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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 27, 2011


JAMA. 2011;305(16):1715. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.454

We are sometimes made to feel humble in the midst of our triumphal march of progress, by being told that in the ancient civilizations men did many things better than we do them now, and that at the best we ought to recognize that what we consider discoveries are mostly but rediscoveries. Probably we need this sort of corrective to self-satisfaction; nevertheless, it seems likely that modern iconoclasts will destroy its efficiency. “The lost arts” is a catch-word by which we set great store, and according to Dr. W. D. Richardson1 its popularity in this country rests largely on the prominence given it by Wendell Phillips in his lecture on this topic, which he repeated two thousand times, more or less, in lyceum courses all over the country. Dr. Richardson examines the evidence on which rest the claims of unusual chemical achievements by the ancients, and finds it worthless.

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