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April 1, 1968

The Unicorn: A Paradigm of Human Thought

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, St. Mary's Hospital, Long Beach, Calif.

JAMA. 1968;204(1):33-36. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140140035007

The unicorn was a fabulous beast who inhabited only the realm of mankind's imagination. But the student of human thinking will find it well worth his while to pursue such trails as the unicorn offers—not hoof marks in the forest, but black print on white or yellowed pages: the lair of this beast is in the library stacks, and not in the fields or on the wooded hills.

The origins of the unicorn story are found back in the beginnings of recorded history. The Talmud in three places refers to a great ox with one horn that was the leader of Adam's herd, which was Adam's first sacrifice to his God. It also reports that the unicorn was too large to take in the Ark, and thus was forced to swim along behind—but when fatigued, was allowed to briefly rest the tip of its horn on the stern. The only