JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
The faculty of being able to use the right and left hands interchangeably
has long been considered desirable in surgeons, and by some has been urged
as a desideratum for all engaged in work requiring manual dexterity. In England
the matter has been carried so far that an “Ambidextral Culture Society”
has been formed, which distributes considerable literature on the subject.
At first sight such a faculty seems eminently desirable, and undoubtedly is
so in a limited number of callings. In any attempt to supersede a natural
and instinctive manner of doing things it is well to dispassionately review
the why and wherefore of the process before suggesting sweeping changes, and
it is doubtful whether the Ambidextral Culture Society has done this. Harman1 has recently sought to explain why we are naturally righthanded, and
to show that our apparent righthandedness is in reality a form of ambidexterity.
He suggests that our righthandedness comes down to us from the period when
human ascendancy was dependent on physical prowess, and depends on the knowledge
of the vulnerable heart region. Under such circumstances, he suggests, man
learned to use his right arm as a fighting arm and his left arm as a shield
arm. This tendency has been inherited, and is seen to-day in the use of the
right hand as the active agency, while the left is used as a supplementary
assistant. Harman’s argument is that the supplementary work performed
by the left hand is, in its way, just as important as the active work performed
by the right. In other words, while we are not ambidextrous in the strict
sense of the word, we are eminently gifted with co-ordination of bimanual
action. This being the case, it would seem undesirable to advocate any widespread
training such as the Ambidextral Culture Society suggests.
AMBIDEXTERITY.. JAMA. 2005;293(8):926. doi:10.1001/jama.293.8.926-d