Inducing highs of excitement, anger, and terror, adrenaline fuels the extremes of human experience. A rush empowers superhuman feats in emergencies. Risk-taking junkies seek to replicate this feeling in dangerous recreations. And a surge may literally scare us to death. Adrenaline brings us up to speed on the fascinating molecule that drives some of our most potent experiences.
Adrenaline was discovered in 1894 and quickly made its way out of the lab into clinics around the world. In this engrossing account, Brian Hoffman examines adrenaline in all its capacities, from a vital regulator of physiological functions to the subject of Nobel Prize–winning breakthroughs. Because its biochemical pathways are prototypical, adrenaline has had widespread application in hormone research leading to the development of powerful new drugs. Hoffman introduces the scientists to whom we owe our understanding, tracing the paths of their discoveries and aspirations and allowing us to appreciate the crucial role adrenaline has played in pushing modern medicine forward.
Hoffman also investigates the vivid, at times lurid, place adrenaline occupies in the popular imagination, where accounts of its life-giving and lethal properties often leave the realm of fact. Famous as the catalyst of the “fight or flight” response, adrenaline has also received forensic attention as a perfect poison, untraceable in the bloodstream—and rumors persist of its power to revive the dead. True to the spirit of its topic, Adrenaline is a stimulating journey that reveals the truth behind adrenaline’s scientific importance and enduring popular appeal.
Hoffman brings to life many of the characters that feature in the discovery of adrenaline and the development of related drugs from pioneering scientists to the numerous individuals who would have slipped into anonymity had it not been for an eye-opening medical conundrum.
As Hoffman beautifully demonstrates, adrenaline is part of a whole host of fundamental physiological processes besides fight or flight. It influences our emotions and is part of the cycle of sugar metabolism and our daily circadian rhythms.
The first hormone ever discovered, adrenaline is associated with terror, stress and excitement and is behind animals’ fight-or-flight response. Hoffman, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explores the cultural significance of adrenaline and its history. The stories include those of a murderous nurse who used the untraceable hormone to induce fatal heart attacks in her patients, industrial chemists’ race to purify adrenaline for drug use and the myth of the chemical’s power to raise the dead.
[An] illuminating study of science history.
Hoffman’s book offers a straight history of adrenaline’s discovery, purification and the research that has been carried out into how it works.
Hoffman has written a study of adrenaline for nonscientists… It will be of definite interest to students of biology, chemistry, and the health sciences, or anyone interested in the history of medicine and medical research.
[Hoffman’s] ‘biography of adrenaline’ is medical history at its best, revealing the blend of genius, guts, and luck that transformed a hunch into a breakthrough—from 19th-century physician Thomas Addison’s insights into the function of the adrenal glands to the beginnings of endocrinology (and the surprising use of hundreds of sheep thyroids to cure a human patient), the heartbreaking Nobel Prize snub of a canny Japanese scientist and biotechnology pioneer, and the myriad other drugs developed after the discovery of adrenaline. Hoffman notes that there’s still much to know about the relationship between the body and brain when it comes to triggering emotions, but in the meantime, this thoughtful and exuberant exploration will satisfy both professional and lay readers.
The most complete and detailed book ever written on Adrenaline. Hoffman presents a fascinating account of the history—from the earliest days of its discovery to its most recent clinical and therapeutic developments.
Adrenaline has long captured the attention of all flavors of physicians, biologists, and storytellers. Now, happily, Brian Hoffman has captured the complete ‘biography of adrenaline’ in substantial detail. The story and science are delivered with just enough—but not too much—technical detail, and numerous vignettes make it a very human read.
Hoffman has done a beautiful job of integrating the story of scientific discovery with commercial application, demonstrating the ways in which this is truly a circular process with both discovery and application happening in both industry and academia, rather than the way it is often viewed as a simple matter of companies ‘scaling up’ discoveries in university laboratories.
- 304 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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