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The Mysteries Within

A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths


Sherwin B. Nuland (View Bio)
Hardcover: Simon & Schuster, 2000; Paperback: Touchstone, 2001.

The Mysteries Within

Dr. Nuland traces legends and science about the organs of the body from primitive times to the present day, showing how our current knowledge has emerged from a rich history of imaginative speculation about the organs as independent creatures living within our bodies. A brilliant blend of riveting stories of actual surgical emergencies with the history of medicines, its folklore, shop talk and myths, this book says as much about the human mind and spirit as it reveals about the human body.

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"To be compelled by fascinating stories while simultaneously learning about human anatomy and the surgeon's complicated profession, you will have to read this book." — Lee Gutkind, Chicago Tribune

"This is a book about more than medicine. It is also about the rise of Western thought, the ways in which the past inhabits us, and a powerful reminder that we do have a history.... Nuland is a gifted and deeply intelligent writer." — San Francisco Chronicle

"Nuland, a surgeon, writes narratives of a uniquely direct, spirited style, marked by a sense of immediacy, undaunted, never languid, always sensible.... Trust a surgeon to tell you a pithy story that will touch you and impress you and compel your attention. Nuland does just that in THE MYSTERIES WITHIN...all enlivened by a refreshingly lucid style and a touch of humor that makes the book an unalloyed pleasure to read." — F. González-Crussi, Washington Post Book World

"In this book, Nuland combines his long experience of research into early beliefs about the nature and function of major visceral organs (stomach, heart, spleen, liver, and uterus) with anecdotes about each of these organs drawn from his 35-year surgical career. The result is an understanding of the affection that this surgeon has developed for these organs over the years. We are treated to his personal insights through these stories and come to realize not only his admiration for the anatomical beauty of the variations of our innards, but also the fears surgeons privately shoulder during the operating-room battle....Nuland, a master storyteller, has written a wonderful book." — New England Journal of Medicine

"An engaging tale...fascinating." — The New York Times

"Sherwin B. Nuland is clinical professor of surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. He is a man who has spent much of his professional life rooting about in people's abdomens, an operator of great experience. He is also a lucid writer and a scholar of medical history, who made a powerful reputation with his 1994 bestseller, HOW WE DIE, a book that introduced us to our ultimate faith in a way that was both chilling and oddly reassuring. He is that rare creature, a scientist — a doctor, no less — who can communicate with nonspecialists. In his new book, Nuland chooses five organs — stomach, liver, spleen, heart , and uterus — and for each of these he first narrates his own clinical encounters and then provides a history of how, after centuries of speculation and mythmaking, the organs gave up their secrets in the laboratories and dissecting rooms of a new breed of bold experimenters.... The result is extremely readable.... This is a relaxed, urbane, often witty piece of work ...rich in facts and fascinating anecdotes, extremely fluent." — Andrew Miller, The New York Times Book Review

"During the past decade, Sherwin B. Nuland, a clinical professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine, has achieved a position as one of the country's preeminent explicators of medicine to the general public....THE MYSTERIES WITHIN will further enhance his reputation. The book provides a fascinating exploration of the human body that combines a surgeon's clinical experience with the rich folklore and legend that surrounds our vital organs....What is especially noteworthy is Nuland's demonstration of how elements of myth and folklore have persisted alongside the latest medical knowledge....A gifted writer with a knack for explaining scientific ideas clearly and elegantly, Nuland relates an important story in an accessible and enjoyable style....Few can match Nuland's skill as a raconteur, and the anecdotes are riveting. THE MYSTERIES WITHIN is far more than a work of history; it says much of philosophical importance as well....Elegantly written and laden with insight, THE MYSTERIES WITHIN is of interest to anyone who might ever be a patient or who might contemplate the role of the mind spirit in the human condition." — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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