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US Macmillan Tradebooks for Courses

Under the Knife

A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations

Arnold van de Laar

St. Martin's Press

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ISBN10: 1250200105
ISBN13: 9781250200105


368 Pages



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Surgeon Arnold van de Laar uses his own experience and expertise to tell this engrossing history of surgery through 28 famous operations—from Louis XIV and Einstein to JFK and Houdini.

From the story of the desperate man from seventeenth-century Amsterdam who grimly cut a stone out of his own bladder to Bob Marley's deadly toe, Under the Knife offers a wealth of fascinating and unforgettable insights into medicine and history via the operating room.

What happens during an operation? How does the human body respond to being attacked by a knife, a bacterium, a cancer cell or a bullet? And, as medical advances continuously push the boundaries of what medicine can cure, what are the limits of surgery?

With stories spanning the dark centuries of bloodletting and amputations without anaesthetic through today's sterile, high-tech operating rooms, Under the Knife is both a rich cultural history, and a modern anatomy class for us all.


Praise for Under the Knife

"Beyond his interesting review of surgical history, van de Laar also offers insight into the thought process and philosophy of those who cut to heal."—Booklist

"van de Laar devotes his first book to vivid descriptions of notable surgeries, from ancient times to the present....Fast-paced and lucid."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


Healing by Hand: Chirurgeons and Surgeons

ONE NIGHT IN 1537, after a long day of fighting in the battle for Turin, young French army surgeon Ambroise Paré lay wide awake. He was seriously troubled. The battlefield...

About the author

Arnold van de Laar

ARNOLD VAN DE LAAR is a surgeon in the Slotervaart Hospital in Amsterdam, specializing in laparoscopic surgery. Born in the Dutch town of 's-Hertogenbosch, van de Laar studied medicine at the Belgian University of Leuven before taking his first job as general surgeon on the Caribbean Island of Sint Maarten. He now lives in Amsterdam with his wife and two children where, a true Dutchman, he cycles to work every day. Under the Knife is his first book.

Arnold van de Laar