Through the Pages of History by Michael Whelton
– an art, music and medical miscellany –
Was Mozart really buried in a pauper’s grave? What role did yellow fever play in the construction of the Panama Canal? How did the painter, Renoir cope with rheumatoid arthritis in his old age? Has history been overly harsh towards King Herod?
These are just some questions (from among a very broad range of subject matter) that are looked at from historical and medical perspectives in an engaging collection of essays by the late Michael Whelton (1938-2020). Through the Pages of History: an art, music and medical miscellany was published on this day in 2019.
In examining the lives of historical figures and landmarks in human history, scientific achievement, artistic excellence and so on, the author brings to bear his own knowledge, as a retired medical doctor, to ably demonstrates how all too often, truth is stranger than fiction.
Mozart, Renoir, Kings John and Richard III of England, Herod the Great of Biblical fame are just a few of the names that crop up in this engrossing read. Charles Darwin, Ignaz Semmelweis, Marie Curie, Alexander Fleming, Rosalind Franklin are also among the figures who get more than a mention. A firm grasp of facts is exhibited but always with a good eye for the story, as the author casts his trained medical eye over matters and phenomenon such as diseases and epidemics, medieval witch hunts, tattooing, embalming, ‘humane’ judicial killings.
Written in a lively style and a manner that will intrigue but also satisfy inquisitive minds, this is book that will appeal to the general reader as much as those with specialist knowledge. It is also a book that the reader will not find easy to put down, once started on a journey that trawls through medical annals, to probe popular misconceptions or shed new light on the personalities and events that have shaped history.
Michael Whelton was born in Cork in 1938. He passed away on 16 November 2020. Sadly missed by family, friends and all who knew him, he left the world a legacy in the form of his published writings, such as those contained in this volume and in Portraits of the Past (2018), a collection of short stories and flash fiction that often read like Joycean narratives, mostly set in the author’s native Cork during the post-World War II period. He was also a talented painter and engaged actively in many spheres of life, leaving his mark and making an impression on all who knew or encountered him. At the time of his death, he had just completed a volume of memoir.
Through the Pages of History: an art, music and medical miscellany by Michael Whelton is published under the imprint of The Manuscript Publisher and available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.