Essence and emblem of life – feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times – human blood is now the center of a huge, secretive, and often dangerous worldwide commerce. It is a commerce whose impact on humanity rivals that of any other business. Millions of lives have been saved by blood and his various derivatives, and tens of thousands of lives have been lost.

Douglas Starr’s sweeping history is a fascinating tale that ranges across centuries and continents – the curing of madmen with animal blood in 17th century France, the development of transfusion with the of Vienna and New York… the grisly Soviet experiments of the 1930s with cadaver blood. It explains how the medical breakthroughs of World War II laid the foundation of the global marketplace worth billions of dollars per year. The author recounts the tragic spread of AIDS through the distribution of contaminated blood products, and describes why and how related scandals erupted around the world. Finally he looks at the latest attempts to make artificial blood – a Holy Grail of the pharmaceutical industry that remains tantalizingly just beyond the scientists’ grasp.

Winner of the Los Angeles Times book award (science and technology)…this groundbreaking book tackles a subject of universal and urgent importance and explores the perils and promises that lie ahead.