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Medicine Quotes (256 quotes)

... we ought to have saints' days to commemorate the great discoveries which have been made for all mankind, and perhaps for all time—or for whatever time may be left to us. Nature ... is a prodigal of pain. I should like to find a day when we can take a holiday, a day of jubilation when we can fête good Saint Anaesthesia and chaste and pure Saint Antiseptic. ... I should be bound to celebrate, among others, Saint Penicillin...
Speech at Guildhall, London (10 Sep 1947). Collected in Winston Churchill and Randolph Spencer Churchill (ed.), Europe Unite: Speeches, 1947 and 1948 (1950), 138.
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In a 1852 letter, Nightingale records the opinion of a young surgeon:
The account he gives of nurses beats everything that even I know of. This young prophet says that they are all drunkards, without exception, Sisters and all, and that there are but two whom the surgeon can trust to give the patients their medicines.
Letter to Miss H. Bonham Carter (8 Jan 1852), quoted in Edward Tyas Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale (1914), Vol. 1, 116.
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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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Les médecins les plus savans en théorie sont rarement les plus habile practiciens.
The doctors most learned in theory are seldom the most skilled practitioners.
Maxim No. 281 in Maximes, Réflexions et Pensées Diverses (1819), 236.
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A barbarous practice, the inconsistency, folly, and injury of which no words can sufficiently describe.
Condemning the use of mercurial medicines.
Quoted in Wooster Beach, A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Health (1848), 177.
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A desire to take medicine is, perhaps, the great feature which distinguishes man from other animals.
'Recent Advances in Medicine', Science (1891), 17, 170.
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A faithful friend is the medicine of life.
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A faithful friend is the medicine of life; and they that fear the Lord shall find him.
King James version, Ecclesiasticus 6:16.
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A good gulp of hot whisky at bedtime—it’s not very scientific, but it helps.
Response when questioned about the common cold.
News summaries of 22 Mar 1954.
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A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.
As quoted in a book review in The Royal Society of Health Journal (1955), 225.
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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 merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
King James Bible, Old Testament, Proverbs 17:22.
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A night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.
[For centuries mercury was used as a treatment for syphilis.]
Saying. In Michael J. O'Dowd and Elliot Philipp, The History of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2000), 227.
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A physician ought to have his shop provided with plenty of all necessary things, as lint, rollers, splinters: let there be likewise in readiness at all times another small cabinet of such things as may serve for occasions of going far from home; let him have also all sorts of plasters, potions, and purging medicines, so contrived that they may keep some considerable time, and likewise such as may be had and used whilst they are fresh.
In Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1876), 536.
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A reference to the two sorts of doctors is also found in the Republic: “Now you know that when patients do not require medicine, but have only to be put under a regimen, the inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of a man.”
Osler is referring to Plato’s Dialogues, iii, 153. In Address (1893) to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Historical Club, 'Physic and Physicians as Depicted in Plato', collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 70.
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A story about the Jack Spratts of medicine [was] told recently by Dr. Charles H. Best, co-discoverer of insulin. He had been invited to a conference of heart specialists in North America. On the eve of the meeting, out of respect for the fat-clogs-the-arteries theory, the delegates sat down to a special banquet served without fats. It was unpalatable but they all ate it as a duty. Next morning Best looked round the breakfast room and saw these same specialists—all in the 40-60 year old, coronary age group—happily tucking into eggs, bacon, buttered toast and coffee with cream.
'Objections To High-Fat Diets', Eat Fat And Grow Slim (1958), Ch. 3.
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A time will come, when fields will be manured with a solution of glass (silicate of potash), with the ashes of burnt straw, and with the salts of phosphoric acid, prepared in chemical manufactories, exactly as at present medicines are given for fever and goitre.
Agricultural Chemistry (1847), 4th edn., 186.
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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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A wealthy doctor who can help a poor man, and will not without a fee, has less sense of humanity than a poor ruffian who kills a rich man to supply his necessities. It is something monstrous to consider a man of a liberal education tearing out the bowels of a poor family by taking for a visit what would keep them a week.
In The Tatler: Or, Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq (8 Oct 1709), collected in Harrison’s British Classicks (1785), Vol. 3, No. 78, 220. Isaac Bickerstaff was the nom de plume used by Richard Steele, who published it—with uncredited contributions from Joseph Addison under the same invented name. The original has no authorship indicated for the item, but (somehow?) later publications attribute it to Addison. For example, in Samuel Austin Allibone (ed.), Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1876), 535.
