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Medical News and Perspectives
November 24, 2004

Medical Books From the Cradle Delight in a Digital Age

JAMA. 2004;292(20):2455-2456. doi:10.1001/jama.292.20.2455

Yearning for a longer tail, a donkey consults an eminent physician. “I’m sorry,” the physician says. “I know of no remedy for that problem.” He refers the donkey to a renowned medical center in Italy for a second opinion.

Although this tale of a tail may bring to mind a persistent topic of e-mail spam, it originated around 1180 CE. The physician in the story is Galen, an iconic figure nearly 8 centuries after his death. The donkey, Brunellus, proves an astute observer of foibles of students, monks, and others he encounters in his futile search for a cure. The author, Nigel Wireker, was himself a monk at Canterbury.

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