[Skip to Navigation]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
March 1965

Primum Non Nocere

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Neurology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and the Cincinnati General Hospital.

Arch Intern Med. 1965;115(3):345-350. doi:10.1001/archinte.1965.03860150089017

In this respect I shall ask you to be indulgent to a weakness of seniority by which it tends to overestimate the value of the elementary and the simple.

Wilfred Trotter

LATE IN his Presidency, Thomas Jefferson was taking a "lively interest" in his grandson's education. He wrote requesting the advice of an outstanding educator, Dr. Caspar Wistar, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania. The President was wondering if his grandson should repair to Philadelphia for training in the sciences; in botany, natural history, anatomy, and perhaps surgery, but not medicine. In his long letter he took the occasion to give an opinion of the then current state of practice in what he characterized as "the extent of my medical creed." It is to this passage of the letter that I want to draw attention.

Jefferson termed his views of medicine "unlearned." Unqualified perhaps, but surely not