A guided tour through the strange science of hormones and the age-old quest to control them.Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, and sex: these are just a few of the things our bodies control with hormones. Armed with a healthy dose of wit and curiosity, Randi Hutter Epstein takes us on a journey through the unusual history of these potent chemicals and their discovery, from the London laboratory where the concept of hormones was identified to a basement filled with jarred brains to a canine sex lab. We meet leading scientists who made life-changing discoveries about the hormone imbalances that ail us, as well as charlatans who used those discoveries to peddle false remedies. Along the way, Epstein examines the functions of hormones such as leptin, oxytocin, estrogen, and testosterone, demystifying the science of endocrinology.
A fascinating exploration of the history and science of one of medicine’s most important discoveries, Aroused reveals how hormones can both push us to the edge and reel us back.
Praise for Aroused
“Science writer Epstein gives readers a lucid and entertaining look at the social and scientific history of endocrinology…From using growth hormone to make children taller to in vitro fertilization and exploring what sex hormones have to do with gender identification and aging, Epstein frames science in human terms, delving into such topics as eugenics, medical errors, and scams like vasectomy as a way to boost sex drive. The author’s beguiling prose (“the preservatives had evaporated through tiny cracks, so bits and bobs of brain were puckered and withered”) makes for a lively and accessible introduction to hormones and the important work they do in the lives of humans.”
“A tour of the history of endocrinology, highlighting progress but also the hype that has promoted the curative abilities of hormones.”
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Randi Hutter Epstein’s lively narrative dances us through the fascinating stories and science of hormones with the captivating tell-all tone of a whip-smart gossip columnist. Epstein’s intelligence and wit sparkle through these well-researched and enlightening tales of hucksters and heroes, freak shows and murders, hot flashes and thousands of pickled pituitary glands.”
—Anna Reisman, MD, director of the Program for Humanities in Medicine, Yale University
“Hormones today can seem a bit like angels and demons in earlier times–invisible agents mysteriously responsible for everything in our lives. In her funny, eye-opening book, Randi Hutter Epstein demystifies these molecules, while taking away none of their amazing power.
—Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother’s Laugh and Parasite Rex
“A rollicking history certain to get your intellectual and physiologic juices flowing. Adrenaline tinged tales and hot flashes of history – just what the doctor ordered.”
—Lisa Sanders MD, Clinician Educator, Yale Internal Medicine Primary Care Residency, Columnist New York Times Magazine
“Aroused, Randi Hutter Epstein’s witty, riveting, and untrammeled romp through the social history of hormones, engages you with one astonishing story after another. . . . An irresistible narrative tapestry tracing the shimmering threads of hormones as they run through our bodies and lives.”
—Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid and Deadly Monopolies
“A sweeping, glorious story of hormones, threaded through with sex, suffering, neurology, biology, medicine and self-discovery, Epstein’s book manages to excite the imagination as well as calm it. The story is grippingly told, and Epstein manages to bring a whole system of science alive to her reading public.”
—Siddartha Mukherjee, author of The Gene: An Intimate History
“We tend to associate hormones with puberty, childbearing, and menopause but, as Randi Hutter Epstein points out in this important, informative and immensely enjoyable book, they’re actually involved in every aspect of being human. An enchanting storyteller, Epstein draws on examples from medical history to today’s news in exploring these amazing chemicals that affect how we eat, sleep, look, love, hate, and think.”
—Suzanne Koven primary care physician and Writer in Residence, Massachusetts General Hospital