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October 1965

Fair Flower of Harvard

Author Affiliations

Calgary Associate Clinic Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Arch Intern Med. 1965;116(4):611-615. doi:10.1001/archinte.1965.03870040125025

WILLIAM HEBERDEN, physician and scholar, whom Dr. Johnson called ultimus Romanorum, and whose life neatly spanned the 18th century, in his last years wrote these valedictory words in a letter:

I have entered my eighty-fifth year; and when I retired a few years ago from the practice of physic, I trust it was not a wish to be idle, which no man capable of being usefully employed has a right to be; but because I was willing to give over before my presence of thought, judgment and recollection was so impaired that I could not do justice to my patients. It is more desirable for a man to do this a little too soon, than a little too late; for the chief danger is on the side of not doing it soon enough.

Other medical elders have had different ideas. Here is one—a North American contemporary of Heberden's, Dr.