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Disease Quotes (257 quotes)
Diseased Quotes


... semantics ... is a sober and modest discipline which has no pretensions of being a universal patent-medicine for all the ills and diseases of mankind, whether imaginary or real. You will not find in semantics any remedy for decayed teeth or illusions of grandeur or class conflict. Nor is semantics a device for establishing that everyone except the speaker and his friends is speaking nonsense
In 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics', collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 17.
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... [I]nfectious disease is merely a disagreeable instance of a widely prevalent tendency of all living creatures to save themselves the bother of building, by their own efforts, the things they require. Whenever they find it possible to take advantage of the constructive labors of others, this is the path of least resistance. The plant does the work with its roots and its green leaves. The cow eats the plant. Man eats both of them; and bacteria (or investment bankers) eat the man. ...
Rats, Lice and History (1935).
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...those who sit at their work and are therefore called 'chair workers,' such as cobblers and tailors, suffer from their own particular diseases ... [T]hese workers ... suffer from general ill-health and an excessive accumulation of unwholesome humors caused by their sedentary life ... so to some extent counteract the harm done by many days of sedentary life.
On the association between chronic inactivity and poor health. Ramazzini urged that workers should at least exercise on holidays
'Sedentary Workers and Their Diseases', Diseases of Workers (1713) Translated by WC Wright (1964),281-285). Quoted in Physical Activity and Health: a Report of the Surgeon General (1996).
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Strictly Germ-proof

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;—
It wasn't Disinfected and it wasn't Sterilized.

They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.

In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band.

There's not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.
Printed in various magazines and medical journals, for example, The Christian Register (11 Oct 1906), 1148, citing Women's Home Companion. (Making fun of the contemporary national passion for sanitation.)
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Atten. Pray of what disease did Mr. Badman die, for now I perceive we are come up to his death? Wise. I cannot so properly say that he died of one disease, for there were many that had consented, and laid their heads together to bring him to his end. He was dropsical, he was consumptive, he was surfeited, was gouty, and, as some say, he had a tang of the pox in his bowels. Yet the captain of all these men of death that came against him to take him away, was the consumption, for it was that that brought him down to the grave.
The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1680). In Grace Abounding & The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1928), 282.
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He who doth with the greatest exactness imaginable, weigh every individual thing that shall or hath hapned to his Patient, and may be known from the Observations of his own, or of others, and who afterwards compareth all these with one another, and puts them in an opposite view to such Things as happen in a healthy State; and lastly, from all this with the nicest and severest bridle upon his reasoning faculty riseth to the knowledge of the very first Cause of the Disease, and of the Remedies fit to remove them; He, and only He deserveth the Name of a true Physician.
Aphorism No. 13 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 3.
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La Chimie n’est pas une science primitive, comme la géométrie ou l’astronomie; elle s’est constituée sur les débris d’une formation scientifique antérieure; formation demi-chimérique et demi-positive, fondée elle-même sur le trésor lentement amassé des découvertes pratiques de la métallurgie, de la médecine, de l’industrie et de l’économie domestique. Il s’agit de l’alchimie, qui prétendait à la fois enrichir ses adeptes en leur apprenant à fabriquer l’or et l’argent, les mettre à l’abri des maladies par la préparation de la panacée, enfin leur procurer le bonheur parfait en les identifiant avec l’âme du monde et l’esprit universel.
Chemistry is not a primitive science like geometry and astronomy; it is constructed from the debris of a previous scientific formation; a formation half chimerical and half positive, itself found on the treasure slowly amassed by the practical discoveries of metallurgy, medicine, industry and domestic economy. It has to do with alchemy, which pretended to enrich its adepts by teaching them to manufacture gold and silver, to shield them from diseases by the preparation of the panacea, and, finally, to obtain for them perfect felicity by identifying them with the soul of the world and the universal spirit.
From Les Origines de l’Alchemie (1885), 1-2. As quoted by Harry Shipley Fry in 'An Outline of the History of Chemistry Symbolically Represented in a Rookwood Fountain', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (1 Sep 1922), 14, No. 9, 868.
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Syphilis sive morbus Gallicus
Syphilis or the French disease.
Title of a poem recounting the story of a shepherd, Syphilis, the first sufferer of the disease henceforth known by that name. Etymology given in Oxford English Dictionary.
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Tardiora sunt remedia quam mala.
Remedies are slower in their operation than diseases.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign (1893), 410.
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The Devil: Reformers … will thrust you first into religion, where you will sprinkle water on babies to save their souls from me ; then it will drive you from religion into science, where you will snatch the babies from the water sprinkling and inoculate them with disease to save them from catching it accidentally.
In Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (1903), 135.
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Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?
Doctor: Not so sick, my lord,
As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies,
That keep her from her rest.
Macbeth: Cure her of that.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
Doctor: Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.
Macbeth: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
Macbeth (1606), V, iii.
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A disease which new and obscure to you, Doctor, will be known only after death; and even then not without an autopsy will you examine it with exacting pains. But rare are those among the extremely busy clinicians who are willing or capable of doing this correctly.
In Atrocis, nee Descipti Prius, Morbi Historia as translated in Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (1944), 43, 217.
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A hot topic of late, expressed most notably in Bernie Siegel’s best-selling books, has emphasized the role of positive attitude in combating such serious diseases as cancer. From the depths of my skeptical and rationalist soul, I ask the Lord to protect me from California touchie-feeliedom.
…...
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A knowledge of the specific element in disease is the key to medicine.
In Armand Trousseau, as translated by P. Victor and John Rose Cormack, Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1873), Vol. 1, 452.
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A magician of old waved a wand that he might banish disease, a physician to-day peers through a microscope to detect the bacillus of that disease and plan its defeat. The belief in miracles was premature, that is all; it was based on dreams now coming true.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 176.
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A man is a poor physician who has not two or three remedies ready for use in every case of illness.
Attributed.
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A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more than even the whole man—he must view the man in his world.
Attributed by Rene Dubos, Man Adapting (1965, 1980), Chap. 12, 342. Dubos introduces the quote with “is reported to have taught” and no other citation.
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A physician’s subject of study is necessarily the patient, and his first field for observation is the hospital. But if clinical observation teaches him to know the form and course of diseases, it cannot suffice to make him understand their nature; to this end he must penetrate into the body to find which of the internal parts are injured in their functions. That is why dissection of cadavers and microscopic study of diseases were soon added to clinical observation. But to-day these various methods no longer suffice; we must push investigation further and, in analyzing the elementary phenomena of organic bodies, must compare normal with abnormal states. We showed elsewhere how incapable is anatomy alone to take account of vital phenenoma, and we saw that we must add study of all physico-chemical conditions which contribute necessary elements to normal or pathological manifestations of life. This simple suggestion already makes us feel that the laboratory of a physiologist-physician must be the most complicated of all laboratories, because he has to experiment with phenomena of life which are the most complex of all natural phenomena.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 140-141.
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A study of Disease—of Pestilences methodically prepared and deliberately launched upon man and beast—is certainly being pursue in the laboratories of more than one great country. Blight to destroy crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle, Plague to poison not armies but whole districts—such are the lines along which military science is remorselessly advancing.
'Shall We All Commit Suicide?'. Pall Mall (Sep 1924). Reprinted in Thoughts and Adventures (1932), 250.
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A substance that makes you ill if you don't eat it.
[His definition of a vitamin.]
Attributed.
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A very interesting set of compounds that were waiting for the right disease.
[Commenting on AZT and similar drugs he had synthesized.]
Quoted in 'Jerome Horwitz, AZT Creator, Dies at 93', New York Times (21 Sep 2012).
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Acute [diseases] meaning those of which God is the author, chronic meaning those that originate in ourselves.
'Epistolary Dissertation to Dr. Cole', in The Works of Thomas Sydenham, M.D. (1850), trans. by R. G. Latham, Vol. 2, 68.
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Against Diseases here, the strongest Fence,
Is the defensive Virtue, Abstinence.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1742).
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All disease, at some period or other of its course, is more or less a reparative process, not necessarily accompanied with suffering: an effort of nature to remedy a process of poisoning or of decay, which has taken place weeks, months, sometimes years beforehand, unnoticed.
In Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1859), 5.
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All sedentary workers ... suffer from the itch, are a bad colour, and in poor condition ... for when the body is not kept moving the blood becomes tainted, its waste matter lodges in the skin, and the condition of the whole body deteriorates. (1700)
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All that Anatomie can doe is only to shew us the gross and sensible parts of the body, or the vapid and dead juices all which, after the most diligent search, will be noe more able to direct a physician how to cure a disease than how to make a man; for to remedy the defects of a part whose organicall constitution and that texture whereby it operates, he cannot possibly know, is alike hard, as to make a part which he knows not how is made. Now it is certaine and beyond controversy that nature performs all her operations on the body by parts so minute and insensible that I thinke noe body will ever hope or pretend, even by the assistance of glasses or any other intervention, to come to a sight of them, and to tell us what organicall texture or what kinde offerment (for whether it be done by one or both of these ways is yet a question and like to be soe always notwithstanding all the endeavours of the most accurate dissections) separate any part of the juices in any of the viscera, or tell us of what liquors the particles of these juices are, or if this could be donne (which it is never like to be) would it at all contribute to the cure of the diseases of those very parts which we so perfectly knew.
'Anatomie' (1668). Quoted in Kenneth Dewhurst (ed.), Dr. Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689): His Life and Original Writings (1966), 85-6.
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And let me adde, that he that throughly understands the nature of Ferments and Fermentations, shall probably be much better able than he that Ignores them, to give a fair account of divers Phænomena of severall diseases (as well Feavers and others) which will perhaps be never throughly understood, without an insight into the doctrine of Fermentation.
