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April 18, 1977

Two Centuries of American Medicine 1776-1976

JAMA. 1977;237(16):1731. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270430073033

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This mammoth book is divided into three parts ("The First Century: 1776-1876," "Period of Scientific Advance: 1876-1946," and "Period of Explosive Growth: 1946-1976"). It is written for the "interested layman, as well as the physician," and the authors make it clear that their story is one of a straight path of progress. No space is devoted to people and events that are not obviously part of that straight line. Nor is there any consideration of the cut and thrust, serendipity and luck, that are so often associated with medical and scientific developments. The authors indicate that these omissions are a limitation of their work; historians may well say a severe limitation.

On the other hand, by often reminding the reader of relevant background information, such as social conditions and mechanisms of funding research (and the important effect this has had on American medical education), the authors make clearto the alert