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PUMP: A Natural History of the Heart
For centuries, humans have been fascinated by the heart. Aristotle believed it was the seat of consciousness; the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz mused about how his life would change if only he had one; and poets and musicians from Shakespeare to Tom Petty to Stevie Nicks have written countless words about hearts being cold, broken, and lonely. Now, the critically acclaimed author of Cannibalism and American Museum of Natural History zoologist Bill Schutt turns his attention to this vital organ in PUMP: A Natural History of the Heart (Publication Date: September 21, 2021; $26.95), which explores the mysteries and wonders of the literal heartbeat of life on earth. The first book to present in-depth natural histories of both the human heart and the hearts of dozens of diverse animal species ranging from worms to alligators to bats to sea squirts, PUMP is an illuminating journey that shows how the heart has become the core of not only the circulatory system, but also the natural world.
From a Canadian museum where Schutt examines a rare, preserved blue whale heart the size of a golf cart to New England beaches where horseshoe crabs are being harvested for their life-saving blood to labs where he encounters frozen hibernating wood frogs, PUMP takes readers on a fantastic trip around the world, telling an incredible story of evolution and scientific process. Readers journey with Schutt through human history, too, as philosophers and scientists hypothesize, often wrongly, about what makes our ticker tick. The book traces humanity’s cardiac fascination from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who believed that the heart contains the soul, all the way up to modern-day laboratories, where scientists use animal hearts and even plants as the basis for many of today’s cutting-edge therapies. Schutt interviews notable doctors, researchers, and animal experts, revealing unexpected anecdotes and studies including:
- the science behind the survival of the Antarctic icefish, whose blood contains a natural antifreeze;
- the use of tropical Zebrafish, an organism that shares more than 70 percent of its genes with humans, to study the regrowth of functional heart muscle in humans;
- the heart of the Burmese python, which can grow 40 percent after eating a meal, and how this invasive species can help researchers better understand physiological human heart growth;
- the scientific background on why doctors made the switch from therapeutic bloodletting including the use of leeches to blood transfusions as a way to restore health;
- the strange science behind the giraffe circulatory system – which includes a massive high-pressure heart that can pump blood to heights of eighteen feet and unique adaptations that prevent blood from rushing to their lowered heads when they drink;
- the 150-year-old mystery behind the ailments that plagued Charles Darwin for the last forty years of his life, which may be traced to a rare bloodborne disease he contracted during his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle;
- the experiments showing the direct relationship between bereavement and Takotsubo syndrome, better known as “broken heart syndrome”;
- the brand-new technologies utilized by various labs to grow and regenerate the human heart from stem cells, animal hearts, and plants.
“Pump is a story about hearts – big hearts, small hearts, cold hearts and even nonexistent hearts,” Schutt, professor emeritus at Long Island University – Post, explains. “The history of our attempts to understand the function of the heart and circulatory system is long, and until relatively recently, riddled with errors. From a hollow cluster of cells with a unique ability to shorten its length to beliefs about the origin of love and the soul to early cardiac medicine, futuristic therapies, and beyond, my hope is that readers will gain appreciation for the degree to which the heart plays a vital role, and will never think about these topics in quite the same way again.” The author of five books of fiction and nonfiction, Schutt received his PhD in zoology from Cornell University and did his post-doctoral work at the American Museum of Natural History (where he was a recipient of a Theodore Roosevelt Grant). His most recent book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and an Amazon Best Book of the Month as well as a Scientific American Recommended Read. He lives with his family on Long Island.
Written with verve and Schutt’s signature wit, weaving evolutionary perspectives with cultural history, Pump shows us this magical and mysterious organ in a completely new light.
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About Dr. Craig D. Schmidtke, DDS
After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Schmidtke received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Minnesota graduating near the top of his class in 1994. He then completed his internship and Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery residencies at the prestigious Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan in 1998. During his tenure, he received training from some of the country’s leaders in Head and Neck, Plastic, and Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. Dr. Schmidtke is board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and holds current certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support. He is also a fellow of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and a member of the Alabama Society of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Dental Association, the Alabama Dental Association, the 3rd District Dental Society of the State of Alabama and The Chalmers Lyons Society of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons (famed Oral & Maxillofacial surgical society of the University of Michigan).
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