For starters, it was refreshing to learn that there are yet specialists with as good a grasp of the "big picture" as Sir David Weatherall demonstrates in this book. As regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford (Osler's old job) and a busy world authority on thalassemia and human genetics, he initially resisted the entreaties of the late Lewis Thomas to write a book for the Commonwealth Fund Book Program about his work "in a way that would be comprehensible to the nonspecialist reader." The time required for such a project must have been intimidating, but "deepening concern about the current medical scene" overcame his earlier resistance. The result, a scholarly contribution to the debate over a complicated subject, was worth his effort.
The subtitle of the book implies its main topic but not its message, which is aimed at countering society's increasing disillusionment with medicine and science.