Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution
On a cold day in 1667, a renegade physician named Jean Denis transfused calf's blood into one of Paris's most notorious madmen. In doing so, Denis angered not only the elite scientists who had hoped to perform the first animal-to-human transfusions themselves, but also a host of powerful conservatives who believed that the doctor was toying with forces of nature that he did not understand. Just days after the experiment, the madman was dead, and Denis was framed for murder.
A riveting account of the first blood transfusion experiments in 17th-century Paris and London, Blood Work gives us a vivid glimpse of a particularly fraught period in history – a time of fire and plague, empire building and international distrust, when monsters were believed to inhabit the seas and the boundary between science and superstition was still in flux. Amid this atmosphere of uncertainty, transfusionists like Denis became embroiled in the hottest cultural debates and fiercest political rivalries of their day. As historian Holly Tucker reveals, transfusion's detractors would stop at nothing – not even murdering Denis's patient – to outlaw a practice that might jeopardize human souls, pave the way for monstrous hybrid creatures, or even provoke divine retribution.
Taking us from the highest ranks of society to the lowest, from dissection rooms in palaces to the filth-clogged streets of Paris, Blood Work<?em> sheds light on an era that wrestled with the same questions about morality and experimentation that haunt medical science to this day.
Featured On Episode #104
It's an hour on the blood that runs through your veins, and how modern medicine can supplement your supply. We'll talk to Holly Tucker about Blood Work, her book exploring the pioneering science and the political intrigue behind the world's first blood transfusions. Skepticality co-host Robynn "Swoopy" McCarthy shares her experience training as a phlebotomist. And we're joined by William Rutherford, of Telus World of Science, to tell us about Edmonton's first ever "Yuri's Night" celebration.