JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
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.
THE SCHOLAR AND THE STATE.. JAMA. 2004;291(15):1910. doi:10.1001/jama.291.15.1910