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June 19, 1987

Fleeting Wisdom

Author Affiliations

Pomona, Calif

Pomona, Calif

JAMA. 1987;257(23):3202. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390230038010

In September 1880, a male infant was born who would enter a hospital more than 106 years later to undergo an elective surgical procedure, his first. Two weeks before he came into our hospital, a small biopsy of a basal cell carcinoma was taken from his face. A century in the sun of southern California had sculpted magnificent lines on his face, great furrows, lines from time spent smiling longer than most of us will live, lines that formed a tapestry evocative of wisdom. A nurse on his floor thought of them as rings of a tree, a new one added each year. The floor was buzzing about this patient, this curiosity. Never had such an old person graced its halls with his singular countenance. At almost any time of day, one could see orderlies, physicians, and others poking their heads into his room trying to catch a glimpse of