Item description for Dr. Noguchi's Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery by Peter Durfee Atsushi Kita...
The story of Hideyo Noguchi's rise from poor farm boy to famous medical pioneer is a true rags-to-riches story. Born into a family of struggling sharecroppers in a village in the snow country of northern Japan, Noguchi, as a small child, suffered a serious burn which turned his left hand into a useless stump and inflicted permanent scars on his personality. A skillful doctor, however, later operated on this hand, allowing him to use it again to some extent, and inspiring him to pursue a career in medicine himself. Noguchi's extraordinary drive and academic talent propelled him through the hidebound medical training establishment of his own country at record speed, and on to America, to seek his fortune. This too he eventually achieved, thanks to the breakthroughs he made in bacteriological research at the Rockefeller Institute, which included isolating the agent that causes syphilis. His work on other diseases, especially yellow fever, took him as far a field as Ecuador and West Africa, and it was in tropical Africa, doing field research, that he contracted the disease that killed him in his early fifties. Noguchi's struggle to overcome his physical handicap, to make a name for himself as an Asian scientist in a Western-dominated field, and to increase the fund of human knowledge, has given him an exalted status in Japan, where his face is now on the thousand-yen note. But the author of this new biography is at pains to present a true portrait of the man considered by many of his countrymen as something of a saint. Like Albert Schweitzer, Noguchi in his single-mindedness could be a trial for those around him, and this, combined with an amazing carelessness with money that led him to spend almost all his borrowed travel money on food and drink on the eve of his departure for America, made for a less-than-ideal character. As the biographer says in his Preface: "When a person shines so very brightly, surely the shadows he creates will be equally as dark." And here, perhaps for the first time, the light and darkness in Noguchi are given equal emphasis, in a rounded picture of the short, intense, and not uncontroversial life of one of modern medicine's more remarkable figures.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.2" Height: 1.2" Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Release Date Jul 15, 2005
Publisher Kodansha International
ISBN 4770023553 ISBN13 9784770023551
Reviews - What do customers think about Dr. Noguchi's Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery?
Lost in Translation? Sep 21, 2006
If there is anything about this book that is great, it is the translation. In comparison with the original text, the translation is perfect, it reflects every aspect, emotion, thought, and idea in book accurately and precisely. A lot of books don't get translated half as well as this one. I really liked this book and I think everyone interested in this subject should look into it, at least have a peek.
Through devotions to science, he lived and died for humanity Aug 8, 2005
Dr. Hideyo Noguchi may not quite be a household name in the United States, but in Japan people see his face every time they reach into their wallets to pull out a ubiquitous 1,000 yen note, and the small, isolated farmhouse where he was born sees over 1 million annual tourists making the long trek. A dedicated and important pioneer in the field of microbiology and epidemics, the modern world owes much to Noguchi, even though they may not know the extent of the debt.
"Dr. Nogochi's Journey" is a semi-biography of the great doctor's life, and an attempt to reconcile the conflicting portraits of the genius Noguchi and the worthless drunk and spend-thrift Noguchi, both sides of which have been trumpeted in Japan at some time or other. A semi-biography only, because as in a more-typical style of a Japanese history book a story is told, leaving us privy to quoted dialog and Noguchi's personal inner thoughts, things that the author could not possibly be pulling from authenticated sources.
Nogochi definitely lived an interesting life, coming from the grinding, dismal poverty of a poor farming family in Meji Japan, and rising to a level where he could freely introduce friends to the President of the United States and dined with Emperors. His rise is something achieved by both his own drive, talent and ambition, as well as with the sacrifices of many others who saw something in the child that they believed in. His club-like left hand, destroyed in a fire when he was just a baby, became the thing that shamed him and spurred him to out-distance his classmates. He shamelessly begged money and connections from his friends, family and co-workers, little of which was ever payed back. So single-minded was he that failure was never an option, and he managed to get whatever he needed to go to medical school, to leave Japan, and to discover and cure ravaging epidemic diseases like syphilis, rocky mountain fever, the bubonic plague, and the devastating yellow fever.
An interesting idea in "Dr. Noguchi's Journey" is that Noguchi, while considered a national hero in Japan, could never have achieved anything in his home country. He is, in many ways, a symbol of the limitation of Japanese culture, where seniority and connections matter more than drive and talent. Only by traveling to the US could Noguchi rise to a necessary level to leverage his talents and bring relief to a suffering world. Indeed, Japan was one of the last countries to recognize this expatriate during his lifetime.
I found his life fascinating, as well as the musings on the nature of genius, that it is not a matter of brains and talents so much as an environment where those brains and talents are allowed to reach fruition. Without his army of benefactors, Noguchi would probably never have amounted to more than a local farmer, if even that.
The only complaint I have with "Dr. Noguchi's Journey" is either the writing style or the translation, although I do not know which. The opening chapters are severely heavy-handed and full of pathos and purple prose in the descriptions of the sacrifices and struggles of Noguchi's suffering mother. I well know that this sort of writing is typical of the Japanese style and language, especially when dealing with sufferings mothers, but it comes off as strange in English. Perhaps the translator adjusted his style as the book went along, because this aspect is smoothed out and the writing itself becomes more enjoyable along with the story.