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JAMA 100 Years Ago
October 1, 2003


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;290(13):1786. doi:10.1001/jama.290.13.1786-a

We have briefly noticed in our Current Literature Department an article by Friedenwald in the Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin, calling attention to the fact that the discovery of the stomach tube should be properly credited to one of our early American physicians, Dr. P. S. Physick, and not to Jukes and Bush, the English practitioners, to whom the honor of its invention has been assigned. It appears clear from this publication that Dr. Physick had employed the method for years when he published his first article on the subject in the Eclectic Repertory, Vol. III, p. 110, October 1812, under the title of "An Account of a New Mode of Extracting the Poisonous Substances from the Stomach." In a later issue of the same journal Dr. Physick makes a correction to do justice to Dr. Alexander Monro, Jr., of Edinburgh, to whom he magnanimously surrenders the credit of the invention because the latter had mentioned its possibility in a thesis published in 1797, to which Dr. Physick's attention had been called since the publication of his article. The fact is, however, as shown by the article, Dr. Monro never utilized the suggestion, and Dr. Physick conceived the idea independently and had tubes made for the purpose as early as 1803, and in his lectures to students, as shown by several communications from former students, was in the habit of recommending the method at that early date. In those days the medical and scientific world did not look to America for important inventions, and it was easy for the English inventors to get the honor as against Dr. Physick. Credit was given to the former, though little attention seems to have been paid to the matter. Dr. Friedenwald's article does justice to this early American pioneer of medicine.

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