For most doctors, medicine is a life-long commitment; few, however, have been directly involved in medicine for the greater part of a century. Dr Alexander (Alec) MacDougall Cooke was born on 17 October 1899. After war service with the Royal Flying Corps, he went up to Oxford to read medicine in January 1919. Thanks to his diary and his impeccable memory, he was able to give a stylish and elegant first-hand account of the fastest and most far reaching changes in the history of medicine.
His book takes us from the therapeutically impotent days of the pre-antibiotic era, the dramatic impact of penicillin; and from the beginnings of the National Health Service - 'the greatest piece of social engineering' - to today's strains and stresses of imposed changes. It describes the pleasures and problems of a consultant physician's practice, the wrangles over academic medicine within Oxford University, the quirky generosity of private benefactors, the foibles of fellow doctors and his happy relationship with students and junior staff. He also kept an experienced and critical eye on the progress of medical science.
Alec Cooke, who died on 5 January 1999 just nine months short of his 100th birthday, 'found medicine the most fascinating subject in the world and an enthralling occupation.' This account of his first 75 years in medicine will bring back warm memories to those who themselves have already had experience of medical practice. Having read the book, they should, in Hippocratic fashion, pass it on to those still on the threshold of medicine, so that they, too, can see how enthralling an occupation medicine can be.