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Genius on the Edge

Genius on the Edge

The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted

Now in paperback, the groundbreaking biography of the most influential surgeon in American history.

“Gerald Imber’s new biography is the first retelling of Halstead’s story in many decades and a particularly expert and thoughtprovoking narrative makes the intense strangeness of Halstead’s subsequent career a gripping story.”


—Abigail Zuger, New York Times Science Section

Dr. William Stewart Halsted’s life was fascinating and complex. Halsted, perhaps the most important surgeon America has ever produced, battled a lifelong cocaine addiction and maintained numerous secret relationships while simultaneously devising revolutionary medical innovations. Yet the story of Halsted’s life, one of seemingly irreconcilable extremes, is in many ways the story of modern medicine.

Before Halsted, poorly-trained doctors performed surgery without anesthesia in unsanitary conditions and patients were rarely expected to survive. Halstead transformed the medical practice by inventing local and spinal anesthesia; introducing the use of rubber gloves during surgery; pioneering the use of fine silk thread for sutures; developing techniques for stabilizing blood pressure during surgery; and inventing the radical mastectomy, blood transfusions, and surgical cures for hernias.

Genius on the Edge is an illuminating biography of a complex and troubled man whose brilliance we continue to benefit
from today.
Choose a format:
  • Kaplan Publishing | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781607148586 | 
  • February 2011
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