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A well-chosen anthology is a complete dispensary of medicine for the more common mental disorders, and may be used as much for prevention as cure.
'The Use of Poetry', On English Poetry (1922), 85.
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A wise physician, skill’d our wounds to heal, is more than armies to the public weal.
Homer and Alexander Pope (trans.), The Iliad of Homer (1809), Vol. 2, 144.
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About medications that are drunk or applied to wounds it is worth learning from everyone; for people do not discover these by reasoning but by chance, and experts not more than laymen.
Affections, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1988), Vol. 5, 69. Littré VI, 254.

Carl Sagan quote Advances in medicine and agriculture
A bean farmer checks her crop in Congo. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT). CC2.0 (source)
Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996), 11.
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After the birth of printing books became widespread. Hence everyone throughout Europe devoted himself to the study of literature... Every year, especially since 1563, the number of writings published in every field is greater than all those produced in the past thousand years. Through them there has today been created a new theology and a new jurisprudence; the Paracelsians have created medicine anew and the Copernicans have created astronomy anew. I really believe that at last the world is alive, indeed seething, and that the stimuli of these remarkable conjunctions did not act in vain.
De Stella Nova, On the New Star (1606), Johannes Kepler Gesammelte Werke (1937- ), Vol. 1, 330-2. Quoted in N. Jardine, The Birth of History and Philosophy of Science: Kepler's A Defence of Tycho Against Ursus With Essays on its Provenance and Significance (1984), 277-8.
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Almost every major systematic error which has deluded men for thousands of years relied on practical experience. Horoscopes, incantations, oracles, magic, witchcraft, the cures of witch doctors and of medical practitioners before the advent of modern medicine, were all firmly established through the centuries in the eyes of the public by their supposed practical successes. The scientific method was devised precisely for the purpose of elucidating the nature of things under more carefully controlled conditions and by more rigorous criteria than are present in the situations created by practical problems.
Personal Knowledge (1958), 183.
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And I do not take my medicines from the apothecaries; their shops are but foul sculleries, from which comes nothing but foul broths. As for you, you defend your kingdom with belly-crawling and flattery. How long do you think this will last? ... let me tell you this: every little hair on my neck knows more than you and all your scribes, and my shoebuckles are more learned than your Galen and Avicenna, and my beard has more experience than all your high colleges.
'Credo', in J. Jacobi (ed.), Paracelsus: Selected Writings (1951), 80.
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And it has been sarcastically said, that there is a wide difference between a good physician and a bad one, but a small difference between a good physician and no physician at all; by which it is meant to insinuate, that the mischievous officiousness of art does commonly more than counterbalance any benefit derivable from it.
Elements of Medical Logic (1819), 8-9.
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And therefore, sir, as you desire to live,
A day or two before your laxative,
Take just three worms, nor under nor above,
Because the gods unequal numbers love.
These digestives prepare you for your purge,
Of fumetery, centaury, and spurge;
And of ground-ivy add a leaf or two.
All which within our yard or garden grow.
Eat these, and be, my lord, of better cheer:
Your father’s son was never born to fear.
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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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Any physician who advertises a positive cure for any disease, who issues nostrum testimonials, who sells his services to a secret remedy, or who diagnoses and treats by mail patients he has never seen, is a quack.
'The Sure-Cure School,' Collier’s Weekly (14 Jul 1906). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 84.
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Arguably the greatest technological triumph of the century has been the public-health system, which is sophisticated preventive and investigative medicine organized around mostly low- and medium-tech equipment; ... fully half of us are alive today because of the improvements.
In Visions of Technology (1999), 22.
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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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Botany, the eldest daughter of medicine.
As written in Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession, translated by Henry Ebenezer Handerson (1889), 843. The expression 'daughter of medicine' has been applied by other authors to other disciplines. Baas may have simply recorded this example from common use.
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But Medicine is a demonstrative Science, and all its processes should be proved by established principles, and be based on positive inductions. That the proceedings of Medicine are not of this character, in to be attributed to the manner of its cultivation, and not to the nature of the Science itself.
Samuel Jackson, Principles of Medicine (1832). Quoted in Alva Curtis, A Fair Examination and Criticism of All the Medical Systems in Vogue (1855), 1.
