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January 23, 1981

The Ingelfinger Rule

JAMA. 1981;245(4):375-376. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310290043023

At last spring's national clinical meetings, Jesse Roth, MD, president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, discussed a study he had carried out. Roth found that few society members were Nobel laureates, despite the fact that US scientists have monopolized Nobel prizes in medicine and physiology since World War II. That the society, supposedly the US scientist-internist's hall of fame, had shown such limited ability in recognizing scientific genius was most surprising. He concluded that the society ought to recruit more diverse persons for its membership if the organization wished truly to represent excellence in US medical science.

In my opinion, the most important conclusion from Roth's study is that it is difficult to know in advance which scientific work will have the greatest importance. If this premier group of US investigators has limited success in picking great scientists, one must conclude that editors of medical journals and their