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Book review: A Scientist in Wonderland by Dr Edzard Ernst

This is the memoir of Dr Edzard Ernst, the first professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter. He’s known as a champion of empiricism and epistemology, an advocate of evidence in a post-modern, relativistic world and a tragic hero who aroused passions and politics that cost him his job and whole department.

The book is very well written, passionate and lucid in equal measure. It serves as a systematic and relentless skewering of alternative medicine. It shows the politics and high drama of enraging its champions.

Like many memoirs there is axe grinding, and he who fights polemicists should take care not to become polemical. A late chapter comparing alternative and Nazi medicine is relatively grating.

But in sum, this is an extraordinary story of a keen, scientific mind who did not tread lightly upon the world, and paid a price for doing so.

Dr Andrew Wheeler is a GP in Ledbury, Herefordshire.