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Books, Journals, New Media
October 15, 2003

Norman BethuneNorman Bethune

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(15):2066. doi:10.1001/jama.290.15.2066-a

This is an unusual biography of an unusual and enigmatic physician, drawn mainly from his letters, speeches, radio broadcasts, medical and political articles, poetry, drawings, paintings, and photographs. The extracts from Bethune's own materials are linked by concise but informative biographical notes by the author. Both write in a fluent readable style.

Norman Bethune's family background is one of many and varied interests, activities, and achievements. His father was an "adventurer," converted to an acerbic Presbyterianism by his evangelical wife, and an outspoken man of high principle. Bethune's paternal grandfather was a mid-Victorian academic surgeon, practicing in Toronto, Ontario, and Edinburgh, Scotland, and also an accomplished amateur artist and poet. Earlier ancestors included a fur trader and partner in the Hudson Bay Company, and a minister of religion who moved to Canada after being a prisoner-of-war in the war of American independence. Other relatives occupied major academic and religious positions.