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Books, Journals, New Media
September 8, 2004


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. 2004;292(10):1238-1239. doi:10.1001/jama.292.10.1238-b

There are many ways to address the daunting task of reviewing the 22nd edition of Cecil Textbook of Medicine, particularly as it includes the traditional two-volume hardbound copy and a CD-ROM for expanded online access. The task triggered a historian's curiosity about insights one might glean about medicine and society by looking at textbooks of medicine from their earliest days.

Laudatory histories of the "great men" of medicine and literary and Hollywood treatment of physicians have perpetuated the myth of the fiercely independent physician struggling against disease, antiquated colleagues or belief systems, or impersonal institutions. In truth, medicine has long been a team endeavor, as have its modern textbooks. Even Sir William Osler, whose reputation as physician-extraordinaire was cemented by the 1893 Principles and Practice of Medicine—the first modern textbook of medicine and the basis of generations of internal medicine texts—acknowledged the critical assistance provided to him by a small cadre of dedicated assistants who "took the ward work off my hands," conducted library searches, and checked facts.