Histories of surgery usually make dreary reading, filled as they are with seemingly interchangeable portraits of elderly gentlemen with formidable beards, and written at best in a journeyman style. But this opus magnus by Dr Rutkow is a notable exception. It is a lively, extremely well-written, well-edited, and imaginatively published text. Rutkow has established himself in the front rank of American surgical historians. In this, his fifth major book on surgical history, he draws heavily on the illustrations and historic sources contained in his previous publications. This beautifully illustrated coffee-table-size book (451 illustrations, 38% in color), however, has an important fresh theme: it places progress in surgery in the perspective of the socioeconomic, political, and scientific times of each discovery. The illustrations correlate with pictorial art, photography, and publication techniques of the period. The science and art of surgery as presented in this book thus parallels progress in the other arts and sciences.