The Doctors Mayo

Author: Helen ClapesattleThe Doctors Mayo

Personal Rating: 5/5

I read this biography some years ago and enjoyed it very much. I had a hard time finding it again because it is out of print. But, of course, Amazon helped.

This biography of two brothers who grew up observing and assisting in their father’s surgery is about a time that will never happen again. As Will Mayo said “We grew up to surgery with our father the same as a farmer grows up with his.” They entered the field just as antiseptic surgery with anesthesia was starting. This opened huge opportunities for new treatments.

The brothers were extremely bright, extremely dedicated, willing to spend multiple months a year to travel and learn the techniques of others and humble enough to share credit and information widely and freely.

The history of medicine embedded in this biography is interesting in its own right, but the personalities that shaped the Mayo Clinic in the 1920’s and 1930’s is also compelling.  Their organizational creation has after nearly a century left Mayo Clinic the #1 ranked hospital in the US again last year. A great read.

Washington

Author: Douglass Freeman

Personal Rating: 5/5

Washington is the fundamental figure of the Revolution. Revolutions are plagued by their leaders converting their prestige into dictatorship. The institutions that we have in the United States exist because of Washington. He was continually mistreated by Congress during the Revolution yet he consistently respected and supported their authority. Cromwell did not do as well. He was harshly vilified by Jefferson’s publicity machine yet refused to curb the press or attack is opponents. His army wanted to make him king but he refused. His power and integrity allowed our country to escape the consequences of so many revolutions.

John Adams

Author: David McCullough

Personal Rating: 4/5

John Adams was a patriot that sacrificed his life for the cause of founding the United States. He sacrificed it not in dying for it but by working for it for decades. He was honestly a flawed human being with problems with anger and self importance. However, his effort and hard work cannot be denied. He was the loser in the political battles with Jefferson but still an important figure. A great read.

Alexander Hamilton

Author: Ron Chernow

Personal Rating: 5/5

I have always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson. However, I was concerned about Jefferson’s treatment of Washington and his non-involvement in most of the Revolution. Hamilton is always portrayed as the “royalist” defeated by the “populist” Jefferson.

Chernow’s book sheds a lot of good light on this subject. He clearly points out that Hamilton, the “royalist”, was the one who worked his way up from nothing to eventually establish the economic basis of our country’s treasury and never owned a slave. Jefferson, the “populist”, inherited wealth that he ran into debt and lived off of slaves who he never freed.

George Marshall

Authors: Debi and Irwin Unger with Stanley Hirshson

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

George Marshall is one of the most underappreciated generals in American history. He never generalled armies in combat and fought no battles. His role was to organize the vast resources of the United States to win World War II. He is frequently slighted as a “managing general”. However, his vast personal integrity and dedication was respected by all. He was able to bring together huge egos so that collectively the war might be won. MacArthur never could have done it. He protected Eisenhower so that he could succeed.

I really like the topic, but I lowered the rating because the authors kept dropping out of their story to prove their credentials as historical skeptics. It is so easy to pick at flaws after the fact and they succumbed to this temptation a little too often.