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October 19, 1963

The Natural History of Quackery.

JAMA. 1963;186(3):276. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03710030116037

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A whole book devoted to quacks and quackery has a great opportunity to deal with social history, to furnish insight into contemporary cultures, to provide a background into which so-called quacks can fit—in other words, to make a genuine historical contribution. On the other hand, there is the much easier approach of recounting a few facts, pointing to absurdities, talking down in condescending fashion without presenting any real picture of the times or any sense of historical development.

Unfortunately, Eric Jameson chose the latter way. He has produced a book which in places will entertain, but whose raison d'être is not entirely clear. The author displays only a shallow knowledge of medicine as a discipline, and no sense of medicine as a developing science. Jumping back and forth in time, the book presents the stories of numerous individuals who could properly be called quacks, and remedies of clearly fraudulent nature.

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