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June 5, 1991

Transformations in American Medicine From Benjamin Rush to William Osier

Author Affiliations

Northwestern University Medical School Chicago, Ill

Northwestern University Medical School Chicago, Ill

JAMA. 1991;265(21):2879. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460210125047

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This book is an excellent antidote for those who would graph the history of medicine as a continuously rising straight line of progress. One reads King's books to understand, not to take part in a chauvinistic cheering session or merely to amass names, dates, and facts.

What King shows in this work are the gradual, and by no means regular, transformations of medical thinking from those associated with the 18th century to those of the 19th century. He does this by examining the birth and growth of trends in conception and theory and refers to details of treatment only to use them as illustrations. King writes about the rhythm of change, not revolutions. Along the way he draws on the writings of the well known as well as the works of many individuals who will be either little known or unknown to the reader. His wide knowledge of the literature,