I just finished reading a book I could not out down, not only because I am a veterinarian, one of the medical arts, but because it is a sensational view of how far human knowledge has progressed in only a century and a half.

The Butchering Art, by British author Lindsey Fitzharris is an account of the art and science of surgery during the nineteenth century, and the brilliant people who enabled it to improve and progress, such as Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister.

The details of how surgical procedures were performed then, shocked even me even though I realized how crude they were and why infection, often fatal, was so commonplace.

I cannot imagine a reader today, with a minimal understanding of aseptic surgical procedures, who cannot be entranced by this book and its well-documented stories.

The Butchering Art was published in 2017 by Scientific American/Farrer, Straus, and Giroux. Obviously, I ma very familiar with surgery and have both knowledge and experience with things like limb amputation and post surgical infection, but I have never read anything so shocking, accurate and discouraging as what faced surgeons only a century and a half ago.

Conversely, the book will fill the reader with gratitude and elation to have lived in the 20th century, especially its last half.

We all know that we still have a long way to go, but look at how far we have already come. I was born before antibiotics were discovered, before many of today’s unique vaccines were available. All technologies have greatly advanced, but reading The Butchering Art will convince every reader that the improvements in Medical Science have been exceptionally positive.

This book especially reinforced my understanding and appreciation for the courageous and radical deeds committed by such pioneers as Joseph Lister have improved human life.