Dr. Mütter’s Marvels
By Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Review by Sarah Reisert
I can’t say if I’ve ever noticed the portrait of Thomas Dent Mütter hanging in his namesake museum on any of my previous visits. Even if I had glanced at it amongst the walls of skulls and bottled tumors, I wouldn’t have known much about the man. I wouldn’t knowa bout the new plastic surgery method Dr. Mütter developed to help burn victims lead more normal lives. Nor how he was the first surgeon in Philadelphia to use ethyl ether anesthesia. I wouldn’t know about his weakness for splashy clothes that matched the color of his carriage, or how his students positively adored him until his untimely death at age 48.
O’Keefe Aptowicz gives us all of that and more, giving us a tour of the “medical Athens” that was Philadelphia in the mid-nineteenth century. I almost feel bad having enjoyed his museum for its freakishness and never knowing what a kind man he was. My mother, a nurse, also read this book, and came away with a profound admiration for his work, and for the doctor himself.
This review was part of our 50th Anniversary Book Challenge.
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About the reviewer: Sarah Reisert is a young museum professional. She believes you should never be without a book in your purse. If pressed to pick a favorite genre, she’d answer ‘All of them.’