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JAMA 100 Years Ago
March 26, 2003


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(12):1576. doi:10.1001/jama.289.12.1576-a

Change of locality seems to have little effect on the ill luck of a noted biologist recently transferred from Chicago to California. He is, it is said, greatly troubled by the fact that his utterances are still picked up by reporters in the most sensational way from time to time. In fact, there is a very short interval between them. One day it is announced in the newspapers that the actual secret of life has been found in cyanid of potash, again it is calcium salts that have an importance which has never been before attributed to them in the vital processes. The last announcement is that the revelation of the nature of life itself is probably within our reach. All that we have to do to understand it completely—and he seems to think this will be done—is "to control it unequivocally by physical and chemical means, or to repeat it in all detail on inanimate matter." This is a large contract. There is a sort of wisdom which consists in appreciating our limitations. A wisdom that is lacked by the antivitalist who can not willingly believe that anything mysterious exists or that it is beyond his intellect. Our modern would-be Prometheus says:

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