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October 9, 1954

Cotton Mather: First Significant Figure in American Medicine

JAMA. 1954;156(6):663. doi:10.1001/jama.1954.02950060089034

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Cotton Mather, whom the author calls the first significant figure in American medicine, was first drawn to medicine, but because of his stammering he turned to theology. In the late 17th century, the two disciplines frequently went hand in hand, and the requirements for practitioners of either were not rigid. He got over his stammering and maintained a great interest in medicine throughout his life. He prescribed at times for friends and neighbors but never entered into medical practice as a major endeavor. Throughout his life he collected medical literature, which in those days was meager, and finally undertook to write a comprehensive book on medicine. It is note-worthy that his theological writings were interspersed with such phrases as "palsy of an unsteady mind," "cancer of envy," and "tympany of pride." The second half of this book is devoted to reprinting excerpts from his "The Angel of Bethesda," a curious

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