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But medicine has long had all its means to hand, and has discovered both a principle and a method, through which the discoveries made during a long period are many and excellent, while full discovery will be made, if the inquirer be competent, conduct his researches with knowledge of the discoveries already made, and make them his starting-point. But anyone who, casting aside and rejecting all these means, attempts to conduct research in any other way or after another fashion, and asserts that he has found out anything, is and has been victim of deception.
Ancient Medicine, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. I, 15.
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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 medicine life may be prolong'd, yet death
Will seize the Doctor too.
Cymbeline (1609, publ. 1623), Act 5, Scene 5. In Charles Knight (ed.), The Works of William Shakspere (1868), 605.
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Cancer is a biological, not a statistical problem.
'Shoot Out in Marlboro Country', Mother Jones Magazine (Jan 1979), 36.
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Casting off the dark fog of verbal philosophy and vulgar medicine, which inculcate names alone ... I tried a series of experiments to explain more clearly many phenomena, particularly those of physiology. In order that I might subject as far as possible the reasonings of the Galenists and Peripatetics to sensory criteria, I began, after trying experiments, to write dialogues in which a Galenist adduced the better-known and stronger reasons and arguments; these a mechanist surgeon refuted by citing to the contrary the experiments I had tried, and a third, neutral interlocutor weighed the reasons advanced by both and provided an opportunity for further progress.
'Malpighi at Pisa 1656-1659', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 1, 155-6.
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Chemistry... is like the maid occupied with daily civilisation; she is busy with fertilisers, medicines, glass, insecticides ... for she dispenses the recipes.
Les Confessions d'un Chimiste Ordinaire (1981), 5. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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Chymistry. … An art whereby sensible bodies contained in vessels … are so changed, by means of certain instruments, and principally fire, that their several powers and virtues are thereby discovered, with a view to philosophy or medicine.
An antiquated definition, as quoted in Samuel Johnson, entry for 'Chymistry' in Dictionary of the English Language (1785). Also in The Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature, and the Arts (1821), 284, wherein a letter writer (only identified as “C”) points out that this definition still appeared in the, then, latest Rev. Mr. Todd’s Edition of Johnson’s Dictionary, and that it showed “very little improvement of scientific words.” The letter included examples of better definitions by Black and by Davy. (See their pages on this website.)
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Clinical ecology [is] a new branch of medicine aimed at helping people made sick by a failure to adapt to facets of our modern, polluted environment. Adverse reactions to processed foods and their chemical contaminants, and to indoor and outdoor air pollution with petrochemicals, are becoming more and more widespread and so far these reactions are being misdiagnosed by mainstream medical practitioners and so are not treated effectively.
Quoted in article 'Richard Mackarness', Contemporary Authors Online (2002).
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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.
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Dermatology ... this young daughter of medicine ...
Address (7 Sep 1887), 'Dermatology in its Relation to General Medicine', at Ninth Session, International Medical Congress, Washington, D.C. In The Medical News (17 Sep 1887), 51, No. 12, 325. Unna used the expression 'daughter of medicine' in this context, but this phrase had been used before him.
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Doctor, no medicine.—We are machines made to live—organized expressly for that purpose.—Such is our nature.—Do not counteract the living principle.—Leave it at liberty to defend itself, and it will do better than your drugs.
As given in Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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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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During the time that [Karl] Landsteiner gave me an education in the field of imununology, I discovered that he and I were thinking about the serologic problem in very different ways. He would ask, What do these experiments force us to believe about the nature of the world? I would ask, What is the most. simple and general picture of the world that we can formulate that is not ruled by these experiments? I realized that medical and biological investigators were not attacking their problems the same way that theoretical physicists do, the way I had been in the habit of doing.
‘Molecular Disease’, Pfizer Spectrum (1958), 6:9, 234.
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Each time one of the medicine men dies, it's as if a library has burned down.
{Referring to potential knowledge from indiginous peoples of the medicinal value of tropical plants, speaking as director of the plant program of the World Wildlife Fund and having spent many months living with the Tirio tribe on the Suriname-Brazil border.]
Quoted in Jamie Murphy and Andrea Dorfman, 'The Quiet Apocalypse,' Time (13 Oct 1986).
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Earlier this week … scientists announced the completion of a task that once seemed unimaginable; and that is, the deciphering of the entire DNA sequence of the human genetic code. This amazing accomplishment is likely to affect the 21st century as profoundly as the invention of the computer or the splitting of the atom affected the 20th century. I believe that the 21st century will be the century of life sciences, and nothing makes that point more clearly than this momentous discovery. It will revolutionize medicine as we know it today.
