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Books, Journals, New Media
January 5, 2000

BiographyJoseph Leidy: The Last Man Who Knew Everything

Author Affiliations

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


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JAMA. 2000;283(1):122-123. doi:10.1001/jama.283.1.122-JBK0500-3-1

When William Osler came to Philadelphia in 1884 to begin his American career, the young physician's rising star crossed the orbit of Joseph Leidy, then at its zenith. Leidy—medical doctor, anatomist, parasitologist, paleontologist, and consultant to the Smithsonian Institution—was quite possibly the most illustrious natural scientist in America. Osler could write, "It was my privilege to know well one of the greatest naturalists of this country, Joseph Leidy. . . ." But a century later, Leidy's name has lapsed into total obscurity. Indeed, this Ozymandian fall from fame provided the impetus for the present volume. When Leonard Warren, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, came to Philadelphia he found Leidy's name attached to a university building, a public school, an avenue, and a named professorship of anatomy. Who was his predecessor at the university, and what did he do? The present book is the result of Warren's inquiry.

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