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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 21, 2004


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(15):1910. doi:10.1001/jama.291.15.1910

The old conception of the scholar as a man given over to debating such questions as to whether or not a crocodile is an insect, or as to how many angels can stand on the point of a needle, has long since passed away. The seclusion of learning within cloistered walls was an inevitable accompaniment of the feudal state of society. If, in that stirring age, a man with a frail body and a thoughtful mind was to live long enough to debate anything at all, it had to be within some such shelter as that afforded by the monastic life. This necessity left its impress on scholarship for generations after the conditions that had brought it into being had disappeared. In the eyes of the world the typical scholar has long been the absent-minded, myopic pedant whose harmless vagaries have been kindly tolerated by his more robust brethren of the real world. The Casaubons and the Dry-as-dusts have excited some amusement and a little pity for many generations.

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