Essay 2, 'Offering some Particulars relating to the Pathologicall Part of Physick', in the Second Part of Some Considerations Touching The Usefulnesse of Naturall Philosophy (1663, 1664), 43.
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Any man who is intelligent must, on considering that health is of the utmost value to human beings, have the personal understanding necessary to help himself in diseases, and be able to understand and to judge what physicians say and what they administer to his body, being versed in each of these matters to a degree reasonable for a layman.
Affections, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1988), Vol. 5, 7.
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As agonizing a disease as cancer is, I do not think it can be said that our civilization is threatened by it. … But a very plausible case can be made that our civilization is fundamentally threatened by the lack of adequate fertility control. Exponential increases of population will dominate any arithmetic increases, even those brought about by heroic technological initiatives, in the availability of food and resources, as Malthus long ago realized.
From 'In Praise of Science and Technology', in Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1975, 2011), 43.
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As soon as he ceased to be mad he became merely stupid. There are maladies we must not seek to cure because they alone protect us from others that are more serious.
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least to do no harm.
Epidemics, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. I, 165.
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Ask a follower of Bacon what [science] the new philosophy, as it was called in the time of Charles the Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready; “It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, to cross the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first-fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be its starting-point to-morrow.”
From essay (Jul 1837) on 'Francis Bacon' in Edinburgh Review. In Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay and Lady Trevelyan (ed.) The Works of Lord Macaulay Complete (1871), Vol. 6, 222.
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Asthma is a disease that has practically the same symptoms as passion except that with asthma it lasts longer.
Anonymous
Journal of the American Medical Association (1964), 190, 392.
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Astrology is a disease, not a science... It is a tree under the shadow of which all sorts of superstitions thrive. ... Only fools and charlatans lend value to it.
Letter to Marseilles, 1195. Responsa, ii. 25b. In ‎Philip Birnbaum (ed.), Mishneh Torah: Maimonides' Code of Law and Ethics (1974), 35.
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Before thirty, men seek disease; after thirty, diseases seek men.
Chinese proverb.
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But nothing is more estimable than a physician who, having studied nature from his youth, knows the properties of the human body, the diseases which assail it, the remedies which will benefit it, exercises his art with caution, and pays equal attention to the rich and the poor.
A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French? (2nd Ed.,1824), Vol. 5, 239-240.
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By teaching us how to cultivate each ferment in its purity—in other words, by teaching us how to rear the individual organism apart from all others,—Pasteur has enabled us to avoid all these errors. And where this isolation of a particular organism has been duly effected it grows and multiplies indefinitely, but no change of it into another organism is ever observed. In Pasteur’s researches the Bacterium remained a Bacterium, the Vibrio a Vibrio, the Penicillium a Penicillium, and the Torula a Torula. Sow any of these in a state of purity in an appropriate liquid; you get it, and it alone, in the subsequent crop. In like manner, sow smallpox in the human body, your crop is smallpox. Sow there scarlatina, and your crop is scarlatina. Sow typhoid virus, your crop is typhoid—cholera, your crop is cholera. The disease bears as constant a relation to its contagium as the microscopic organisms just enumerated do to their germs, or indeed as a thistle does to its seed.
In 'Fermentation, and its Bearings on Surgery and Medicine', Essays on the Floating­Matter of the Air in Relation to Putrefaction and Infection (1881), 264.
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By the year 2000 the commonest killers such as coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory, diseases and many cancers will be wiped out.
Anonymous
Irish Times (24 Apr 1987).
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Certainly it is by their signs and symptoms, that internal diseases are revealed to the physician.
Philosophy of Medical Science, Pt II, Ch. 10.
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Choose your specialist and you choose your disease.
Anonymous
The Westminster Review (18 May 1908)
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Civilisation is a disease which is almost invariably fatal.
Dean Inge
From Romanes Lecture (27 May 1920), 'The Idea of Progress', collected in Outspoken Essays: Second Series (1922), 166.
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Conscientious and careful physicians allocate causes of disease to natural laws, while the ablest scientists go back to medicine for their first principles.
Aristotle
Attributed.
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Coughs and sneezes spread diseases.
Anonymous
British wartime slogan (1942)
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Cure the disease and kill the patient.
‘Of Friendship’, Essays.
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Disease is an abnormal state of the body which primarily and independently produces a disturbance in the normal functions of the body. It may be an abnormality of temperament or form (structure). Symptom is a manifestation of some abnormal state in the body. It may be harmful as a colic pain or harmless as the flushing of cheeks in peripneumonia.
Avicenna
'A Discussion of the Cause of Disease and Symptoms', in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 171.
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Disease is largely a removable evil. It continues to afflict humanity, not only because of incomplete knowledge of its causes and lack of individual and public hygiene, but also because it is extensively fostered by harsh economic and industrial conditions and by wretched housing in congested communities. ... The reduction of the death rate is the principal statistical expression and index of human social progress. It means the saving and lengthening of lives of thousands of citizens, the extension of the vigorous working period well into old age, and the prevention of inefficiency, misery, and suffering. These advances can be made by organized social effort. Public health is purchasable. (1911)
Quoted in Evelynn Maxine Hammonds, Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930(1999), 221.
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Disease is not something personal and special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws as apply to the living body at all times, from the first moment until death.
In Ian F. McNeely, Medicine on a Grand Scale: Rudolf Virchow, Liberalism, and the Public Health (2002), 26.
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Disease is somatic; the suffering from it, psychic.
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Disease makes men more physical, it leaves them nothing but body.
The Magic Mountain (1924, 1965), 178.
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Disease may be defined as “A change produced in living things in consequence of which they are no longer in harmony with their environment.”
In Disease and its Causes (1913), 9.
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Disease may … be thought of as the negation of the normal.
In Disease and its Causes (1913), 10.
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Diseases can rarely be eliminated through early diagnosis or good treatment, but prevention can eliminate disease.
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Dissections daily convince us of our ignorance of disease, and cause us to blush at our prescriptions. What mischief have we done under the belief of false facts and false theories! We have assisted in multiplying diseases; we have done more; we have increased their mortality. ... I am pursuing Truth, and am indifferent whither I am led, if she is my only leader.
From a public lecture by Rush. Quoted by Isaac Jennings, in Medical Reform; a Treatise on Man's Physical Being and Disorders (1847), 33.
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Doctor Johnson said, that in sickness there were three things that were material; the physician, the disease, and the patient: and if any two of these joined, then they get the victory; for, Ne Hercules quidem contra duos [Not even Hercules himself is a match for two]. If the physician and the patient join, then down goes the disease; for then the patient recovers: if the physician and the disease join, that is a strong disease; and the physician mistaking the cure, then down goes the patient: if the patient and the disease join, then down goes the physician; for he is discredited.
In 'A Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), No. 147, 308. The doctor is identified Ben Johnson by Forbes Winslow in his notes appended to Physic and Physicians (1842). Notes section, 39. Perhaps he means poet and playwright of stage comedy, Ben Jonson (1572-1637), also referred to in the book as “Benjamin Johnson” and once as “Dr. Johnson.” Note that Francis Bacon (1561-1626) died well before the life of writer Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
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Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing. (1760)
In Robert Allan Weinberg, The Biology of Cancer (2006), 726. (Note: Webmaster has not yet found this quote, in this wording, in a major quotation reference book. If you know a primary print source, or correction, please contact Webmaster.)
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Early diagnosis of disease is the business of the general public even more than of the medical profession.
In 'The Time Factor in Medicine', Possible Worlds (1945), 104.
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EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  84.
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Eradication of microbial disease is a will-o’-the-wisp; pursuing it leads into a morass of hazy biological concepts and half truths.
Man Adapting (1965), 381.
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Ever so often in the history of human endeavour, there comes a breakthrough that takes humankind across a frontier into a new era. ... today's announcement is such a breakthrough, a breakthrough that opens the way for massive advancement in the treatment of cancer and hereditary diseases. And that is only the beginning.
From White House Announcement of the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project, broadcast on the day of the publication of the first draft of the human genome. Quoted in transcript on the National Archives, Clinton White House web site, 'Text of Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project' (26 Jun 2000).
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Every disease is a physician.
…...
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Experience, the only logic sure to convince a diseased imagination and restore it to rugged health.
Written in 1892. In The American Claimant (1896), 203. In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 48.
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Financial ruin from medical bills is almost exclusively an American disease.
…...
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For behavior, men learn it, as they take diseases, one of another.
As quoted in 'Solitude and Society', The Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1857), Vol. 1, 228.
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For some years I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money if not my life.
Opening line his first letter (13 May 1900) to Octave Chanute. In Marvin W. McFarland (ed.) The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright: 1899-1905 (1953), Vol. 1, 13.
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For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present—namely, the diseases and wounds—go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance,—the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils—that is, privations of the good which we call health—are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.
In Marcus Dods (ed.), J.F. Shaw (trans.), The Enchiridion of Augustine, Chap. 9, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo: A new translation (1873), Vol. 9, 181-182.
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FORTRAN —’the infantile disorder’—, by now nearly 20 years old, is hopelessly inadequate for whatever computer application you have in mind today: it is now too clumsy, too risky, and too expensive to use. PL/I —’the fatal disease’— belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration. The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence. APL is a mistake, carried through to perfection. It is the language of the future for the programming techniques of the past: it creates a new generation of coding bums.
…...
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From my numerous observations, I conclude that these tubercle bacilli occur in all tuberculous disorders, and that they are distinguishable from all other microorganisms.
'The Etiology of Tuberculosis' (1882), Essays of Robert Koch (1987), trans. K. Codell Carter, 87.
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Gluttony is the source of all our infirmities, and the fountain of all our diseases. As a lamp is choked by a superabundance of oil, a fire extinguished by excess of fuel, so is the natural health of the body destroyed by intemperate diet.
In Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 110.
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Half of the secret of resistance to disease is cleanliness; the other half is dirtiness.
Anonymous
Saying.
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He that knows the secrets of nature with Albertus Magnus, or the motions of the heavens with Galileo, or the cosmography of the moon with Hevelius, or the body of man with Galen, or the nature of diseases with Hippocrates, or the harmonies in melody with Orpheus, or of poesy with Homer, or of grammar with Lilly, or of whatever else with the greatest artist; he is nothing if he knows them merely for talk or idle speculation, or transient and external use. But he that knows them for value, and knows them his own, shall profit infinitely.
In Bertram Doben (ed.), Centuries of Meditations (1908), The Third Century, No. 41, 189-190.
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He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest, but he who prevents it is the safest physician.
In Practical Spelling: A Text Book For Use in Commercial Schools (1902), 34.
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Herrmann Pidoux and Armand Trousseau stated 'Disease exists within us, because of us, and through us', Pasteur did not entirely disagree, 'This is true for certain diseases', he wrote cautiously, only to add immediately: 'I do not think that it is true for all of them'.
Pasteur Vallery-Radot (ed.), Oeuvres de Pasteur (1922-1939), Vol. 6, 167. Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 261.
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How is it, one fine morning, Duchenne discovered a disease which probably existed in the time of Hippocrates.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 15.
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How many famous men be there in this our age, which make scruple to condemne these old witches, thinking it to bee nothing but a melancholike humour which corrupteth thei imagination, and filleth them with all these vaines toyes. I will not cast my selfe any further into the depth of this question, the matter craveth a man of more leisure.
Describing melancholy as the innocent affliction of those regarded as witches instead of Satanic influence, while distancing himself from the controversy.
Discours de la conservation de la veue; des maladies mélancholiques, des catarrhes, et de la vieillese (1594). In Richard Surphlet (trans.) A Discourse of the Preservation of the Sight: of Melancholike Diseases; of Rheumes, and of Old Age (1599), 98-9. Quoted in Michael Heyd, Be sober and Reasonable (), 58.
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Hypochondria is the only disease I haven't got.
Anonymous
Graffito seen in New York (1978). In (2005), 24
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Hypochondriacs squander large sums of time in search of nostrums by which they vainly hope they may get more time to squander.
The Village Comedy Vol. 2. In Peter McDonald, Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 27. Quoted without attribution in Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon: Many Things in Few Words (1866), 191. Attributed in Encarta to Peter Ouspensky, Russian philosopher (1878-1947), who was born after the publication by Colton.
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I am about to discuss the disease called “sacred”. It is not, in my opinion, any more divine or more sacred that other diseases, but has a natural cause, and its supposed divine origin is due to men's inexperience, and to their wonder at its peculiar character.
From 'The Sacred Disease', in Hippocrates, trans. W.H.S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 139.
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I am sorry the infernal Divinities, who visit mankind with diseases, and are therefore at perpetual war with Doctors, should have prevented my seeing all you great Men at Soho to-day-Lord! what inventions, what wit, what rhetoric, metaphysical, mechanical and pyrotecnical, will be on the wing, bandy'd like a shuttlecock from one to another of your troop of philosophers! while poor I, I by myself I, imprizon'd in a post chaise, am joggled, and jostled, and bump'd, and bruised along the King's high road, to make war upon a pox or a fever!
Letter to Matthew Boulton, 5 April 1778. Quoted in Desmond King-Hele (ed.), The Letters of Erasmus Darwin (1981), 84.

I believe that, as men occupied with the study and treatment of disease, we cannot have too strong a conviction that the problems presented to us are physical problems, which perhaps we may never solve, but still admitting of solution only in one way, namely, by regarding them as part of an unbroken series, running up from the lowest elementary conditions of matter to the highest composition of organic structure.
From Address (7 Aug 1868), the Hunterian Oration, 'Clinical Observation in Relation to medicine in Modern Times' delivered to a meeting of the British Medical Association, Oxford. Collected in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), 4.
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I boast nothing, but plainely say, we all labour against our owne cure, for death is the cure of all diseases.
Religio Medici (1642), Part I, Section 9. In L. C. Martin (ed.), Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Other Works (1964), 68.

I confess that Magic teacheth many superfluous things, and curious prodigies for ostentation; leave them as empty things, yet be not ignorant of their causes. But those things which are for the profit of men—for the turning away of evil events, for the destroying of sorceries, for the curing of diseases, for the exterminating of phantasms, for the preserving of life, honor, or fortune—may be done without offense to God or injury to religion, because they are, as profitable, so necessary.
In De Occulta Philosophia (1533), Vol. 1. Translation by J.F. (1651) reprinted as The Philosophy of Natural Magic (1913), 28.
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I don’t like rats but there’s not much else I don’t like. The problem with rats is they have no fear of human beings, they’re loaded with foul diseases, they would run the place given half the chance…
Interview by Simon Gage in 'David Attenborough: I’m not an animal lover', Metro (29 Jan 2013, London).
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I here present the reader with a new sign which I have discovered for detecting diseases of the chest. This consists in percussion of the human thorax, whereby, according to the character of the particular sounds then elicited, an opinion is formed of the internal state of that cavity.
New Invention by Means of Percussing the Human Thorax for Detecting Signs of Obscure Disease of the Interior of the Chest, Inventum novum ex percussione (31 Dec 1761).
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I much condole with you on your late loss... pains and diseases of the mind are only cured by Forgetfulness;-—Reason but skins the wound, which is perpetually liable to fester again.
Letter to Richard Lovell Edgeworth, 24 April 1790. Quoted in Desmond King-Hele (ed.), The Letters of Erasmus Darwin (1981), 201.

I strongly oppose cloning, as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience. And while we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it is equally important that we pay attention to the moral concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any means.
'Address to the Nation on Stem Cell Research', (9 Aug 2001) in Public Papers Of The Presidents Of The United States, George W. Bush, 2001 (2004), Book 2, 955.
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I thought that the wisdom of our City had certainly designed the laudable practice of taking and distributing these accompts [parish records of christenings and deaths] for other and greater uses than [merely casual comments], or, at least, that some other uses might be made of them; and thereupon I ... could, and (to be short) to furnish myself with as much matter of that kind ... the which when I had reduced into tables ... so as to have a view of the whole together, in order to the more ready comparing of one Year, Season, Parish, or other Division of the City, with another, in respect of all Burials and Christnings, and of all the Diseases and Casualties happening in each of them respectively...
Moreover, finding some Truths and not-commonly-believed opinions to arise from my meditations upon these neglected Papers, I proceeded further to consider what benefit the knowledge of the same would bring to the world, ... with some real fruit from those ayrie blossoms.
From Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon Bills of Mortality (1662), Preface. Reproduced in Cornelius Walford, The Insurance Cyclopaedia (1871), Vol. 1, 286-287.
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If a lot of cures are suggested for a disease, it means that the disease is incurable.
The Cherry Orchard (1904), Act 1. Trans. Elisaveta Fen.

If a patient is cold, if a patient is feverish, if a patient is faint, if he is sick after taking food, if he has a bed-sore, it is generally the fault not of the disease, but of the nursing.
In Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1859), 6.
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If diphtheria is a disease caused by a microorganism, it is essential that three postulates be fulfilled. The fulfilment of these postulates is necessary in order to demonstrate strictly the parasitic nature of a disease:
1) The organism must be shown to be constantly present in characteristic form and arrangement in the diseased tissue.
2) The organism which, from its behaviour appears to be responsible for the disease, must be isolated and grown in pure culture.
3) The pure culture must be shown to induce the disease experimentally.
An early statement of Koch's postulates.
Mittheilungen aus den Kaiserliche Gesundheitsamt (1884) Vol. 2. Trans. T. D. Brock, Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology (1988), 180.
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If gold medals and prizes were awarded to institutions instead of individuals, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital of 30 years ago would have qualified. The ruling board and administrative structure of that hospital did not falter in their support of the quixotic objective of treating end-stage renal disease despite a long list of tragic failures that resulted from these early efforts.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 558.
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If people are constantly falling off a cliff, you could place ambulances under the cliff or build a fence on the top of the cliff. We are placing all too many ambulances under the cliff.
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If the just cure of a disease be full of peril, let the physician resort to palliation.
Nat. Hist. As quoted in entry for 'Palliation', Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language; in which the Words are Deduced from their Originals (1818), Vol. 3 (unpaginated).
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If you are physically sick, you can elicit the interest of a battery of physicians; but if you are mentally sick, you are lucky if the janitor comes around.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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Imagination is a contagious disease. It cannot be measured by the yard, or weighed by the pound, and then delivered to the students by members of the faculty. It can only be communicated by a faculty whose members themselves wear their learning with imagination.
In The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 97.
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In 1892 one of us was able within the compass of a short article in a medical journal to give a résumé of our knowledge of the Trypanosomes. To-day it requires a whole volume to relate all that is known about these hæmatozoa and the diseases to which they give rise.
Opening lines from Introduction to Alphonse Laveran and Felix Etienne Pierre Mesnil Trypanosomes and Trypanosomiasis (1904), v. English edition translated and much enlarged by David Nabarro, (1907), xv. The article was footnoted as A. Laveran, Arch. Méd. Expérim. (1 Mar 1892).
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In a large proportion of cases treated by physicians the disease is cured by nature, not by them. In a lesser, but not a small proportion, the disease is cured by nature in spite of them.
…...
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In acute diseases the physician must conduct his inquiries in the following way. First he must examine the face of the patient, and see whether it is like the faces of healthy people, and especially whether it is like its usual self. Such likeness will be the best sign, and the greatest unlikeness will be the most dangerous sign. The latter will be as follows. Nose sharp, eyes hollow, temples sunken, ears cold and contracted with their lobes turned outwards, the skin about the face hard and tense and parched, the colour of the face as a whole being yellow or black.
