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February 1995

Medical Journals and Medical Knowledge: Historical Essays

Author Affiliations

Madison, Wis

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(2):147. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100020025022

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Until recently, few historians paid close attention to the ways in which medical journals helped to shape modern medicine. Instead, it was generally assumed that the journals simply reflected the medicine of their time and place. Almost 30 years ago, however, Marshall McLuhan became famous for the phrase "the medium is the message," and ever since then, the relationships between content and form have drawn considerable interest. Most recently, what is generally termed the "social construction of knowledge" has caused vociferous debate across the humanities and social sciences. This viewpoint breaks down the usual division between mental and social or material events by arguing that even facts are accepted as true because of social consensus rather than because nature happens to be a certain way. Whatever the merits of this controversial outlook, it has increasingly focused the attention of historians on the ways in which knowledge and values are produced

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