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We are so accustomed to glorify the achievements of modern medical science that we sometimes seem to lose sight of the fact that great discoveries generally are the direct outcome of a gradual development which can be traced far back into the past. To many the discovery of antitoxins and the birth of the idea of a specific etiologic therapy of infectious and toxic diseases, so splendidly realized in the practical use of diphtheria antitoxin, probably appear to have little or no connection with the therapeutic conceptions and efforts of the past, whereas, in reality, in this particular instance, an objective point was reached toward which men had been striving with varying clearness of purpose for centuries and often, no doubt, in despair as to the desired outcome.
In the first place, it is of importance to note that the diseases now known to be infectious appear to have been
THE EVOLUTION OF SPECIFIC THERAPY.. JAMA. 1906;XLVI(26):2000–2001. doi:10.1001/jama.1906.02510530020005