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August 6, 1955


JAMA. 1955;158(14):1308. doi:10.1001/jama.1955.02960140070021

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To the Editor:—  I realize that The Journal staff is not responsible for the inaccuracy that appears on page 506 of the issue of June 11, 1955. A notice on that page refers to a new insigne to be worn by medical and dental officers of the Air Force. A serpent is not a caduceus. The caduceus (there is only one) is the winged staff of Mercury, who was the Greek patron god of speed, of messengers, of merchants, of thieves, and others. The snakes entwined about Mercury's staff are represented in the position of coitus, signifying cooperation and fertility. I have never known how the erroneous association of the caduceus with medicine arose, but it persists even now in many areas. As you well know, the American Medical Association long ago corrected this error and adopted as its emblem the staff of Aesculapius, the same as that on the

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