Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine


The mesmerizing, first-ever biography of the brilliant and eccentric physician and innovator who revolutionized surgery and founded America's finest museum of medical oddities.

In Dr.  Mutter's Marvels, Crostin O'Keefe Aptowicz chronicles the remarkable life of Dr. Thomas Dent M tters (1811-59), a dazzling, young American surgeon who was so flamboyant and audacious that he wore colorful silk suits to perform surgery, embellished his last name with an umlaut, and was described as the ' P.T.} Barnum of the surgery room.'

Rising to the challenges of operating on the severely deformed while they remained awake (as was the standard practice) - and when others viewed them only as 'monsters' - Mutter was a revolutionary figure whose compassion-based philosophies and innovative surgical ideas and breakthroughs clashed with the constraints of the era. The vast collection of medical oddities he amassed to serve as teaching tools for his enormously popular lectures as a professor of medicine would later become the foundation for one of the most (in)famous museums in the world- Philadelphia's Mutter Museum.

From Mutter's childhood as an orphan in the antebellum South and his years spent studying radically avant-garde surgery in Paris to his struggles to establish himself in the medical mecca of Philadelphia and the tumultuous rivalries among his fellow doctors, many of whom publically mocked M tter's philosophies and procedures, Dr. Mutter's Marvels delves deep into the life and career of a man who was truly ahead of his time.

Through Mutter's humanist eyes, we are given a front-row seat to the evolution of American medicine- bleedings and leechings and surgeries performed on fully conscious patents; the standardization of medical schools and institution of pre- and postoperative care; the discovery of anesthesia and the medical community's frustrating resistance to the antisepsis practices of washing hands and sterilizing tools; the unimaginable medical cases resulting from the rise of industrialism; the harrowing challenges women faced, both as largely mistreated and misunderstood patients and as aspiring doctors striving to be seen as equals; all of it set against the calamitous backdrop of a country marching toward the Civil war.

Based on more than fifteen years of research, including full access to the extensive archives of the M tter Museum, Dr. Mutter's Marvels is suffused with fascinating period detail, compelling narrative, and memorable characters. Illustrated with more than seventy startling images, this is the never-been-told true story of a dramatic turning point in American medicine through the journey and influence of one extraordinary man.

'An extraordinary, moving and humbling story about a remarkable and compassionate surgeon who changed the face of medicine forever. Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz immerses us in the strange world of Dr. Thomas Mutter and unfolds the tale of his pioneering approach to surgery with verve, wit and sensitivity. We are all of us the richer for Dr. Mutter's visionary work and the legacy he left us in the shape of one of the world's most beguiling museums.' Wendy Moore, author of The Knife Man- Blood, Body Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery

371 pages