Prognostic, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 9.
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In medical practice a man may die when, scientifically speaking, he ought to have lived. I have actually known a man to die of a disease from which he was, scientifically speaking, immune. But that does not affect the fundamental truth of science.
B.B. character in The Doctor's Dilemma, Act 3 (First produced in 1906). In The Doctor's Dilemma: With a Preface on Doctors (1911), 70.
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In my experience of anorexia nervosa it is exclusively a disease of private patients.
Cited as “Attributed” to Sir Adolf Abrams of Westminster Hospital, in Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 1. Webmaster assumes this is properly “Sir Adolphe Abrahams,” of that hospital, (confirmed there by an obituary), after finding nothing for the sound-alike “Sir Adolf Abrams.” If you know a primary source for the quote, please contact Webmaster.
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In reality, I have sometimes thought that we do not go on sufficiently slowly in the removal of diseases, and that it would he better if we proceeded with less haste, and if more were often left, to Nature than is the practice now-a-days. It is a great mistake to suppose that Nature always stands in need of the assistance of Art. If that were the case, site would have made less provision for the safety of mankind than the preservation of the species demands; seeing that there is not the least proportion between the host of existing diseases and the powers possessed by man for their removal, even in those ages wherein the healing art was at the highest pitch, and most extensively cultivated.
As quoted by Gavin Milroy in 'On the Writings of Sydenham', The Lancet (14 Nov 1846), 524.
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In the 1860s, Pasteur not only applied his germ theory to create “Pasteurization,” rescuing France’s wine and vinegar industries, but also found both the cause and cure of silkworm disease, saving growers millions of dollars. When Napoleon asked the scientist why he had not legitimately profited by his findings, Pasteur replied: “In France scientists would consider they lowered themselves by doing so.”
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 190.
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In the fight which we have to wage incessantly against ignorance and quackery among the masses and follies of all sorts among the classes, diagnosis, not drugging, is our chief weapon of offence. Lack of systematic personal training in the methods of the recognition of disease leads to the misapplication of remedies, to long courses of treatment when treatment is useless, and so directly to that lack of confidence in our methods which is apt to place us in the eyes of the public on a level with empirics and quacks.
Address to the Canadian Medical Association, Montreal (17 Sep 1902), 'Chauvinism in Medicine', published in The Montreal Medical Journal (1902), 31, 267. Collected in Aequanimitas, with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 299.
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In the first papers concerning the aetiology of tuberculosis I have already indicated the dangers arising from the spread of the bacilli-containing excretions of consumptives, and have urged moreover that prophylactic measures should be taken against the contagious disease. But my words have been unheeded. It was still too early, and because of this they still could not meet with full understanding. It shared the fate of so many similar cases in medicine, where a long time has also been necessary before old prejudices were overcome and the new facts were acknowledged to be correct by the physicians.
'The current state of the struggle against tuberculosis', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1905). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967), 169.
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In the midst of your illness you will promise a goat, but when you have recovered, a chicken will seem sufficient.
Anonymous
African proverb, Jukun
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In the nineteenth century men lost their fear of God and acquired a fear of microbes.
Anonymous
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In typhoid treat the beginning; in consumption do not treat the end.
Chinese proverb.
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Infectious disease is one of the few genuine adventures left in the world. The dragons are all dead and the lance grows rusty in the chimney corner. ... About the only sporting proposition that remains unimpaired by the relentless domestication of a once free-living human species is the war against those ferocious little fellow creatures, which lurk in dark corners and stalk us in the bodies of rats, mice and all kinds of domestic animals; which fly and crawl with the insects, and waylay us in our food and drink and even in our love
Rats, Lice and History (1935)
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Insomnia: A contagious disease often transmitted from babies to parents.
In Reader's Digest (1949), 38.
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Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 458.
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It is important to go into work you would like to do. Then it doesn't seem like work. You sometimes feel it's almost too good to be true that someone will pay you for enjoying yourself. I've been very fortunate that my work led to useful drugs for a variety of serious illnesses. The thrill of seeing people get well who might otherwise have died of diseases like leukemia, kidney failure, and herpes virus encephalitis cannot be described in words.
From her lecture notes.
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It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us, and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum.
From Text of Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project (26 Jun 2000).
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It is not what disease the patient has but which patient has the disease.
Anonymous
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It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these western woods ... Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time—and long before that—God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools.
John Muir
In 'The American Forests', Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1897), Vol. 80, 157.
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I’ve caught belief like a disease. I’ve fallen into belief like I fell in love.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 10
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Knowing, henceforth, the physiognomy of the disease when allowed to run its own course, you can, without risk of error, estimate the value of the different medications which have been employed. You will discover which remedies have done no harm, and which have notably curtailed the duration of the disease; and thus for the future you will have a standard by which to measure the value of the medicine which you see employed to counteract the malady in question. What you have done in respect of one disease, you will be able to do in respect of many; and by proceeding in this way you will be able, on sure data, to pass judgment on the treatment pursued by your masters.
In Armand Trousseau, as translated by P. Victor and John Rose Cormack, Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1873), Vol. 1, 40-41.
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Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
From Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961). As quoted in Elizabeth Sirimarco, The Cold War (2005), 45.
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Let out the blood, let out the disease.
Anonymous
Centuries-old aphorism popular up to the end of the 19th century
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Lice, ticks, mosquitoes and bedbugs will always lurk in the shadows when neglect, poverty, famine or war lets down the defenses.
Rats, Lice and History (1935)

Like other departments of philosophy, medicine began with an age of wonder. The accidents of disease and the features of death aroused surprise and stimulated interest, and a beginning was made when man first asked in astonishment, Why should these things be?
In 'The Evolution of Internal Medicine', Modern Medicine: Its Theory and Practice, (1907), Vol. 1, xvi.
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Magnetism, galvanism, electricity, are “one form of many names.” Without magnetism we should never have discovered America; to which we are indebted for nothing but evil; diseases in the worst forms that can afflict humanity, and slavery in the worst form in which slavery can exist. The Old World had the sugar-cane and the cotton-plant, though it did not so misuse them.
Written for fictional character, the Rev. Dr. Opimian, in Gryll Grange (1861), collected in Sir Henry Cole (ed.) The Works of Thomas Love Peacock(1875), Vol. 2, 382. [Hans Øersted discovered electromagnetism in 1820. Presumably the next reference to magnetism refers to a compass needle for navigation. —Webmaster]
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Malaria which is almost unknown in the north of Europe is however of great importance in the south of the Continent particularly in Greece and Italy; these fevers in many of the localities become the dominant disease and the forms become more grave.
From Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1907), 'Protozoa as Causes of Diseases', collected in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967, 1999), 264.
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Man is still by instinct a predatory animal given to devilish aggression.
The discoveries of science have immensely increased productivity of material things. They have increased the standards of living and comfort. They have eliminated infinite drudgery. They have increased leisure. But that gives more time for devilment.
The work of science has eliminated much disease and suffering. It has increased the length of life. That, together with increase in productivity, has resulted in vastly increased populations. Also it increased the number of people engaged in devilment.
Address delivered to Annual Meeting of the York Bible Class, Toronto, Canada (22 Nov 1938), 'The Imperative Need for Moral Re-armament', collected in America's Way Forward (1939), 50.
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Many Diseases arise from a perverted Imagination; and some of them are cured by affecting the Imagination only.
The Reflector: Representing Human Affairs As They Are (1750). In Allan Ingram, Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century (1998), 69.
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Many dishes many diseases,
Many medicines few cures.
In Poor Richard’s Almanack (1734).
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Mathematics is like childhood diseases. The younger you get it, the better.
Quoted by Dudley Herschbach in 'Einstein as a Student', collected in Peter Galison (ed.), Gerald James Holton (ed.), Silvan S. Schweber (ed.), Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Srt, and Modern Culture (2008), 236. The remark quoted was footnoted as heard by Dudley Herschbach many years earlier in a class by George Polya, but not found in print.
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Medical researchers have discovered a new disease that has no symptoms. It is impossible to detect, and there is no known cure. Fortunately, no cases have been reported thus far.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 104.
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Medical science has proven time and again that when the resources are provided, great progress in the treatment, cure and prevention of disease can occur.
Commencement Address, Medical School Convocation, University of Miami (10 May 2003). From website www.michaeljfox.org.
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Medicine is a science of experience; its object is to eradicate diseases by means of remedies. The knowledge of disease, the knowledge of remedies and the knowledge of their employment, constitute medicine.
In 'The Medicine of Experience' (1805), collected in R.E. Dudgeon (ed., trans.) The Lesser Writings of Samuel Hahnemann (1851), 501.
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Medicine is essentially a learned profession. Its literature is ancient, and connects it with the most learned periods of antiquity; and its terminology continues to be Greek or Latin. You cannot name a part of the body, and scarcely a disease, without the use of a classical term. Every structure bears upon it the impress of learning, and is a silent appeal to the student to cultivate an acquaintance with the sources from which the nomenclature of his profession is derived.
From Address (Oct 1874) delivered at Guy’s Hospital, 'On The Study of Medicine', printed in British Medical journal (1874), 2, 425. Collected in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), 11.
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Medicines heals doubts as well as diseases.
Karl Marx
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Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.
In Eleonora (1850). Collected on The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1859), Vol. 1, 446.
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My crystal ball or intuition tells me that in the '80s the impact of RIA [radioimmunoassay] on the study of infectious diseases may prove as revolutionary as its impact on endocrinology in the 60s.
Radioimmunoassay: A probe for fine structure of biological systems Nobel Lecture, 8 Dec 1977

My friend was sick: I attended him.
