Historia Otorhinolaryngologia is the ultimate coffee table book for any otolaryngologist. Underneath its elegant cover, there are hundreds of fascinating pictures to flick through, ranging from ancient texts and religious icons to historic specimens and photographs.
However, on closer inspection one finds that this is not a case of style over substance. Editors Albert Mudry, Wolfgang Pirsig and John Riddington Young, all jointly qualified as ENT surgeons and historians of medicine, have assembled an international and multidisciplinary array of authors. Together they have produced 27 chapters spanning various topics, from general historical ENT methodology to in-depth analysis of specific figures or events, ideal for dipping in and out of at leisure.
Particular highlights include Kees Graamans’ gripping narrative of a nasopharyngeal radiation mishap in 1950s Utrecht, explaining how the ensuing media coverage of this scandal shaped medical practice. Art enthusiasts will enjoy Mudry’s examination of depictions of the ear, nose and throat by Hieronymus Bosch in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Anyone who has frequented meetings in the Toynbee Mackenzie room at the Royal Society of Medicine will be interested to read Riddington Young’s ‘Ode to Sir Morell Mackenzie’, a controversial surgeon whose eponymous society was also known as the ‘Cock-Up Club’. And those wishing to pursue an interest in ENT history further can find advice on conducting their own research and establishing a historical society.
Whilst representing an indulgent purchase at around £115, this absorbing and informative book is a timeless classic, providing a diverse selection of alternative perspectives on the history of otolaryngology.