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June 1956

Benjamin Franklin—"The Rhinologist"

Author Affiliations

Professor of Clinical Microbiology, The Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Pennsylvania.

AMA Arch Otolaryngol. 1956;63(6):541-551. doi:10.1001/archotol.1956.03830120001001

This year, we commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, who had one of the broadest as well as one of the most creative minds of his time. The scientists of the 18th century, unable to experiment and too absorbed in logic, admired him for his practical and realistic talents. Among these were his medical theories, which received much recognition, particularly his theory on the origin of colds and their complications. No doubt his interest in colds was stimulated by the fact that in his early twenties he suffered on two occasions with pulmonary abscesses following the contraction of a cold. He observed that people seldom caught cold from exposure to air, or even dampness, stating that Indians and sailors who are continually wet never caught colds, nor is cold taken by swimming. Franklin thought that a cold was caused, in most cases, by impure air. He