Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews Book

Aspirin: The Story of a Wonder Drug

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 09 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1408
  1. Boleslav L Lichterman (
  1. Centre for the History of Medicine, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow, Russia

It might seem strange to have a popular book of more than 300 pages dedicated to just one drug. But aspirin is a special case. One of the most brilliant medical historians and journalists of our time, the late Roy Porter, wrote a book called The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present (BMJ 1998;316: 713). Replace “humanity” for “aspirin” in the title, and it would ideally fit the book under review. Diarmuid Jeffreys, a journalist and television producer, has written an inspiring story based on archival sources, interviews, and an amazing knowledge of the relevant literature. His book clearly demonstrates that the border between academic medical history and journalistic investigation is blurred.

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Diarmuid Jeffreys

Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp 352 ISBN 0 7475 7077 9

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Jeffreys describes aspirin as, among other things, “the most remarkable drug the world has ever seen,” “one of the astonishing inventions in history,” and “one of the most endurably successful commercial products of all time.” Such claims are well substantiated. Aspirin is not only the subject of about 26 000 scientific papers, but …

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