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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 2, 2008


JAMA. 2008;299(1):114. doi:10.1001/jama.2007.19-a

The Nobel prize for the present year “for the greatest benefaction to mankind by a discovery in medicine in recent years” was conferred on Alphonse Laveran, the discoverer of the germ of malaria. There are features of Laveran's career which make the story of his discovery worth while telling, for it represents in type about how scientific discoveries are made and received. After graduation in medicine in 1867, Laveran joined the French Army Military Corps, and in 1874, when he was just entering his thirtieth year, he received an appointment as instructor at the Military Hospital of Val-de-Grace in Paris. His teaching proved the best possible rounding up of his scientific education and probably made him realize the limitations of his knowledge. His experience in France had not brought him in contact with malaria, so that, when he went to Algiers, four years later, his mind was free from preconceived notions regarding its cause. Within a year he suspected the cause, within two years he had found it.

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