History and Philosophy of Science, Literature, Philosophy, Reviews

Review: Szczeklik, Catharsis

jacket imageThe Times Higher Education Supplement recently reviewed Andrzej Szczeklik’s Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine. In the review, Niall O’Higgins said: "This book is timely in its publication and timeless in its content.… Drawing on mathematical ideas, physics, music, mythology, clinical science and clinical practice, Szczeklik never forces the issues or compels. He treads lightly. He reminds and explains. He draws attention to details of physiology that can be explained and those that remain mysterious. He shifts gears effortlessly between the known and the mysterious and, being a cardiologist, seems particularly at home in explaining the amazing conducting system of the heart. To describe a single extrasystole, an ectopic heartbeat, as like a slight stumble in a dance and to introduce the complex mechanism of hearing with the statement that ‘every one of us has a tiny harp inside his ear’ suggests that he is a skillful teacher.… The kathartai, forerunners of doctors in pre-Hippocratic Greece, were said to purify the soul by the soothing and calming combination of music, dance, poetry and song. Szczeklik is in tune with them."
The ancient Greeks used the term catharsis for the cleansing of both the body by medicine and the soul by art. In this inspiring book, internationally renowned cardiologist Andrzej Szczeklik draws deeply on our humanistic heritage to describe the artistry and the mystery of being a doctor. Moving between examples ancient and contemporary, mythological and scientific, Catharsis explores how medicine and art share common roots and pose common challenges.
Read an excerpt.