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December 22, 1989

The Circuit Riders: Rockefeller Money and the Rise of Modern Science

JAMA. 1989;262(24):3482. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430240126048

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How does a historian reviewer react to the opening line of a volume written by a freelance journalist that reads, "History is never kind to historians" (p 13), and, following this wisdom, the informative tidbit on the next page, "The goal of competition is to outdo your competitors" (p 14)? I can only respond by saying that sometimes journalists are not kind to history.

This book, itself written with the support of "Rockefeller money," purports to tell the story of how the various Rockefeller foundations aided and were integral to the development of "modern science" at home and abroad. The author begins by noting: "With only a little fudging it can be asserted that modern philanthropy and the twentieth century began together. The key event was the creation of the large nonprofit foundation that treated its endowment as venture capital for the promotion of the common good" (p 13). What