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February 1992

The Decline of the History of Surgery

Author Affiliations

Norristown, Pa

Arch Surg. 1992;127(2):239. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1992.01420020133020

To the Editor.—In his article1 in the August 1991 issue of the Archives, Rutkow bemoans the diminished role of the historical process in the education of modern surgeons. While great value may be derived from the study of the history of medicine and surgery, Rutkow failed to explore the intellectual causes and consequences of the clinician's lack of interest in the history of the field.

The antiliterary trend gripping America has been many decades in gestation; that it now threatens medicine does not surprise. Specialization and reductionism, necessary adjuncts of the scientific method, are centrifugal as well as centripetal forces. Compare the secondary, collegiate, and graduate curricula of today with those of a half century ago. While the explosion of knowledge has led to division, specialization and compartmentalization have compounded the trend. The competing aims of many branches of knowledge have led to an educational smorgasbord. Breadth rather

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