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April 20, 1994

Thomas Hodgkin: Morbid Anatomist and Social Activist

Author Affiliations

Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Tex

JAMA. 1994;271(15):1211-1212. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510390083039

Outstanding minds are remembered with awe by posterity because of their inspiring creations. In contrast, an outstanding physician might go down in history with the ironic privilege of having his or her name given to a dreadful disease. That is the case with Thomas Hodgkin, the first person to describe the autopsy findings characteristic of one of the cruelest of illnesses.

In his time, and for many decades thereafter, the diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease was the equivalent of a death sentence. His paper "On Some Morbid Appearances of the Absorbent Glands and Spleen" was read in England (January 10 and 24, 1832) before the Medical and Chirurgical Society. He considered the peculiar enlargement of the lymph nodes and the spleen as a separate entity from cancer, tuberculosis, and other already recognizable conditions: a primary disease, not some secondary response to an obscure inflammatory process. Thus, a disease that is now

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