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December 18, 1987

The Development of American Physiology: Scientific Medicine in the Nineteenth Century

Author Affiliations

University of Chicago

University of Chicago

JAMA. 1987;258(23):3446-3447. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400230106046

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In presenting his story of American physiology, the author has chosen an unusual and effective approach. The core of the book consists of four biographical studies, each devoted to a different physiologist. They were all born within a quarter century (from 1825 [for the oldest] to 1848 [for the youngest]). John Dalton worked principally at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York; Henry P. Bowditch at Harvard; S. Weir Mitchell at the University of Pennsylvania; and H. Newell Martin at The Johns Hopkins University.

In the title of the book, the word "development" applies not to basic scientific concepts, ie, to physiology as a science, but instead to physiology as a profession. A more informative title would have been, "The Professionalism of Physiology in America."

During the earlier part of the century that subject had been taught by practicing physicians who had little or no special expertise. Instruction