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July 27, 1963

The Renaissance; six essays

JAMA. 1963;185(4):335. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03060040119052

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The physician who wants to know about his heritage will naturally turn to that steadily growing literature which is labeled "medical history." He may, however, quite properly raise the question, what are the limits of this subject matter? What may properly be included in the area of medical history?

The textbooks usually intertwine bare chronicles of major events with biographical and doctrinal data of the great physicians. Such books indicate the major medical figures and major medical doctrines, but the background information may be extraordinarily slight. The reader may be left rather frustrated, with a large number of facts but no adequate framework in which to place them, no adequate concepts with which to interpret and evaluate the medical information. But we also have that vague category which is often called "collateral reading"—the delight of college professors assigning term papers—which will furnish the background. While in a sense almost everything

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