He died; I dissected him.
Anonymous
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Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.
…...
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Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.
…...
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Nature being capricious and taking pleasure in creating and producing a continuous sucession of lives and forms because she knows that they serve to increase her terrestrial substance, is more ready and swift in her creating than time is in destroying, and therefore she has ordained that many animals shall serve as food one for the other; and as this does not satisfy her desire she sends forth frequently certain noisome and pestilential vapours and continual plagues upon the vast accumulations and herds of animals and especially upon human beings who increase very rapidly because other animals do not feed upon them.
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1 80.
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Nature is nowhere accustomed more openly to display her secret mysteries than in cases where she shows tracings of her workings apart from the beaten paths; nor is there any better way to advance the proper practice of medicine than to give our minds to the discovery of the usual law of nature, by careful investigation of cases of rarer forms of disease.
Letter IX, to John Vlackveld (24 Apr 1657), in The Circulation of the Blood (2006), 200.
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Neurosis has an abosolute genius for malingering. There is no illness which cannot counterfeit perfectly … If it is capable of deceiving the doctor, how should it fail to deceive the patient.
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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Nine-tenths of diseases are medicinal diseases.
[Lamenting the diseases resulting from the continued prescribing of harmful medicinal remedies.]
Quoted by William M. Scribner, 'Treatment of Pneumonia and Croup, Once More, Etc,' in The Medical World (1885), 3, 187.
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No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this is to irritate; this is to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout: if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or torment.
The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785), Vol. 1, 79.
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No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means.
As quoted in Robert Taylor, White Coat Tales: Medicine's Heroes, Heritage, and Misadventures (2010), 124.
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No man is a good doctor who has never been sick himself.
Chinese proverb.
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No matter how we twist and turn we shall always come back to the cell. The eternal merit of Schwann does not lie in his cell theory that has occupied the foreground for so long, and perhaps will soon be given up, but in his description of the development of the various tissues, and in his demonstration that this development (hence all physiological activity) is in the end traceable back to the cell. Now if pathology is nothing but physiology with obstacles, and diseased life nothing but healthy life interfered with by all manner of external and internal influences then pathology too must be referred back to the cell.
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 13-14, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 81.
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No one thinks of concealing the truth from a cardiac patient: there is nothing shameful about a heart attack. Cancer patients are lied to, not just because the disease is (or is thought to be) a death sentence, but because it is felt to be obscene—in the original meaning of that word: ill-omened, abominable, repugnant to the senses.
In Illness as a Metaphor (1978), 8,
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Now, it may be stretching an analogy to compare epidemics of cholera—caused by a known agent—with that epidemic of violent crime which is destroying our cities. It is unlikely that our social problems can be traced to a single, clearly defined cause in the sense that a bacterial disease is ‘caused’ by a microbe. But, I daresay, social science is about as advanced in the late twentieth century as bacteriological science was in the mid nineteenth century. Our forerunners knew something about cholera; they sensed that its spread was associated with misdirected sewage, filth, and the influx of alien poor into crowded, urban tenements. And we know something about street crime; nowhere has it been reported that a member of the New York Stock Exchange has robbed a poor, black teenager at the point of a gun. Indeed, I am naively confident that an enlightened social scientist of the next century will be able to point out that we had available to us at least some of the clues to the cause of urban crime.
Cholera at the Harvey,' Woods Hole Cantata: Essays on Science and Society, Dodd, Mead (1985).
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Nowhere is it more true that “prevention is better than cure,” than in the case of Parasitic Diseases.
From Author's Preface to English edition, trans. by William E. Hoyle, The Parasites of Man, and the Diseases which Proceed from Them: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners (1886), vii.
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Of the Passive Principle, and Material Cause of the Small Pox ... Nature, in the first compounding and forming of us, hath laid into the Substance and Constitution of each something equivalent to Ovula, of various distinct Kinds, productive of all the contagious, venomous Fevers, we can possibly have as long as we live.
Exanthematologia: Or, An Attempt to Give a Rational Account of Eruptive Fevers, Especially of the Measles and SmallPox (1730), Part II, 'Of the Small-Pox', 175. In Ludvig Hektoen, 'Thomas Fuller 1654-1734: Country Physician and Pioneer Exponent of Specificness in Infection and Immunity', read to the Society (8 Nov 1921), published in Bulletin of the Society of Medical History of Chicago (Mar 1922), 2, 329, or in reprint form, p. 11.
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Often the confidence of the patient in his physician does more for the cure of his disease than the physician with all his remedies.
Reasserting the statement by Avicenna.
In James Joseph Walsh, Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 270.
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One of the major goals when studying specific genetic diseases is to find the primary gene product, which in turn leads to a better understanding of the biochemical basis of the disorder. The bottom line often reads, 'This may lead to effective prenatal diagnosis and eventual eradication of the disease.' But we now have the ironic situation of being able to jump right to the bottom line without reading the rest of the page, that is, without needing to identify the primary gene product or the basic biochemical mechanism of the disease. The technical capability of doing this is now available. Since the degree of departure from our previous approaches and the potential of this procedure are so great, one will not be guilty of hyperbole in calling it the 'New Genetics'.
'Prenatal Diagnosis and the New Genetics', The American Journal of Human Genetics, 1980, 32:3, 453.
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One of the principal results of civilization is to reduce more and more the limits within which the different elements of society fluctuate. The more intelligence increases the more these limits are reduced, and the nearer we approach the beautiful and the good. The perfectibility of the human species results as a necessary consequence of all our researches. Physical defects and monstrosities are gradually disappearing; the frequency and severity of diseases are resisted more successfully by the progress of modern science; the moral qualities of man are proving themselves not less capable of improvement; and the more we advance, the less we shall have need to fear those great political convulsions and wars and their attendant results, which are the scourges of mankind.
…...
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Only by following out the injunction of our great predecessor [William Harvey] to search out and study the secrets of Nature by way of experiment, can we hope to attain to a comprehension of 'the wisdom of the body and the understanding of the heart,' and thereby to the mastery of disease and pain, which will enable us to relieve the burden of mankind.
'The Wisdom of the Body', The Lancet (1923), 205, 870.
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Opium is the only drug to' be rely'd on—all the boasted nostrums only take up time, and as the disease [is] often of short duration, or of small quantity, they have gain'd credit which they do not deserve.
Quoted in Desmond King-Hele, Erasmus Darwin: A Life of Unequalled Achievement (1999), 161.
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Our ancestors, when about to build a town or an army post, sacrificed some of the cattle that were wont to feed on the site proposed and examined their livers. If the livers of the first victims were dark-coloured or abnormal, they sacrificed others, to see whether the fault was due to disease or their food. They never began to build defensive works in a place until after they had made many such trials and satisfied themselves that good water and food had made the liver sound and firm. …healthfulness being their chief object.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 4, Sec. 9. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 20.
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Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter. ... Transmutation of the elements, unlimited power, ability to investigate the working of living cells by tracer atoms, the secret of photosynthesis about to be uncovered, these and a host of other results, all in about fifteen short years. It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under the and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a life span far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.
Speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Science Writers, New York City (16 Sep 1954), asquoted in 'Abundant Power From Atom Seen', New York Times (17 Sep 1954) 5.
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Our physicians have observed that, in process of time, some diseases have abated of their virulence, and have, in a manner, worn out their malignity, so as to be no longer mortal.
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People ask me often [whether] the Nobel Prize [was] the thing you were aiming for all your life, and I say that would be crazy. Nobody would aim for a Nobel Prize because, if you didn’t get it, your whole life would be wasted. What we were aiming at was getting people well, and the satisfaction of that is much greater than any prize you can get.
Quoted in interview by Mary Ellen Avery (1997).
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People don't die from the old diseases any more. They die from new ones, but that's Progress, isn’t it?
Isn't it?
Jeffty is Five (1977)
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Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
'There is no Cure for this Disease.'
'Henry King', in Cautionary Tales for Children (first published 1907), (1908 edition), 18-19.
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Rheumatic fever licks at the joints, but bites at the heart.
Anonymous
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Science affects the average man and woman in two ways already. He or she benefits by its application driving a motor-car or omnibus instead of a horse-drawn vehicle, being treated for disease by a doctor or surgeon rather than a witch, and being killed with an automatic pistol or shell in place of a dagger or a battle-axe.
'The Scientific Point of View' In R.C. Prasad (ed.), Modern Essays: Studying Language Through Literature (1987), 26.
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Science is rooted in the will to truth. With the will to truth it stands or falls. Lower the standard even slightly and science becomes diseased at the core. Not only science, but man. The will to truth, pure and unadulterated, is among the essential conditions of his existence; if the standard is compromised he easily becomes a kind of tragic caricature of himself.
Opening statement in 'On Truth', Social Research (May 1934), 1, No. 2, 135.
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Scientific training gives its votaries freedom from the impositions of modern quackery. Those who know nothing of the laws and processes of Nature fall an easy prey to quacks and impostors. Perfectionism in the realm of religion; a score of frauds in the realm of medicine, as electric shoe soles, hair brushes and belts, electropises, oxydonors, insulating bed casters, and the like; Christian science. In the presence of whose unspeakable stillness and self-stultifying idealism a wise man knows not whether to laugh or cry; Prof. Weltmer's magnetic treatment of disease; divine healing and miracle working by long-haired peripatetics—these and a score of other contagious fads and rank impostures find their followers among those who have no scientific training. Among their deluded victims are thousands of men and women of high character, undoubted piety, good intentions, charitable impulses and literary culture, but none trained to scientific research. Vaccinate the general public with scientific training and these epidemics will become a thing of the past.
