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JAMA Revisited
August 7, 2018

Discoveries and Discoverers

JAMA. 2018;320(5):512. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.12501

Originally Published August 10, 1918 | JAMA. 1918;71(6):465.

In spite of the wonderful achievements of modern science, it seems impossible to get the public to think in scientific terms. This is doubtless due to a fundamental weakness in our educational system. The tendency still is to think in terms of the eighteenth century rather than of the twentieth. Many times The Journal has been chided, even by its friends, for failing to take seriously preposterous claims made for alleged discoveries in medicine by well-meaning but self-deluded enthusiasts or by shrewd and conscienceless charlatans. Far too often the attitude is that any alleged discovery in medicine, no matter how bizarre or how humanly improbable, should be taken up in all seriousness and subjected to the tests of modern laboratory methods. It was only a few years ago that a quack of unsavory antecedents brought forth an alleged cure for consumption—a disease that for years has been the subject of study by the best brains in the world—and a medical college spent thousands of dollars “investigating” the “cure,” thereby giving it a standing that it would never have received otherwise and incidentally obtaining for the school an amount of publicity that may or may not have been desired. As The Journal said at the time, it would have been just as pertinent for a body of astronomers to determine by scientific methods whether or not the moon is really made of green cheese.

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