Press Release: The Greatest Benefit to Mankind

The Greatest Benefit to Mankind
A Medical History of Humanity
from Antiquity to the Present

Roy Porter

Introduced by Jeremy Farrar

‘A superb book – fluent, lucid, scary and even funny’

the sunday times


Even-handed and immensely readable, Porter’s definitive GBN4history of medicine charts the interplay of faith, superstition, philosophy and science that has shaped our perception of the body. The Folio Society’s new two-volume edition features 48 pages of specially researched black & white and colour illustrations and an introduction by Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust.

From ancient cures for malaria, comprising ‘bed bugs mashed with meat and beans’, to modern MRI technology, Porter’s monumental work examines medical traditions from both East and West to document this revolution in mankind’s battle to stay alive. Including ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture, medieval bloodletting, the dawn of hospitals and the rise of antibiotics, our fight to live longer and healthier has been the desire to transform the nature of life itself.

But, ironically, we live in an age of deep ambivalence towards medical institutions and acute GBN3anxiety about threats to our well-being – some real, others supposed. Roy Porter asks: ‘Have we become health freaks or hypochondriacs … precisely because we are so healthy and long-lived that we now have the leisure to enjoy the luxury of worrying?’

Jeremy Farrar, a former student of Roy Porter, has provided a timely introduction that recalls lectures delivered with infectious enthusiasm and describes Porter’s eminence as a historian, teacher, reviewer and author, and discusses the current state of infectious diseases worldwide and our current health crises.

Product information
2 volumes. Quarter-bound in cloth with paper sides, printed with images by Cath Riley. Set in Arno Pro. 872 pages in total; frontispiece and 24 pages of colour and black & white plates in each volume. 22 integrated black & white chapter-head illustrations. 10˝ x 6¾˝. Printed slipcase.

UK £75.00 US $120.00 Can $155.00 Aus $160.00


For media enquiries please contact

UK & ROW Nicola Handley, Cherish PR
020 8735 4245,

US & Canada
Cathleen P. Williamson (617) 435-5505,