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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 24/31, 2000


Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 2000;283(20):2634. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2634-JJY00014-2-1

An English medical statistician, in reporting on the mortality of his district, for 1899, took the occasion to suggest that the predominance of male births was influenced by the patriotic enthusiasm aroused by the present war. This was apparently offered as a facetious comment and it was accepted as such by the council receiving the report. Our British contemporary1 that gives us the item does not appear to take it kindly as such. It not only ironically congratulates the council on its sense of humor, but gravely proceeds to remark that the figures are too small to afford any sound conclusions, and that a still greater fallacy is involved since it is impossible to suppose that maternal patriotic zeal could have affected the sex of unborn children in the last two or three months of pregnancy. Hence it says: "absurdities of this kind will do nothing to advance the position of the medical officer of health as an instructor of the community." The humor of the suggestion appears to have been comparatively innocent; at the worst it is only a matter of taste, but the serious consideration it has received has a still funnier side.