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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 27, 1999

Homing Pigeons as Medical Messengers.

JAMA. 1999;281(4):308T. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-281-4-jjy80048a

ELIZABETH, ILL., Jan. 7, 1899.

To the Editor:—Readers of the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION will find my former article on "Homing Pigeons as Medical Messengers" in the JOURNAL of March 31, 1898 (p. 872). Though much interest was manifested in the subject at the time, not many doctors to my knowledge undertook to secure for themselves the service of these wonderfully clever aerial messengers. I can now speak with more assurance that they are indeed feasible. I receive messages from my patients in the country every day, in addition to my daily visits to them. My plan usually is to leave a pigeon the day I make a visit and direct that the pigeon be liberated the next morning about 8 o'clock, with such a message as I may desire, e. g., the record of temperature, pulse, number of stools, etc. With a little care in the instruction of the nurse, I am quite well informed of the condition of my patient before I start to make my next visit, just the same as the doctor becomes informed of his hospital patient, by first examining the record of the patient kept since his last visit. In a country practice this is even more important, as it enables the doctor to judge what will be needed for his patient the next twenty-four hours, for we country doctors must act as our own druggists. Then again, country doctors can not often make more than one call in twenty-four hours, and by an aerial messenger service he can get practically the same information as the doctor in city or hospital practice, who makes several calls, by simply leaving two pigeons and getting an evening and morning report. The doctor who has a country practice is often called from his country patient to other persons sick in the neighborhood. This will make him late in getting back to his office, and it will be a great convenience if he can send this information home, practically with the same speed as the city practitioner through the medium of the telephone system. That we can remain in closer touch throughout an illness of our country patients, there can remain no doubt, a fact that will be appreciated by most patients and their friends.

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