As quoted by S.D. Van Meter, Chairman, closing remarks for 'Report of Committee on Public Policy and Legislation', to the Colorado State Medical Society in Denver, printed in Colorado Medicine (Oct 1904), 1, No. 12, 363. Van Meter used the quote following his statement, “In conclusion, allow me to urge once more the necessity of education of the public as well as the profession if we ever expect to correct the evils we are striving to reach by State and Society legislation. Much can be accomplished toward this end by the publication of well edited articles in the secular press upon medical subjects the public is eager to know about.” Prof. Weitmer is presumably Sidney A. Weltmer, founder of The Weltmer Institute of Suggestive Therapeutics, who offered a Course in Magnetic Healing by mail order correspondance (1899).
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Since disease originates in the elementary cell, the organization and microscopic functions of which reproduce the general organization exactly and in all its relationships, nothing is more suited to simplifying the work of classification and of systematic division than to take the elementary cell as the basis of division.
As quoted in article, Marc Klein,'François-Vincent Raspail', in Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975). Vol.11, 300-301.
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So, then, the Tincture of the Philosophers is a universal medicine, and consumes all diseases, by whatsoever name they are called, just like an invisible fire. The dose is very small, but its effect is most powerful. By means thereof I have cured the leprosy, venereal disease, dropsy, the falling sickness, colic, scab, and similar afflictions; also lupus, cancer, noli-metangere, fistulas, and the whole race of internal diseases, more surely than one could believe.
Quoted in Paracelsus and ‎Arthur Edward Waite (ed.), The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus (1894), Vol. 1, 29.
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Somewhere between 1900 and 1912 in this country, according to one sober medical scientist [Henderson] a random patient, with a random disease, consulting a doctor chosen at random had, for the first time in the history of mankind, a better than fifty-fifty chance of profiting from the encounter.
Anonymous
Quoted in New England Journal of Medicine (1964), 270, 449.
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Statistics has been the handmaid of science, and has poured a flood of light upon the dark questions of famine and pestilence, ignorance and crime, disease and death.
Speech (16 Dec 1867) given while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, introducing resolution for the appointment of a committee to examine the necessities for legislation upon the subject of the ninth census to be taken the following year. Quoted in John Clark Ridpath, The Life and Work of James A. Garfield (1881), 216.
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Study the hindrances, acquaint yourself with the causes which have led up to the disease. Don’t guess at them, but know them through and through if you can; and if you do not know them, know that you do not, and still inquire. “Cannot” is a word for the idle, the indifferent, the self-satisfied, but it is not admissible in science. “I do not know” is manly if it does not stop there, but to say “I cannot” is a judgment both entirely illogical, and in itself bad as favouring rest in ignorance.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lix.
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That many very remarkable change and involuntary motions are sudden produced in the body by various affections of the mind, is undeniably evinced from a number of facts. Thus fear often causes a sudden and uncommon flow of pale urine. Looking much at one troubled with sore eyes, has sometimes affected the spectator with the same disease.—Certain sounds cause a shivering over the whole body.—The noise of a bagpipe has raised in some persons an inclination to make urine.—The sudden appearance of any frightful object, will, in delicate people, cause an uncommon palpitation of the heart.—The sight of an epileptic person agitated with convulsions, has brought on an epilepsy; and yawning is so very catching, as frequently to be propagated through whole companies.
In An Essay on the Vital and Other Involuntary Motions of Animals (1751), 253-254.
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That the Anatomy of the Nerves yields more pleasant and profitable Speculations, than the Theory of any parts besides in the animated Body: for from hence the true and genuine Reasons are drawn of very many Actions and Passions that are wont to happen in our Body, which otherwise seem most difficult and unexplicable; and no less from this Fountain the hidden Causes of Diseases and their Symptoms, which commonly are ascribed to the Incantations of Witches, may be found out and clearly laid open. But as to our observations about the Nerves, from our following Discourse it will plainly appear, that I have not trod the paths or footsteps of others, nor repeated what hath been before told.
In Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves (1664), trans. Samuel Pordage (1681), reprinted in William Peindel (ed.), Thomas Willis: Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves (1965), Vol. 2, 125.
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That was the turning point. It was as though the signal was there, 'This is the disease you're going to have to work against.' I never really stopped to think about anything else. It was that sudden.
Autobiography, Nobel Foundation
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The advances of biology during the past 20 years have been breathtaking, particularly in cracking the mystery of heredity. Nevertheless, the greatest and most difficult problems still lie ahead. The discoveries of the 1970‘s about the chemical roots of memory in nerve cells or the basis of learning, about the complex behavior of man and animals, the nature of growth, development, disease and aging will be at least as fundamental and spectacular as those of the recent past.
As quoted in 'H. Bentley Glass', New York Times (12 Jan 1970), 96.
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The aim of medicine is to prevent disease and prolong life, the ideal of medicine is to eliminate the need of a physician.
Concluding remark from address, 'The Aims and Ideals of the American Medical Association', collected in Proceedings of the 66th Annual Meeting of the National Education Association of the United States (1928), 163.
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The air of caricature never fails to show itself in the products of reason applied relentlessly and without correction. The observation of clinical facts would seem to be a pursuit of the physician as harmless as it is indispensable. [But] it seemed irresistibly rational to certain minds that diseases should be as fully classifiable as are beetles and butterflies. This doctrine … bore perhaps its richest fruit in the hands of Boissier de Sauvauges. In his Nosologia Methodica published in 1768 … this Linnaeus of the bedside grouped diseases into ten classes, 295 genera, and 2400 species.
In 'General Ideas in Medicine', The Lloyd Roberts lecture at House of the Royal Society of Medicine (30 Sep 1935), British Medical Journal (5 Oct 1935), 2, 609. In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 151.
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The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow; its disappearance slow, like a thread.
Chinese proverb.
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The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
Attributed. Webmaster has found no other citation. See, for example, Bill Swainson, Encarta Book of Quotations (2000), 961.
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The belief is growing on me that the disease is communicated by the bite of the mosquito. … She always injects a small quantity of fluid with her bite—what if the parasites get into the system in this manner.
Letter (27 May 1896) to Patrick Manson. In The Great Malaria Problem and Its Solution: From the Memoirs of Ronald Ross (1988), 72. Ross asked for Manson’s opinion; the ellipsis above, in full is: “What do you think?” As quoted in William Derek Foster, A History of Parasitology (1965), 173. (It was for this insight that Ross was awarded a Nobel Prize.)
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The body is a cell state in which every cell is a citizen. Disease is merely the conflict of the citizens of the state brought about by the action of external forces. (1858)
From Die Cellularpathologie (1858). As cited in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 250. Although widely quoted in this form, Webmaster has not yet been able to pin down the source of the translation in these few words. (It might be in Rudolph Virchow translated by Lelland J. Rather, Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 142-9.) If you know the exact citation to the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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The conception that antibodies, which should protect against disease, are also responsible for the disease, sounds at first absurd. This has as its basis the fact that we are accustomed to see in disease only the harm done to the organism and to see in the antibodies solely antitoxic [protective] substances. One forgets too easily that the disease represents only a stage in the development of immunity, and that the organism often attains the advantage of immunity only by means of disease. ... Serum sickness represents, so to speak, an unnatural (artificial) form of disease.
C. von Pirquet and B. Schick, Die Serumkrankheit (1906), trans B. Schick, Serum Sickness (1951), 119-20.
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The disease and its medicine are like two factions in a besieged town; they tear one another to pieces, but both unite against their common enemy, Nature.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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The diseases which are hard to cure in neighborhoods… are catarrh, hoarseness, coughs, pleurisy, consumption, spitting of blood, and all others that are cured not by lowering the system but by building it up. They are hard to cure, first, because they are originally due to chills; secondly, because the patient's system being already exhausted by disease, the air there, which is in constant agitation owing to winds and therefore deteriorated, takes all the sap of life out of their diseased bodies and leaves them more meager every day. On the other hand, a mild, thick air, without drafts and not constantly blowing back and forth, builds up their frames by its unwavering steadiness, and so strengthens and restores people who are afflicted with these diseases.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 6, Sec. 3. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 25.
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The expression Similia similibus is a Latin phrase and means that an imaginary disease can best be cured by an imaginary remedy.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (Mar 1908), 26, No. 4, 105. The reference is to the phrase “similia similibus curantur” (similar things take care of similar things; or, like cures like).
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The fact is that in creating towns, men create the materials for an immense hotbed of disease, and this effect can only be neutralised by extraordinary artificial precautions.
Anonymous
The Times (8 Oct 1868)
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The facts obtained in this study may possibly be sufficient proof of the causal relationship, that only the most sceptical can raise the objection that the discovered microorganism is not the cause but only an accompaniment of the disease... It is necessary to obtain a perfect proof to satisfy oneself that the parasite and the disease are ... actually causally related, and that the parasite is the... direct cause of the disease. This can only be done by completely separating the parasite from the diseased organism [and] introducing the isolated parasite into healthy organisms and induce the disease anew with all its characteristic symptoms and properties.
Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift (1882), 393. Quoted in Edward J. Huth and T. Jock Murray (eds.), Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2000), 52.
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The first Care in building of Cities, is to make them airy and well perflated; infectious Distempers must necessarily be propagated amongst Mankind living close together.
An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies (1733), Ch. 9, No. 20.

The forms of diseases are many and the healing of them is manifold.
Nature of Man, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1931), Vol. 4, 7.
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The full story of successful organ transplantation in man weaves together three separate pathways: the study of renal disease, skin grafting in twins, and surgical determination. A leitmotif permeates each of these pathways, i.e. a single event or report was critical for medical progress.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 558.
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The fundamental activity of medical science is to determine the ultimate causation of disease.
Speech, Guild of Public Pharmacists (18 Jan 1933), 'De Minimis', The Lancet (1933), 1, 287-90. As cited in Edward J. Huth and T. J. Murray, Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2006), 247 and 512.
