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June 12, 1915


JAMA. 1915;LXIV(24):1993-1994. doi:10.1001/jama.1915.02570500041021

In a recent appreciation of the work of William Withering, Cushny1 describes the way in which Withering introduced the scientific use of digitalis to the medical profession. In 1741, Withering was born in Shropshire, England; in 1762 he entered the University of Edinburgh, and graduated in 1766. He began practice at once in Stafford, became attracted to botany, and in 1776 published a "British Botany." In 1778 he published an article on scarlatina anginosa, and in 1785 a book which Cushny believes entitles Withering to lasting fame. The book is entitled "An Account of the Fox Glove and Some of Its Medical Uses; with Practical Remarks on Dropsy and Other Diseases." Previous to this period, digitalis is occasionally mentioned in medical literature, for example, as an external application in scrofula, and internally in phthisis. Since the time of publication of Withering's book, its action in dropsy and on the