Senate Session, Congressional Record (29 Jun 2000) Vol. 146, No 85, S6050.
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Error has indeed long darkened the horizon of medical science; and albeit there have been lightnings like coruscations of genius from time to time, still they have passed away, and left the atmosphere as dark as before.
Memoirs of John Abernethy (1854), 293.
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Even in populous districts, the practice of medicine is a lonely road which winds up-hill all the way and a man may easily go astray and never reach the Delectable Mountains unless he early finds those shepherd guides of whom Bunyan tells, Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere.
In Aequanimitas (1906), 299.
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Even the mind depends so much on temperament and the disposition of one’s bodily organs that, if it is possible to find a way to make people generally more wise and more skilful than they have been in the past, I believe that we should look for it in medicine. It is true that medicine as it is currently practiced contains little of much use.
In Discourse on Method as translated by Desmond M. Clarke, in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1999), 44. Also see an earlier translation that begins “For the mind…” on this web page.
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Even the taking of medicine serves to make time go on with less heaviness. I have a sort of genius for physic and always had great entertainment in observing the changes of the human body and the effects produced by diet, labor, rest, and physical operations.
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Eventually the process of aging, which is unlikely to be simple, should be understandable. Hopefully some of its processes can be slowed down or avoided. In fact, in the next century, we shall have to tackle the question of the preferred form of death.
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For even they who compose treatises of medicine or natural philosophy in verse are denominated Poets: yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common except their metre; the former, therefore, justly merits the name of the Poet; while the other should rather be called a Physiologist than a Poet.
Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, I:2, trans. Thomas Twining (1957), 103
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For it is a good remedy sometimes to apply nothing at all.
Hippocrates wrote this concerning “both to the ear and to many other cases.” In 'On the Articulations', Part 40 (400 BC), as translated by Francis Adams, The Genuine Works of Hippocrates (1886), Vol. 2, 113. Also often seen quoted more briefly as “To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.”
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For the mind is so intimately dependent upon the condition and relation of the organs of the body, that if any means can ever be found to render men wiser and more ingenious than hitherto, I believe that it is in medicine they must be sought for. It is true that the science of medicine, as it now exists, contains few things whose utility is very remarkable.
In A Discourse on Method (1637) as translated by John Veitch, Everyman’s Library: Philosophy & Theology: A Discourse on Method, Etc. (1912, 1916), 49-50. A later translation of this quote begins “Even the mind…” on this web page.
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Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.
The Second Sin (1973), 115.
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From packaging materials, through fibers, foams and surface coatings, to continuous extrusions and large-scale moldings, plastics have transformed almost every aspect of life. Without them, much of modern medicine would be impossible and the consumer electronics and computer industries would disappear. Plastic sewage and water pipes alone have made an immeasurable contribution to public health worldwide.
'Plastics—No Need To Apologize', Trends in Polymer Science (Jun 1996), 4, 172. In Paul C. Painter and Michael M. Coleman, Essentials of Polymer Science and Engineering (2008), 21.
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Good applied science in medicine, as in physics, requires a high degree of certainty about the basic facts at hand, and especially about their meaning, and we have not yet reached this point for most of medicine.
The Medusa and the Snail (1979), 143.
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Good lawyers know that in many cases where the decisions are correct, the reasons that are given to sustain them may be entirely wrong. This is a thousand times more likely to be true in the practice of medicine than in that of the law, and hence the impropriety, not to say the folly, in spending your time in the discussion of medical belief and theories of cure that are more ingenious and seductive than they are profitable.
Introductory lecture (22 Sep 1885), Hahnemann Medical College, Chicago, printed in United States Medical Investigator (1885), 21, 526.
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Grief is itself a med'cine.
'Charity' (published 1782). In William Cowper and Humphrey Sumner Milford (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper (1905), 79.
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He that takes medicine and neglects to diet himself wastes the skill of the physician.
Chinese proverb.
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He will manage the cure best who has foreseen what is to happen from the present state of matters.
In 'The Book of Prognostics', Part 1 (400 BC), as translated by Francis Adams, The Genuine Works of Hippocrates (1849), Vol. 1, 113. Also seen translated as “He will manage the cure best who foresees what is to happen from the present condition of the patient.”
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He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1733).
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He, who for an ordinary cause, resigns the fate of his patient to mercury, is a vile enemy to the sick; and, if he is tolerably popular, will, in one successful season, have paved the way for the business of life, for he has enough to do, ever afterward, to stop the mercurial breach of the constitutions of his dilapidated patients. He has thrown himself in fearful proximity to death, and has now to fight him at arm's length as long as the patient maintains a miserable existence.