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The hypochondriac disease consists in indigestion and consequent flatulency, with anxiety or want of pleasurable sensation.
Zoonomia, Or, The Laws of Organic Life, in three parts, complete in two volumes (1818), Vol. 2, 112.
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The name chronic alcoholism applies to the collective symptoms of a disordered condition of the mental, motor, and sensory functions of the nervous system, these symptoms assuming a chronic form, and without their being immediately connected with any of those (organic) modifications of the central or peripheric portions of the nervous system which may be detected during life, or discovered after death by ocular inspection; such symptoms, moreover, affecting individuals who have persisted for a considerable length of time in the abuse of alcoholic liquors.
Published in Swedish in 1849. Translation quoted in William Marcet On Chronic Alcoholic Intoxication (1868), 21.
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The native hospital in Tunis was the focal point of my research. Often, when going to the hospital, I had to step over the bodies of typhus patients who were awaiting admission to the hospital and had fallen exhausted at the door. We had observed a certain phenomenon at the hospital, of which no one recognized the significance, and which drew my attention. In those days typhus patients were accommodated in the open medical wards. Before reaching the door of the wards they spread contagion. They transmitted the disease to the families that sheltered them, and doctors visiting them were also infected. The administrative staff admitting the patients, the personnel responsible for taking their clothes and linen, and the laundry staff were also contaminated. In spite of this, once admitted to the general ward the typhus patient did not contaminate any of the other patients, the nurses or the doctors. I took this observation as my guide. I asked myself what happened between the entrance to the hospital and the wards. This is what happened: the typhus patient was stripped of his clothes and linen, shaved and washed. The contagious agent was therefore something attached to his skin and clothing, something which soap and water could remove. It could only be the louse. It was the louse.
'Investigations on Typhus', Nobel lecture, 1928. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 181.
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The only English patients I have ever known refuse tea, have been typhus cases; and the first sign of their getting better was their craving again for tea.
'Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa for the Sick', Scientific American (2 Jul 1860), New Series, 3, No. 1, 3.
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The only incurable diseases are those the doctor’s don’t know how to cure.
As quoted in book review, T.A. Boyd, 'Charles F. Kettering: Prophet of Progress', Science (30 Jan 1959), 255.
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The only way we are going to reduce disease, is to go backward to the diets and lifestyles of our ancestors.
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The origin and the causes of disease are far too recondite for the human mind to unravel them.
Praxi Medica (1696), Introduction.
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The physician being, then, truly a blind man, armed with a club, who, as chance directs the weight of his blow, will be certain of annihilating nature or the disease.
…...
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The physician himself, if sick, actually calls in another physician, knowing that he cannot reason correctly if required to judge his own condition while suffering.
Aristotle
De Republica, iii.16.
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The prevention of disease today is one of the most important factors in line of human endeavor.
Collected Papers of the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation (1913).
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The pure culture is the foundation for all research on infectious disease.
'Zur Untersuchungen von Pathologen Organismen', Mittheilungen aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte (1881), 1, 1-48. Quoted in English in Thomas D. Brock, Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology (1988), 94.
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The radiation of radium was “contagious”—Contagious like a persistent scent or a disease. It was impossible for an object, a plant, an animal or a person to be left near a tube of radium without immediately acquiring a notable “activity” which a sensitive apparatus could detect.
Eve Curie
In Eve Curie, Madame Curie: a Biography by Eve Curie (1937, 2007), 196.
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The remedy is worse than the disease.
‘Of Seditions and Troubles’, Essays.
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The required techniques of effective reasoning are pretty formal, but as long as programming is done by people that don’t master them, the software crisis will remain with us and will be considered an incurable disease. And you know what incurable diseases do: they invite the quacks and charlatans in, who in this case take the form of Software Engineering gurus.
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The specific qualities in diseases also tend more rapidly to the skin than to the deeper-seated parts, except the cancer; although even in this disease the progress towards the superficies is more quick than its progress towards the centre. In short, this is a law in nature, and it probably is upon the same principle by which vegetables always approach the surface of the earth.
In A Treatise on the Blood, Inflammation and Gun-shot Wounds (1794, 1828), 299-300.
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The strongest cause in the generation of diseases is the predisposition of the body which is likely to fall ill.
As quoted in Robert Taylor, White Coat Tales: Medicine's Heroes, Heritage, and Misadventures (2010), 125.
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The surgeon is a man of action. By temperament and by training he prefers to serve the sick by operating on them, and he inwardly commiserates with a patient so unfortunate as to have a disease not suited to surgical treatment. Young surgeons, busy mastering the technicalities of the art, are particularly alert to seize every legitimate opportunity to practice technical maneuvers, the more complicated the better.
American Journal of Surgery.
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The symptoms or the sufferings generally considered to be inevitable and incident to the disease are very often not symptoms of the disease at all, but of something quite different—of the want of fresh air, or of light, or of warmth, or of quiet, or of cleanliness, or of punctuality and care in the administration of diet, of each or of all of these.
In Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1859), 5.
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The unlucky doctor treats the head of a disease; the lucky doctor its tail.
Chinese proverb.
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The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves some of the greatest men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigators. What animates a great pathologist? Is it the desire to cure disease, to save life? Surely not, save perhaps as an afterthought. He is too intelligent, deep down in his soul, to see anything praiseworthy in such a desire. He knows by life-long observation that his discoveries will do quite as much harm as good, that a thousand scoundrels will profit to every honest man, that the folks who most deserve to be saved will probably be the last to be saved. No man of self-respect could devote himself to pathology on such terms. What actually moves him is his unquenchable curiosity–his boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but the dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.
Prejudices (1923), 269-70.
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There are some arts which to those that possess them are painful, but to those that use them are helpful, a common good to laymen, but to those that practise them grievous. Of such arts there is one which the Greeks call medicine. For the medical man sees terrible sights, touches unpleasant things, and the misfortunes of others bring a harvest of sorrows that are peculiarly his; but the sick by means of the art rid themselves of the worst of evils, disease, suffering, pain and death.
Breaths, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 227.
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There are some modern practitioners, who declaim against medical theory in general, not considering that to think is to theorize; and that no one can direct a method of cure to a person labouring under disease, without thinking, that is, without theorizing; and happy therefore is the patient, whose physician possesses the best theory.
Zoonomia, or, The Laws Of Organic Life (1801), Vol. 2, ix.
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There are some remedies worse than the disease.
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There is at bottom only one genuinely scientific treatment for all diseases, and that is to stimulate the phagocytes.
The Doctor’s Dilemma: A Tragedy (1913), 112.
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There is no curing a sick man who believes himself to be in health.
Amiel's Journal The Journal Intime of Henri-Frederic Amiel, (6 Feb 1877), trans. By Mrs Humphry Ward (1889),131.
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Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound;
And through this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595-6), II, i.
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These symptoms are formed in such a particular way that they form a disease group in themselves and thus merit being designated and described as a definite disease ... It is this group of symptoms which I wish to designate by the name Alcoholismus chronicus.
Alcoholismus chronicus: Chronisk alcoholisjudkom: Ett bidrag till dyskrasiarnas känndom (1849). Trans. quoted in John William Crowley, William L. White, Drunkard's Refuge (2004), 5.
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Think of a single problem confronting the world today. Disease, poverty, global warming… If the problem is going to be solved, it is science that is going to solve it. Scientists tend to be unappreciated in the world at large, but you can hardly overstate the importance of the work they do. If anyone ever cures cancer, it will be a guy with a science degree. Or a woman with a science degree.
Quoted in Max Davidson, 'Bill Bryson: Have faith, science can solve our problems', Daily Telegraph (26 Sep 2010)
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This is a mighty wonder: in the discharge from the lungs alone, which is not particularly dangerous, the patients do not despair of themselves, even although near the last.
Concerning Tuberculosis.
On the Causes and Symptoms of Acute Diseases, II, ii,18.
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This is all very fine, but it won't do—Anatomy—botany—Nonsense! Sir, I know an old woman in Covent Garden, who understands botany better, and as for anatomy, my butcher can dissect a joint full as well; no, young man, all that is stuff; you must go to the bedside, it is there alone you can learn disease!
Comment to Hans Sloane on Robert Boyle's letter of introduction describing Sloane as a 'ripe scholar, a good botanist, a skilful anatomist'.
Quoted in John D. Comrie, 'Life of Thomas Sydenham, M. D.', in Comrie (ed.), Selected Works of Thomas Sydenham (1922), 2.
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This long disease, my life.
'Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot' (1735). In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 602.
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Thou to whom the sick and dying
Ever came, nor came in vain,
With thy healing hands replying
To their wearied cry of pain.
Anonymous
The New English Hymnal (1986), 331.
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Though Hippocrates understood not the Circulation of the Blood, yet by accurately observing the Effects of the Disease, which he looked upon as an unknown Entity, and by remarking the Endeavours of Nature, by which the Disease tended to either Health or Recovery, did from thence deduce a proper Method of Cure, namely by assisting the salutary Endeavours of Nature, and by resisting those of the Disease; and thus Hippocrates, ignorant of the Causes, cured Disease as well as ourselves, stocked with so many Discoveries.
In Dr. Boerhaave's Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic (1746), Vol. 6, 352.
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Time is a herb that cures all Diseases.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1738). http://www. vlib.us/amdocs/texts/prichard38.html
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Tis not always in a physician’s power to cure the sick; at times the disease is stronger than trained art.
Ovid and Arthur Leslie Wheeler (trans.), Ovid Tristia Ex Ponto (2007), 281.
