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April 3, 1972

The Road Not TakenTarrasch and Cajal

JAMA. 1972;220(1):108-111. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200010092017

In this poem (from Mountain Interval, Henry Holt & Co., 1916), Robert Frost is saying what anyone will say who believes in the validity of history: there are events in the lives of men that "make all the difference" and on occasion they influence not only individual lives but also our cultural future. A curious instance of this is the parallel but divergent course of two physicians. They were essentially contemporaries; each had exceptional mental ability; each was deeply involved in medicine and deeply involved in the game of chess. One of them won a Nobel prize in medical science, the other became not only a world chess master but the preeminent chess player of his day and a formulator of chess knowledge. Obviously I do not know precisely all the various elements that directed Ramon y Cajal away from chess toward the Nobel prize or those, in turn, which