Quoted by William M. Scribner, 'Treatment of Pneumonia and Croup, Once More, Etc,' in The Medical World (1885), 3, 187.
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Heaven defend me from a busy doctor.
Welsh Proverb. In Henry Louis Mencken, A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942), 299.
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Here lies one who for medicines would not give
A little gold, and so his life he lost;
I fancy now he'd wish again to live,
Could he but guess how much his funeral cost.
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Histology is an exotic meal, but can be as repulsive as a dose of medicine for students who are obliged to study it, and little loved by doctors who have finished their study of it all too hastily. Taken compulsorily in large doses it is impossible to digest, but after repeated tastings in small draughts it becomes completely agreeable and even addictive. Whoever possesses a refined sensitivity for artistic manifestations will appreciate that, in the science of histology, there exists an inherent focus of aesthetic emotions.
Opening remarks of paper, 'Art and Artifice in the Science of Histology' (1933), reprinted in Histopathology (1993), 22, 515-525. Quoted in Ross, Pawlina and Barnash, Atlas of Descriptive Histology (2009).
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Hygiene is the corruption of medicine by morality. It is impossible to find a hygienist who does not debase his theory of the healthful with a theory of the virtuous. ... The aim of medicine is surely not to make men virtuous; it is to safeguard them from the consequences of their vices.
In 'The Physician', Prejudices: third series (1922), 269.
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I also maintain that clear knowledge of natural science must be acquired, in the first instance, through mastery of medicine alone.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 14.
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I believe that the medical treatment of the various abnormal conditions arising in infants is in the future to be largely dietetic rather than by means of drugs.
Preface to the First Edition (Oct 1895). In Pediatrics: the hygienic and medical treatment of children (5th. ed., 1906), ix.
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I came by the horror naturally. Surgery is the one branch of medicine that is the most violent. After all, it’s violent to take up a knife and cut open a person’s body and rummage around with your hands. I think I was attracted to the horrific.
As quoted in Randy Hutter Epstein, 'Richard Selzer, Who Fictionalized Medicine’s Absurdity and Gore, Dies at 87', New York Times (15 Jun 2016). Explaining why his first fiction writing was horror stories.
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I cannot think of a single field in biology or medicine in which we can claim genuine understanding, and it seems to me the more we learn about living creatures, especially ourselves, the stranger life becomes.
In 'On Science and Certainty', Discover Magazine (Oct 1980).
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I consider the study of medicine to have been that training which preached more impressively and more convincingly than any other could have done, the everlasting principles of all scientific work; principles which are so simple and yet are ever forgotten again, so clear and yet always hidden by a deceptive veil.
In Lecture (2 Aug 1877) delivered on the anniversary of the foundation of the Institute for the Education of Army Surgeons, 'On Thought in Medicine', collected in 'Popular Scientific Lectures', The Humboldt Library of Popular Science Literature (1 Jul 1881), 1, No. 24, 18, (renumbered as p.748 in reprint volume of Nos. 1-24).
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I despise Birth-Control first because it is ... an entirely meaningless word; and is used so as to curry favour even with those who would first recoil from its real meaning. The proceeding these quack doctors recommend does not control any birth. ... But these people know perfectly well that they dare not write the plain word Birth-Prevention, in any one of the hundred places where they write the hypocritical word Birth-Control. They know as well as I do that the very word Birth-Prevention would strike a chill into the public... Therefore they use a conventional and unmeaning word, which may make the quack medicine sound more innocuous. ... A child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce ... he is their own creative contribution to creation.
In 'Babies and Distributism', The Well and the Shadows (1935). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 272.
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I devoted myself to studying the texts—the original and commentaries—in the natural sciences and metaphysics, and the gates of knowledge began opening for me. Next I sought to know medicine, and so read the books written on it. Medicine is not one of the difficult sciences, and therefore, I excelled in it in a very short time, to the point that distinguished physicians began to read the science of medicine under me. I cared for the sick and there opened to me some of the doors of medical treatment that are indescribable and can be learned only from practice. In addition I devoted myself to jurisprudence and used to engage in legal disputations, at that time being sixteen years old.
