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August 25, 1993

The Diary of William Harvey: The Imaginary Journal of the Physician Who Revolutionized Medicine

JAMA. 1993;270(8):1000. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510080106045

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By coincidence, I had just reread Marquerite Yourcenar's Memoires d'Hadrien (widely available in English as The Memoirs of Hadrian), when I began reading this book. The contrast between the two, which are examples of the same genre of what might be termed pseudomemoirs, is instructive. Yourcenar's work brings to life an age, and a complex, eminently human, but transcendently remarkable man.

The late Dr Hamburger's book, on the other hand, is anachronistic in its use of language and in the views it ascribes to its subject. Further, Harvey emerges from this book at best a pompous, repetitious, and ultimately boring man, who typifies little if anything of his own time, but rather is almost entirely of the 20th century. It is amazing that, in a book in which medicine plays a highly peripheral role, Yourcenar's Hadrian has much more profound comments on medicine than does Hamburger's Harvey.

In form, the