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Books, Journals, New Media
January 27, 1999

EssaysDarwin's Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination—New and Selected Essays

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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by Gerald Weissman, 323 pp, with illustrations, $28.95, ISBN 0-306-45981, New York, NY, Plenum Press, 1998.

JAMA. 1999;281(4):387. doi:10.1001/jama.281.4.387-JBK0127-3-1

This is a collection of essays largely, but not exclusively, blending medical history with medical humanities. The essays were originally written for a variety of journals and medical magazines. Only seven might be considered new material, the other 17 having been reprinted—a small increment of new material for Weissmann fans. Since earlier essays have been subject to review elsewhere, I will focus on the book's first seven new offerings.

Historical essays are interpretations rather than historical record, and the essayist has a point of view. Such essays are, or at least I feel should be, provocative. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with the essayist, the essay is a learning process. Only some of the new essays by Weissman fulfill this requirement. He explains that the theme of this collection, "science and the liberal imagination," is intended to impose a social viewpoint on scientific history. Such overpainting turns out to involve a rather broad, impressionist brush, and some of the pictures are too fuzzy for me to interpret.

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