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October 18, 1985

Daniel Drake and the Crisis in American Medicine of the 19th Century

Author Affiliations

From the Department of History, University of Cincinnati.

JAMA. 1985;254(15):2113-2116. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360150089031

From the perspective of the 20th century, American medicine during all of Daniel Drake's lifetime was in a state of crisis.1 Despite its ancient and honorable past and the best efforts of generations of theoreticians and practitioners, medicine lacked both a body of theory that adequately explained health or illness and a set of procedures adequate for the treatment of illness or the maintenance of health. It was thus no "science," but it was also no "profession," for it lacked a set of commonly held assumptions concerning the proper practice of the craft and its proper role in society, and an agreement upon the knowledge that was necessary to practitioners and that thus might form the curriculum of medical education. This did not stop the physicians and surgeons of 150 or 200 years ago from practicing medicine, of course, or from writing systematic treatises on disease, its nature, its