To the Editor.—
Robert A. Kyle, MD, and Marc A. Shampo, PhD,1 published a note on William Pitcairn, English physician and botanist, with an illustration of a British Virgin Islands stamp showing Pitcairnia angustifolia. I would like to add that William Pitcairn is probably best known to doctors of medicine as one of the six prominent physicians who possessed the famous Gold-Headed Cane, a symbol of medical leadership, which was eventually bequeathed to the Royal College of Physicians in London. It was first carried by John Radcliffe (1652-1714),2 and its vicissitudes from 1689 to 1825 were described in the famous book by William Macmichael, MD,3 the initial edition appearing in 1827 and the seventh in 1953.The Gold-Headed Cane was, as mentioned, originally held by John Radcliffe. It was given to Richard Mead and then to Anthony Askew, William Pitcairn, David Pitcairn, and Matthew Baillie, successively. The
Schneck JM. William Pitcairn (1711-1791) and the Gold-Headed Cane. JAMA. 1984;251(15):1952. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340390016011
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