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October 10, 1914


JAMA. 1914;LXIII(15):1300-1301. doi:10.1001/jama.1914.02570150056018

We seldom realize the importance of a historical perspective in medicine and surgery. Many a discovery proclaimed as "new" proves, in the light of historical knowledge, to be nothing more than a statement of some previously announced discovery subsequently demonstrated to be of little or no service. Last year Karl Sudhoff1 of Leipsic, in his paper "On the Origin of Syphilis," besides relegating again into the background the recently revived idea of the American origin of syphilis, called particular attention to the treatment of syphilis by mercury which had developed before the discovery of America. He reminds us that several times in medical history arsenic has been recommended as a triumphant substitute for mercury. It has always, however, failed to justify the claims of its adherents; and experience with salvarsan has seemed to emphasize this tradition. Sudhoff confesses that he cannot settle the question of the absolute origin of syphilis,

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