W. E. Gohhnan, The Life of Ibn Sina: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation (1974), 25-7.
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I do not … reject the use of statistics in medicine, but I condemn not trying to get beyond them and believing in statistics as the foundation of medical science. … Statistics … apply only to cases in which the cause of the facts observed is still [uncertain or] indeterminate. … There will always be some indeterminism … in all the sciences, and more in medicine than in any other. But man’s intellectual conquest consists in lessening and driving back indeterminism in proportion as he gains ground for determinism by the help of the experimental method..
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 138-140.
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I don’t believe medical discoveries are doing much to advance human life. As fast as we create ways to extend it we are inventing ways to shorten it.
What They Said (1970), 374.
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I feel more confident and more satisfied when I reflect that I have two professions and not one. Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress. When I get tired of one I spend the night with the other. Though it's disorderly it's not so dull, and besides, neither really loses anything, through my infidelity.
In letter to A.S. Suvorin (11 Sep 1888).
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I have lived myself to see the disciples of Hoffman, Boerhaave, Stalh, Cullen, Brown, succeed one another like the shifting figures of a magic lanthern, and their fancies, like the dresses of the annual doll-babies from Paris, becoming from their novelty, the vogue of the day, and yielding to the next novelty their ephemeral favor. The patient, treated on the fashionable theory, sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine.
In letter to Caspar Wistar (21 Jun 1807), collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 4, 93.
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I have patiently born with abundance of Clamour and Ralary [raillery], for beginning a new Practice here (for the Good of the Publick) which comes well Recommended, from Gentlemen of Figure & Learning, and which well agrees to Reason, when try’d & duly considered, viz. Artificially giving the Small Pocks, by Inoculation, to One of my Children, and Two of my Slaves, in order to prevent the hazard of Life… . and they never took one grain or drop of Medicine since, & are perfectly well.
By “clamour” he is referring to the public commotion in Boston reacting to his introduction of smallpox inoculation. Public statement in the Gazette (Jul 10-17), No. 85, 1721. As quoted and cited in Reginald H. Fitz, 'Zabdiel Boylston, Inoculator, and the Epidemic of Smallpox in Boston in 1721', Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital (1911), 22, 319.
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I have sometimes experienced from nitrous oxide, sensations similar to no others, and they have consequently been indescribable. This has been likewise often the case with other persons. Of two paralytic patients who were asked what they felt after breathing nitrous oxide, the first answered, “I do not know how, but very queer.” The second said, “I felt like the sound of a harp.”
Referring to his investigation of the effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
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I like to think that when Medawar and his colleagues showed that immunological tolerance could be produced experimentally the new immunology was born. This is a science which to me has far greater potentialities both for practical use in medicine and for the better understanding of living process than the classical immunochemistry which it is incorporating and superseding.
'Immunological Recognition of Self', Nobel Lecture, 12 December 1960. In Nobel Lectures Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962 (1964), 689.
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I look upon statistics as the handmaid of medicine, but on that very account I hold that it befits medicine to treat her handmaid with proper respect, and not to prostitute her services for controversial or personal purposes.
'On the Influence of the Sanatorium Treatment of Tuberculosis', British Medical Journal (1910), 1, 1517.
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I love doctors and hate their medicine.
In Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906), Vol. 1, 433.
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I strive that in public dissection the students do as much as possible so that if even the least trained of them must dissect a cadaver before a group of spectators, he will be able to perform it accurately with his own hands; and by comparing their studies one with another they will properly understand, this part of medicine.
In De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem [Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body] (1543), 547. Quoted and trans. in Charles Donald O'Malley, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564 (1964), 144.
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I think it perfectly just, that he who, from the love of experiment, quits an approved for an uncertain practice, should suffer the full penalty of Egyptian law against medical innovation; as I would consign to the pillory, the wretch, who out of regard to his character, that is, to his fees, should follow the routine, when, from constant experience he is sure that his patient will die under it, provided any, not inhuman, deviation would give his patient a chance.
From his researches in Fever, 196. In John Edmonds Stock, Memoirs of the life of Thomas Beddoes (1810), 400.
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I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give any woman the instrument to procure abortion. … I will not cut a person who is suffering with stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of such work.
From 'The Oath', as translated by Francis Adams in The Genuine Works of Hippocrates (1849), Vol. 2, 780.
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I would teach the world that science is the best way to understand the world, and that for any set of observations, there is only one correct explanation. Also, science is value-free, as it explains the world as it is. Ethical issues arise only when science is applied to technology – from medicine to industry.
Response to question “What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?” in 'Life Lessons' The Guardian (7 Apr 2005).
