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August 4, 1956


Author Affiliations

New York

Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, State University of New York College of Medicine at New York City.

JAMA. 1956;161(14):1414-1415. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.62970140015021

When reading about Hermann Boerhaave I find almost invariably an inseparable description of his medical achievements and his attractive personality. Although enthusiasm about the former may be more subdued in certain references, acceptance of the latter seems never in dispute. This suggests to me that the personality of the man, as viewed by many, constitutes perhaps an integral part of the image of Boerhaave, the great physician. In fact, this image as it has come to us through the years may well have been perpetuated by personality attributes rather than by what we may consider, although perhaps artificially, his more impersonal medical accomplishments.

Accounts about Boerhaave and references to him recall for me a verbal portrait drawn by the famous Samuel Johnson. The portrait is so striking that I believe it deserves to be included in medicohistorical literature because it supplements and enlarges the total impression of this classic figure.