With medical and journalism degrees and as Writer-in-Residence at Yale Medical School, Epstein brings a savvy background to a book rich in clever digressions as well as scientific know-how and historical fact ... A history of endocrinology as entertaining as it is informative, Aroused adroitly covers the basic science, clinical application and dubious commercialization of hormones.
This is a well-written and informative book about the history of hormone research. The interested reader will learn how scientists have come to understand what hormones are and how they function. But it is also deeply disturbing: for what this history entails, for how the author tells it and for what she leaves out ... Even more disturbing than reading about these practices is that for the most part Epstein shrugs them off, saying that the physicians involved were well intentioned, that what they did was appropriate for their day or that they did what they could with the information they had. These were the 'best practices of the time.' It was 'just the way things were.' But that’s not quite true: Some of these practices were questioned even at the time. And it doesn’t take hindsight to recognize hubris ... Epstein contrasts 'quackery' with 'legitimate research,' and 'craziness' with 'serious science,' but the crucial question of how to distinguish between them is unaddressed ... Epstein also elides the problem of hormone-disrupting chemicals ... Surely a book on the history of hormone research should have something to say about that.
Epstein, a medical writer and M.D., tells the history of hormone research from that first rooster experiment, but cleverly moves back and forth through time, avoiding any hint of dry recitation. She explores the scientists who discovered and deciphered the effects of important hormones, as well as the personal stories of how people’s lives have been profoundly changed by these chemicals ... In the end, Epstein paints a portrait of how hormones control us and how we yearn to control them. Perhaps appropriately, it’s a history marked by our shifting moods.