Pratt Podcasts

Writers LIVE: Dr. Lydia Kang, Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

Writers LIVE: Dr. Lydia Kang, Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

Written by Dr. Lydia Kang, a practicing internal medicine physician, and Nate Pedersen, a librarian and historian, Quackery offers 67 tales of outlandish treatments complete with vintage illustrations, photographs, and advertisements of everything from the equipment needed for Tobacco Smoke Enemas (used to save drowning victims in the Thames River) to an ad for the morphine-laced Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for children.

Looking back with fascination, horror, and dark humor, Quackery recounts the lively, at times unbelievable, history of medical misfires and malpractices. Ranging from the merely weird to the outright dangerous, here are dozens of outlandish, morbidly hilarious “treatments” -- conceived by doctors and scientists, by spiritualists and snake oil salesmen (yes, they literally tried to sell snake oil) -- that were predicated on a range of cluelessness, trial and error, and straight-up scams. Quackery seamlessly combines macabre humor with science and storytelling to reveal an important and disturbing side of the ever-evolving field of medicine.

Lydia Kang, MD, is a practicing internal medicine physician and author of young adult fiction and adult fiction. Her YA novels include Control, Catalyst, and the upcoming The November Girl. Her adult fiction debut is entitled A Beautiful Poison. Her nonfiction has been published in JAMA, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Nate Pedersen is a librarian, historian, and freelance journalist with over 400 publications in print and online, including in the Guardian, the Believer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Art of Manliness. Nate is a contributing writer for the magazine Fine Books & Collections, where he investigates the strange and unusual side of the rare-book market. 

Writers LIVE programs are supported in part by a bequest from The Miss Howard Hubbard Adult Programming Fund. 

Recorded On: Thursday, November 16, 2017