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I'm not a wizard or a Frankenstein tampering with Nature. We are not creating life. We have merely done what many people try to do in all kinds of medicine—to help nature. We found nature could not put an egg and sperm together, so we did it. We do not see anything immoral in doing that in the interests of the mother. I cannot see anything immoral in trying to help the patient’s problem.
As quoted by thr Associated Press after the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby born by in vitro fertilization. Reprinted in, for example,'First test-tube baby born in England', Toledo Blade (27 Jul 1978), 1. As reported, the first sentence was given in its own quote marks, followed by “Dr. Steptoe said,” so the quote may not have been delivered as a single statement.
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If medical science continues to prolong human life, some of us may eventually pay off the mortgage.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1968, 1995), 532.
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If migraine patients have a common and legitimate second complaint besides their migraines, it is that they have not been listened to by physicians. Looked at, investigated, drugged, charged, but not listened to.
Quoted by Walter Clemons, 'Listening to the Lost', Newsweek (20 Aug 1984).
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If my efforts have led to greater success than usual, this is due, I believe, to the fact that during my wanderings in the field of medicine, I have strayed onto paths where the gold was still lying by the wayside. It takes a little luck to be able to distinguish gold from dross, but that is all.
'Robert Koch', Journal of Outdoor Life (1908), 5, 164-9.
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If popular medicine gave the people wisdom as well as knowledge, it would be the best protection for scientific and well-trained physicians.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 577.
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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 thou examinest a man having a break in the column of his nose, his nose being disfigured, and a [depression] being in it, while the swelling that is on it protrudes, [and] he had discharged blood from both his nostrils, thou shouldst say concerning him: “One having a break in the column of his nose. An ailment which I will treat. “Thou shouldst cleanse [it] for him [with] two plugs of linen. Thou shouldst place two [other] plugs of linen saturated with grease in the inside of his two nostrils. Thou shouldst put [him] at his mooring stakes until the swelling is drawn out. Thou shouldst apply for him stiff rolls of linen by which his nose is held fast. Thou shouldst treat him afterward [with] lint, every day until he recovers.
(circa 1700 B.C.) From “The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus”, an ancient Egyptian document regarded as the earliest known historical record of scientific thought. As translated in James Henry Breasted, The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus: Published in Facsimile and Hieroglyphic Transliteration with Translation and Commentary (1930), 440.
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If you care to be a master or to make a true success of your profession, the smallest detail of your work must be done with thoroughness. To be thorough in medicine means that in the ever alluring present, we do not forget the past.
Opening address to the Medical Department of the University of Michigan, Sep 1914. Quoted by Howard Markel in 'When it Rains it Pours' : Endemic Goiter, Iodized Salt, and David Murray Cowie, M.D. American Journal of Public Health, Feb 1987, vol.77, No.2, page 227.
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If you could see what I almost daily see in my practice … persons … in the very last stages of wretched existence, emaciated to a skeleton, with both tables of the skull almost completely perforated in many places, half the nose gone, with rotten jaws, ulerated throats, breaths most pestiferous more intolerable than poisonous upas, limbs racked with the pains of the Inquisition, minds as imbecile as the puling babe, a grievous burden to themselves and a disgusting spectacle to others, you would exclaim as I have often done, 'O! the lamentable want of science that dictates the abuse (use) of that noxious drug calomel!'
[Calomel is the mercury compound, Hg2Cl2.]
Quoted in Wooster Beach, A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Health (1848), 177.
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If you intend to give a sick man medicine, let him get very ill first, so that he may see the benefit of your medicine.
African proverb, Nupe
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Ignorance and credulous hope make the market for most proprietary remedies.
'The Subtle Poisons,' Collier’s Weekly (2 Dec 1905). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 32.
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In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects.
Speech to the U.S. Senate (21 Apr 1966). In Tristram Coffin, Senator Fulbright; Portrait of a Public Philosopher (1966), 12.
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In a scientific journal, a major consideration is whether the book reviewed has made a contribution to medical science. Cynics may well say that they know of no psychiatric text that would meet such conditions, and they may be right.
Myre Sim
In book review by Myre Sim, about 'Ending the Cycle of Abuse', The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (May 1997), 42:4, 425.
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In all our academies we attempt far too much. ... In earlier times lectures were delivered upon chemistry and botany as branches of medicine, and the medical student learned enough of them. Now, however, chemistry and botany are become sciences of themselves, incapable of comprehension by a hasty survey, and each demanding the study of a whole life, yet we expect the medical student to understand them. He who is prudent, accordingly declines all distracting claims upon his time, and limits himself to a single branch and becomes expert in one thing.
