The Epsteins combine an emphasis on the importance of scientific experiments with careful attention to the human dimensions of such research. Readers receive full descriptions of Beaumont’s experiments and their significance: how he inserted different foodstuffs tied on strings into St. Martin’s stomach, withdrawing them periodically to check the progress of digestion, how he noted that St. Martin’s anger over his own rudeness interfered with the process, and how he recorded the stomach’s temperature to refute theories that food digested by being “cooked” in the stomach. These details, however, are usually presented in a larger context that explores the personalities and goals of the two individuals. Beaumont’s working methods are precise, young readers are told, not only because he is a scientist and a good doctor but also because he has decided that writing an account of the case will win him the recognition that he craves. St. Martin’s pain over his friends’ reactions to him after the accident and his shame at being made into an exhibit remind readers that he is a person as well as a medical marvel. As Beryl Epstein wrote of the book, “Our research had convinced us that the story had to be about both men, rather than just about the self-centered doctor alone.” Such an approach, though subtle, means that young readers will be less inclined to see science as impersonal or doctors as gods.
For the most part, the Epsteins maintain a neutral tone, offering few overt judgments of either Beaumont or St. Martin. Thus young readers are encouraged...
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Written as part of the Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan “Science as Discovery” series, Dr. Beaumont and the Man with the Hole in His Stomach is designed to make science and history accessible to children. The Epsteins succeed in this design by combining two traditional ways of looking at history—the “great individual” view and the “history as progress” view—with the more personal and social approaches popularized during and after the 1960’s. Because young readers have always responded well to stories about famous people, the Epsteins have effectively combined such a story with other elements that satisfy youngsters’ needs to fit in with others and to appease their curiosity. In St. Martin, readers see an initially ordinary man whose feelings of embarrassment and need for friends parallel their own. In addition, the intriguing possibility of looking into one’s stomach helps to generate the excitement of discovery that can make science and history meaningful to a child. As a book to read aloud and then discuss, either at home or in the classroom, Dr. Beaumont and the Man with the Hole in His Stomach encourages young readers to see science and history from new perspectives.