Bondeson, Jan 1962-
Bondeson, Jan 1962-
Born December 17, 1962, in Malmö, Sweden; son of Sven and Greta Bondesson. Education: University of Lund, M.D., 1988; received Ph.D., 1996. Hobbies and other interests: Sports cars, wine, book collecting.
Home—Newport, Gwent, Wales. Office—Department of Rheumatology, Welsh National School of Medicine, University of Wales, Health Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, Wales. E-mail—[email protected]
Physician and writer. University of Malmö, Malmö, Sweden, resident at university hospital, 1988-90, registrar, 1990-95, senior registrar, 1995-96; Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, London, England, research fellow, 1996-2000; University of Wales, Welsh National School of Medicine, Cardiff, senior lecturer and consultant rheumatologist, 2000—. Military service: Swedish Army Reserve; became lieutenant.
Royal Society of Medicine (fellow), TVR Car Club, Morgan Sports Car Club.
Hennerlof scholarship, Swedish Society of Medicine, 1987; rheumatology scholarship, Astra-Boots, 1993.
(With Arie Molenkamp) The Prolific Countess, [The Hague, Netherlands], 1996.
A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1997.
The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2000.
The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2000.
Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, Norton (New York, NY), 2001.
The Great Pretenders: The True Stories behind Famous Historical Mysteries, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.
Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2005.
Bondeson's books have been translated into Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, and Korean.
Jan Bondeson surveys a wide range of medical "monstrosities," or genetic and medical anomalies, in his book A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities. It was inspired by his reading of an old medical book, Gould and Pyle's Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, published in 1897. Selma Harrison Calmes noted that people have a general fascination with such anomalies and wrote of the book in the Lancet: "Well-researched and extensively illustrated with items from [the author's] personal collection, it covers a wide range of medical monstrosities, and there is something for everyone." She also noted Bondeson's historical research, as he draws on material from Europe, the United States, and China. In the book, Bondeson discusses a wide range of medical oddities, including people with tails, spontaneous human combustion, people with hairy faces like those of apes, and conjoined twins. Each chapter ends with a description of the modern medical explanation for the phenomenon, whether it is genetic or caused by disease. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Alfred Jay Bollet wrote that the book is "well-written" and "thoroughly researched" and noted that its strength is in its "detailed stories of human gullibility…. As such, it is sometimes disturbing but always informative." A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that the book is "entertaining in the simultaneously creepy and amusing way of a carnival sideshow."
The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History examines beliefs people had in the past about fantastic creatures, such as mermaids, toads that are found encased in solid rock, animals with killing vision, lambs that grew on stalks in the garden, and other bizarre forms of life, as well as real creatures, such as Marocco the Dancing Horse, Chunee, an elephant who was executed in London in 1826, and locusts who were put on trial for devouring crops. The ten essays in the book describe biological hoaxes, misinformed beliefs, and other natural and unnatural oddities. The book draws from literature and poetry of the eighteenth century and is illustrated with figures from the same time period. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Bondeson "successfully couples a wealth of historical material with the latest biological information."
In The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale, Bondeson presents the case of a serial slasher who terrified London one hundred years before Jack the Ripper, as well as the questions that still surround the man who was tried and convicted for those crimes. The book is "sound, informative and interesting," wrote Washington Post contributor Jonathan Yardley. "Working with incomplete and often misleading evidence, he has reconstructed the tale with what gives every evidence of being authority, and it is difficult to imagine that a more thorough account of it can or will be written." Calling The London Monster a "fascinating account," a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that Bondeson "portrays in tart specifics a city plagued by class stratification, street crime and vice, and that was served by barely rudimentary policing."
Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear was also described as a characteristically thorough and witty foray into the history of the fear and the facts of premature burial. In a Booklist review, William Beatty found the book "a trove of information, enlivened by excellent illustrations." In this "weird and wonderful little tome," observed Gary Kamiya in his Salon review, Bondeson "ranges with authority from [his subject's] folkloric roots to its wacky historical applications to its literary text to its medical realities, and he backs everything up with voluminous citations." Kathy Arsenault summed up in Library Journal: "Although claustrophobics should beware, readers in most libraries will find this book both unusual and fascinating."
Bondeson told CA: "The Great Pretenders: The True Stories behind Famous Historical Mysteries is a compendium of historical cases of imposture and mistaken identity, like the False Dauphins of France, Kaspar Hauser, and the Tichborne claimant. Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme deals with the unsolved murder of Olof Palme, the prime minister of Sweden, in 1986. I propose a novel theory that the murder was related to a multibillion-dollar arms export deal to India in which Palme had gotten personally involved."
Bondeson also once told CA: "In addition to my books, I have written more than sixty articles published in scholarly periodicals. I am still working full-time as a doctor and medical scientist, but one day I hope to write full-time. Buried Alive has been the most successful of my books this far. Future projects include various Victorian murder mysteries, and also work on the stalkers and would-be assassins threatening Queen Victoria."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bloomsbury Review, May-June, 2001, Lily Leath, review of The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels.
Booklist, June 1, 2000, William Beatty, review of The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels, p. 1825; February 1, 2001, William Beatty, review of Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, p. 1029.
Contemporary Review, July, 2001, review of Buried Alive, p. 64.
Forbes, March 5, 2001, Susan Adams, "A Fate Worse Than Death," review of Buried Alive, p. 193.
Journal of the American Medical Association, June 6, 2001, William A. Sodeman, review of Buried Alive, p. 2789.
Journal of the History of Medicine, April, 2001, John Parascandola, review of The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2000, review of The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels; November 1, 2000, review of The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale; January 1, 2001, review of Buried Alive.
Lancet, April 18, 1998, Selma Harrison Calmes, review of A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, p. 1216.
Library Journal, February 1, 2001, Kathy Arsenault, review of Buried Alive, p. 118.
New England Journal of Medicine, January 4, 2001, Michael Berkwits, review of The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels, p. 71.
New York Times Book Review, February 18, 2001, Lynn Karpen, review of The London Monster, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, May 29, 2000, review of The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels, p. 72; November 20, 2000, review of The London Monster, p. 58; January 29, 2001, review of Buried Alive, p. 76.
Virginia Quarterly Review, Volume 77, number 1, review of The Two-Headed Boy, and Other Medical Marvels.
Washington Post, December 21, 2000, Jonathan Yardley, "Stalking a Slasher," review of The London Monster, p. C2.
Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (March 7, 2001), Gary Kamiya, review of Buried Alive.