorest and the best-known figures of the era - including Sir Joshua Reynolds and the young Lord Byron.

An insatiable student of all life-forms, Hunter was also an expert naturalist. He kept exotic creatures in his country menagerie and dissected the first animals brought back by Captain Cook from Australia. Ultimately, his research led him to expound highly controversial views on the age of the Earth, as well as equally heretical beliefs on the origins of life more than 60 years before Darwin published his famous theory.

Although a central figure of the Enlightenment, Hunter's tireless quest for human corpses immersed him deep in the sinister world of body snatching. He paid exorbitant sums for stolen cadavers and even plotted successfully to steal the body of Charles Byrne, famous in his day as the "Irish giant".

In The Knife Man, Wendy Moore unveils John Hunter's murky and macabre world - a world characterized by public hangings, secret expeditions to dank churchyards, and gruesome human dissections in pungent attic rooms. This is a fascinating portrait of a remarkable pioneer and his determined struggle to haul surgery out of the realms of meaningless superstitious ritual and into the dawn of modern medicine.

©2007 Wendy Moore (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The surgeon John Hunter (1728 - 93) is not a well-known name outside specialist circles, although that scandalous situation should be corrected by Wendy Moore's marvelous biography." ( The Times Higher)
"Definitely not for the squeamish, Moore's visceral portrait of this complex and brilliant man offers a wonderful insight into sickness, suffering, and surgery in the 18th century." ( The Guardian (UK))
"Moore's feel for pace and narrative is impeccable. Her book contains just the right amount of background scenery to bring Hunter alive without swamping him. She is, at last, the biographer Hunter deserves." ( The Independent)

What members say

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  • 12-02-15

Brilliant

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would and two for Christmas this year.
John Hunter lead a fascinating life, and the author did a wonderful job to capture the details for an extremely fun read.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Knife Man?

There are so many! Most likely is the likelihood that Dr Hunter may have infected himself with syphilis for the purpose of research.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great book

Very well written. The book is very informative, and an exciting read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves physiology.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful

Eye opening look into the age of enlightenment and the seminal work and courage of a great man. I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Passionate, driven, brilliant, autodidact- buy it!

Where does The Knife Man rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among my favorites. I will listen again. It has inspired me to visit the Hunterian Museum ASAP.

What did you like best about this story?

John Hunter was such a facinating man; determined to learn everything that he could about all life and their connections to each other; relentess in his pursuit of knowledge and understanding; ruthless in aquisition of subjects/specimens; loved and revered by his students; despised by much of the established medical community.No organism was too large or too small to capture his interest and compel his investigation.Though his ethics run to the shady side, there is no doubt that his investigations, experiments, and discoveries propelled, medicine, surgery, and natural history/science far beyond where they would be without him.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Hearing what happened to his documents after his death infuriated and sickened me.

Any additional comments?

This book is laid out in such a way that you may easily listen to it a chapter at a time. However, I dare you to put it down. I finished it in a day and a half 😀

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Eye-opening read

I had to read this book for my human disection class. I can say I was intrigued with the title. After finishing this book I am thoroughly happy that I read this. It is crazy how men like this in history are left out of school books. John Hunter's insights and thoughts are great and should be applied to our modern world in other ways besides surgery.