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Under the Microscope is the story of an extraordinary man, his many life-changing inventions, and his exceptional life and special friendships.

Under the Microscope is the story of an extraordinary man, his many life-changing inventions, and his exceptional life and special friendships.

Born into a family of doctors – on the paternal and maternal sides - with a birth defect that no one knew how to treat, Earl Owen was given a dose of radiation before anyone knew what radiation treatment could do to a human body, let alone a newborn baby.

Earl Owen’s medical parents, aunts and uncles failed to notice that as he grew he walked with a limp and when he was eleven he had an accident in a school race, which left him in hospital for a year enduring a series of excruciating surgeries in an attempt to remedy his damaged bones. Whilst lying in bed alone in a dark basement room in the hospital, he decided he would grow up to be the a new kind of surgeon - one who would deal delicately and carefully with birth defects and would communicate sensitively with patients.

When he was discharged from the hospital he took up piano lessons and discovered he was a talented musician. As he came out of his teens, he had to decide whether to pursue a career as a concert pianist or a surgeon.

To say this man is a high achiever barely touches on his gifts and talents. He was one of the earliest, most inventive and enterprising pioneers of microsurgery; he designed instruments and microscopes for his operations; he did the first finger replacement on a child (for which he was sacked from the Sydney Children's Hospital, even though it was successful operation); co-led the team that completed the first successful hand transplant (whose recipient turned out to be an ex-con from New Zealand, who had lost his arm in jail); and trained the team that completed the first double-hand transplant.

Earl Owen was the first surgeon to be able to reverse vasectomies and complete fallopian tube ligatures (using his microsurgical prowess). And he designed the chairs in the Sydney Opera House!

He has done more in his eighty years than most of us could dream of and this book is his story in his words.


[Owen's] achievements included pioneering microsurgery and leading the team that performed the world's first successful hand transplants. This is an illuminating self-portrait of man with extraordinary drive, curiosity and passion.

Thuy On, The Sun-Herald

This is an inspirational autobiography which will delight for generations to come. Most importantly, it will encourage young people on a journey of ambition to succeed, to fulfil their dreams.

Professor Marie R Bashir AC CVO Governor of New South Wales

Owen will continue to inspire others through this book, skilfully compressing his full and remarkable life so that the pace of this autobiography is gripping from start to finish.

Colleen Cook, SAM

This is a fascinating autobiography: I've never read one by a doctor before and the story of this man's life and achievements was really good to read. An autobiography, however, has to be more than a recount of achievements to be interesting. Professor's Owen's story explains the man behind the achievements. Under the Microscope is a tribute to resilience, courage, and imagination. Highly recommended.

Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers Blog

Earl is the pioneer master of miniature surgery and I would call him a genius at what he does

Vladimir Ashkenazy

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    February 3, 2014

    Vintage Australia

    320 pages

    RRP $42.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    February 3, 2014

    RHA eBooks Adult

    304 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