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December 1957

Rudolph Virchow and Scientific Medicine

Author Affiliations

San Francisco

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1957;100(6):1007-1014. doi:10.1001/archinte.1957.00260120151019

It is no longer necessary today to write that scientific medicine is also the best foundation for medical practice. It is sufficient to point out how completely even the external character of medical practice has changed in the last thirty years. Scientific methods have been everywhere introduced into practice. The diagnosis and prognosis of the physician are based on the experience of the pathological anatomist and the physiologist. Therapeutic doctrine has become biological and thereby experimental science.

—Rudolph Virchow, 1877

In the arresting image which closes his great book, Marcel Proust envisions the aged Duc de Guermantes as a being perched on ceaselessly growing living stilts, a giant plunged in the years and epochs of the past. So must Virchow have appeared to his friends and associates at the beginning of the 20th century, two years before his death. As early as 1847 he had founded the Archiv für pathologische

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