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August 20, 1982

A Short History of Medicine

JAMA. 1982;248(7):879-880. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330070067040

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At present, medical history is undergoing a considerable rise in popularity, but for the most part this new edition of an old book will do little to advance that trend. The book is short—240 pages of actual text, including 23 large illustrations—and in that brief compass the author gives a jet-propelled survey that starts from paleopathology and primitive medicine, passes through Egypt, India, and China to Greece, and thence in a fairly direct line through Western medicine to the 20th century.

The text bristles with names. Indeed, the index contains no less than 777 proper names, many of them of secondary and tertiary importance, and most of them mentioned only once. For a few of the historical figures, offered in such profusion, the author is able to pack a fair amount of information into a few sentences, but this is exceptional. The amount of meaningful information conveyed about most of