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To choose a rough example, think of a thorn which has stuck in a finger and produces an inflammation and suppuration. Should the thorn be discharged with the pus, then the finger of another individual may be pricked with it, and the disease may be produced a second time. In this case it would not be the disease, not even its product, that would be transmitted by the thorn, but rather the stimulus which engendered it. Now supposing that the thorn is capable of multiplying in the sick body, or that every smallest part may again become a thorn, then one would be able to excite the same disease, inflammation and suppuration, in other individuals by transmitting any of its smallest parts. The disease is not the parasite but the thorn. Diseases resemble one another, because their causes resemble each other. The contagion in our sense is therefore not the germ or seed of the disease, but rather the cause of the disease. For example, the egg of a taenia is not the product of a worm disease even though the worm disease may have been the cause, which first gave rise to the taenia in the intestinal contents—nor of the individual afflicted with the worm disease, but rather of the parasitic body, which, no matter how it may have come into the world at first, now reproduces itself by means of eggs, and produces the symptoms of the worm disease, at least in part. It is not the seed of the disease; the latter multiplies in the sick organism, and is again excreted at the end of the disease.
'On Miasmata and Contagia', trans. G. Rosen, Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine (1938), 6, 924.
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To demonstrate experimentally that a microscopic organism actually is the cause of a disease and the agent of contagion, I know no other way, in the present state of Science, than to subject the microbe (the new and happy term introduced by M. Sédillot) to the method of cultivation out of the body.
Paper read to the French Academy of Sciences (29 Apr 1878), published in Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, 86, 1037-43, as translated by H.C.Ernst. Collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.) The Harvard Classics, Vol. 38; Scientific Papers: Physiology, Medicine, Surgery, Geology (1910), 364.
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To know the natural progress of diseases is to know more than half of medicine.
In Armand Trousseau, as translated by P. Victor and John Rose Cormack, Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1873), Vol. 1, 40.
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To prove that tuberculosis is caused by the invasion of bacilli, and that it is a parasitic disease primarily caused by the growth and multiplication of bacilli, it is necessary to isolate the bacilli from the body, to grow them in pure culture until they are freed from every disease product of the animal organism, and, by introducing isolated bacilli into animals, to reproduce the same morbid condition that is known to follow from inoculation with spontaneously developed tuberculous material.
'The Etiology of Tuberculosis' (1882), Essays of Robert Koch (1987), trans. K. Codell Carter, 87.
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To study the phenomenon of disease without books is to sail uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all.
Address for the Dedication of the New Building of the Boston Medical Library (12 Jan 1901). Printed as 'Books and Men', The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (17 Jan 1901), 144, No. 3, 60.
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TZETZE, (or TSETSE) FLY, n. An African insect (Glossina morsitans) whose bite is commonly regarded as nature's most efficacious remedy for insomnia, though some patients prefer that of the American novelist (Mendax interminabilis.)
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  353.
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We are a caring nation, and our values should also guide us on how we harness the gifts of science. New medical breakthroughs bring the hope of cures for terrible diseases and treatments that can improve the lives of millions. Our challenge is to make sure that science serves the cause of humanity instead of the other way around.
Telephone remarks to the March for Life, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush, 2007 (), Book I)President Calls March for Life Participants (22 Jan 2007), 41.
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We are led to think of diseases as isolated disturbances in a healthy body, not as the phases of certain periods of bodily development.
The Significance of Skin Affections in the Classification of Disease', St. Georges Hospital Reports (1867), Vol. 2, 189.
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We cannot idealize technology. Technology is only and always the reflection of our own imagination, and its uses must be conditioned by our own values. Technology can help cure diseases, but we can prevent a lot of diseases by old-fashioned changes in behavior.
Remarks at Knoxville Auditorium Coliseum, Knoxville, Tennessee (10 Oct 1996) while seeking re-election. American Presidency Project web page.
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We do not know what is disease, how remedies act, and still less how diseases are cured. We must abandon the way which has thus far been followed
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We have chosen to write the biography of our disease because we love it platonically — as Amy Lowell loved Keats — and have sought its acquaintance wherever we could find it. And in this growing intimacy we have become increasingly impressed with the influence that this and other infectious diseases, which span — in their protoplasmic continuities — the entire history of mankind, have had upon the fates of men.
Rats, Lice and History (1935)

We must really agree with Bamberger, who thinks that the greater part of patients who die, of endocarditis even, have succumbed not to the disease, but to the remedy.
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We seem ambitious God's whole work to undo.
...With new diseases on ourselves we war,
And with new physic, a worse engine far.
'An Anatomy of the World' (1611), collected in The Poetical Works of Dr. John Donne (1864), 83.
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We should give free passage to diseases; ... Let us give Nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do.
The Complete Essays of Montaigne, trans. Donald M. Frame (1958), 395.

We “need” cancer because, by the very fact of its incurability, it makes all other diseases, however virulent, not cancer.
In 'Under the Sign of Cancer', Myths and Memories (1986), 152.
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Were it my business to understand physic, would not the safe way be to consult nature herself in the history of diseases and their cures, than espouse the principles of the dogmatists, methodists, or chemists?
In Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1796, 20th ed.), Vol. 2, Book 4, 383.
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What animates a great pathologist? Is it the desire to cure disease, to save life? Surely not, save perhaps as an afterthought. He is too intelligent, deep in his soul, to see anything praiseworthy in such a desire. He knows from life-long observation that his discoveries will do quite as much harm as good, that a thousand scoundrels will profit to every honest man, that the folks who most deserve to be saved will probably be the last to be saved. ... What actually moves him is his unquenchable curiosity—his boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. ... [like] the dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes. ... And yet he stands in the very front rank of the race
In 'The Scientist', Prejudices: third series (1922), 269-70.
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What Doctor is there, who while he treats a disease unknown to him, might be at ease, until he had clearly perceived the nature of this disease and its hidden causes?
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Whatever State of the Human Body doth disorder the Vital, the natural, or even the Animal Functions of the same is call’d a Disease.
Aphorism No. 1 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 1
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When a disease relapses there is no cure.
Chinese proverb.
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When meditating over a disease, I never think of finding a remedy for it, but, instead, a means of preventing it.
From address (15 May 1884), to École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Paris. In Maurice Benjamin Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), 451.
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When men die of disease they are said to die from natural causes. When they recover (and mostly they do) the doctor gets the credit of curing them.
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When the disease is stronger than the patient, the physician will not be able to help him at all, and if the strength of the patient is greater than the strength of the disease, he does not need a physician at all. But when both are equal, he needs a physician who will support the patient’s strength and help him against the disease.
Rhazes
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When the morning breezes blow toward the town at sunrise, if they bring with them mists from marshes and, mingled with the mist, the poisonous breath of the creatures of the marshes to be wafted into the bodies of the inhabitants, they will make the site unhealthy.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 4, Sec. 1. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 16.
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When there are too many deer in the forest or too many cats in the barn, nature restores the balance by the introduction of a communicable disease or virus.
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When you treat a disease, first treat the mind.
Chen Jen
…...
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While the nature of Texas fever is by no means made clear as yet, we are able to affirm that ticks can produce it. Whether the disease can be transmitted by any other agency must be decided by future investigations. Meanwhile the evidence accumulated thus far seems to favor very strongly the dictum: No ticks, no Texas fever.
'Investigations of the Infectious Diseases of Animals', in Report of the Bureau of Animal Industry (1889-90), 98.
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While there are several chronic diseases more destructive to life than cancer, none is more feared.
Charles H. Mayo and William A. Hendricks, 'Carcinoma of the Right Segment of the Colon', presented to Southern Surgical Assoc. (15 Dec 1925). In Annals of Surgery (Mar 1926), 83, 357.
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Why Become Extinct? Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated (became suddenly or slowly too hot or cold or dry or wet), or that the diet did (with too much food or not enough of such substances as fern oil; from poisons in water or plants or ingested minerals; by bankruptcy of calcium or other necessary elements). Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders (slipped vertebral discs, malfunction or imbalance of hormone and endocrine systems, dwindling brain and consequent stupidity, heat sterilization, effects of being warm-blooded in the Mesozoic world), racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth's rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, draining of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of standing room in Noah’s Ark, and palaeoweltschmerz.
'Riddles of the Terrible Lizards', American Scientist (1964) 52, 231.
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You may know the intractability of a disease by its long list of remedies.
…...
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[I have seen] workers in whom certain morbid affections gradually arise from some particular posture of the limbs or unnatural movements of the body called for while they work. Such are the workers who all day stand or sit, stoop or are bent double, who run or ride or exercise their bodies in all sorts of [excess] ways. ... the harvest of diseases reaped by certain workers ... [from] irregular motions in unnatural postures of the body.
translation published by the University of Chicago Press, 1940
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[William Gull] endeavoured, above all things, to study the natural history of disease, uncomplicated by the action of unnecessary drugs, and he resented all useless interference with the course of nature. He would say of meddlesome poly-pharmacy—“Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread.”
Stated in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xxv-xxvi.
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[William Gull] sought to teach his students not to think they could cure disease. “The best of all remedies,” he would say, “is a warm bed.” “ I can tell you something of how you get ill, but I cannot tell you how you get well.” “ Healing is accomplished ‘By an operation more divine Than tongue or pen can give expression to.’” “Remedies act best when there is a tendency to get well.”
Stated in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xxvi.
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‘Men die of the diseases which they have studied most,’ remarked the surgeon, snipping off the end of a cigar with all his professional neatness and finish. ‘It's as if the morbid condition was an evil creature which, when it found itself closely hunted, flew at the throat of its pursuer. If you worry the microbes too much they may worry you. I've seen cases of it, and not necessarily in microbic diseases either. There was, of course, the well-known instance of Liston and the aneurism; and a dozen others that I could mention.’
First lines of 'The Surgeon Talks', in Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life (1894), 316.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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