October 19, 1994

From Humors to Medical Science: A History of American Medicine

Author Affiliations

Toledo, Ohio


by John Duffy, 2nd ed, 418 pp, no illus $42.50, ISBN 0-252-01736-6, paper $14.95, ISBN 0-252-06300-7, Champaign, University of Illinois Press, 1993.

JAMA. 1994;272(15):1219-1220. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520150093045

Previously published in 1979 as The Healers, this updated history of American medicine should be required reading from cover to cover for every physician and medical student. Why? Because we can extract many lessons from our medical heritage, gain insight into our behavior as physicians, and perhaps gain some guidance for building our future.

In colonial America, medicine was not a profession but a trade practiced by surgeons who worked with their hands after being trained under an apprentice system. Duffy notes, "Until the mid-eighteenth century they had little professional consciousness and held only a limited concept of professional ethics or responsibilities." And until the present century physicians were so poorly paid that they often were farmers or merchants on the side.

This book will help you to understand the evolution of medical practice in the United States "from an impoverished and barely respectable group... into preeminence among the professions

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