Quoted in Johann Hermann Baas, Henry Ebenezer Handerson (trans.), Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession (1889), 842-843.
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In early times, medicine was an art, which took its place at the side of poetry and painting; to-day, they try to make a science of it, placing it beside mathematics, astronomy, and physics.
In Armand Trousseau and John Rose Cormack (trans.), Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1869), Vol. 2, 40.
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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 such sad circumstances I but see myself exalted by my own enemies, for in order to defeat some small works of mine they try to make the whole rational medicine and anatomy fall, as if I were myself these noble disciplines.
'Letter to Marescotti about the dispute with Sbaraglia and others, 1689(?)', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), The Correspondence of Marcello Malpighi (1975), Vol. 4, 1561.
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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 sick room, ten cents’ worth of human understanding equals ten dollars' worth of medical science.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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Inexact method of observation, as I believe, is one flaw in clinical pathology to-day. Prematurity of conclusion is another, and in part follows from the first; but in chief part an unusual craving and veneration for hypothesis, which besets the minds of most medical men, is responsible. Except in those sciences which deal with the intangible or with events of long past ages, no treatises are to be found in which hypothesis figures as it does in medical writings. The purity of a science is to be judged by the paucity of its recorded hypotheses. Hypothesis has its right place, it forms a working basis; but it is an acknowledged makeshift, and, at the best, of purpose unaccomplished. Hypothesis is the heart which no man with right purpose wears willingly upon his sleeve. He who vaunts his lady love, ere yet she is won, is apt to display himself as frivolous or his lady a wanton.
The Mechanism and Graphic Registration of the Heart Beat (1920), vii.
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Is it not evident, in these last hundred years (when the Study of Philosophy has been the business of all the Virtuosi in Christendome) that almost a new Nature has been revealed to us? that more errours of the School have been detected, more useful Experiments in Philosophy have been made, more Noble Secrets in Opticks, Medicine, Anatomy, Astronomy, discover'd, than in all those credulous and doting Ages from Aristotle to us? So true it is that nothing spreads more fast than Science, when rightly and generally cultivated.
Of Dramatic Poesie (1684 edition), lines 258-67, in James T. Boulton (ed.) (1964), 44
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It amounts to a truism to say that progress in the practical arts of medicine in any of its branches, whether preventive or curative, only comes from the growth of accurate knowledge as it accumulates in the laboratories and studies of the various sciences.
From Norman Lockyer Lecture delivered before the British Science Guild (19 Nov 1929), 'Medical Research: The Tree and the Fruit', in The British Medical Journal (30 Nov 1929), Vol. 2, No. 3595, 995.
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It is a curious and painful fact that almost all the completely futile treatments that have been believed in during the long history of medical folly have been such as caused acute suffering to the patient. When anesthetics were discovered, pious people considered them an attempt to evade the will of God. It was pointed out, however, that when God extracted Adam's rib He put him into a deep sleep. This proved that anesthetics are all right for men; women, however, ought to suffer, because of the curse of Eve.
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 13.
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It is customary to connect Medicine with Botany, yet scientific treatment demands that we should consider each separately. For the fact is that in every art, theory must be disconnected and separated from practice, and the two must be dealt with singly and individually in their proper order before they are united. And for that reason, in order that Botany, which is, as it were, a special branch of Natural Philosophy [Physica], may form a unit by itself before it can be brought into connection with other sciences, it must be divided and unyoked from Medicine.
Methodi herbariae libri tres (1592), translated in Agnes Arber, Herbals: Their Origin and Evolution, 2nd edition (1938), 144.
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It is easy for men to give advice, but difficult for one's self to follow; we have an example in physicians: for their patients they order a strict regime, for themselves, on going to bed, they do all that they have forbidden to others.
'The Sicilian.' In Gustave Jules Witkowski, The Evil that Has Been Said of Doctors (1889), 4-5
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It is necessary that a surgeon should have a temperate and moderate disposition. That he should have well-formed hands, long slender fingers, a strong body, not inclined to tremble and with all his members trained to the capable fulfilment of the wishes of his mind. He should be of deep intelligence and of a simple, humble, brave, but not audacious disposition. He should be well grounded in natural science, and should know not only medicine but every part of philosophy; should know logic well, so as to be able to understand what is written, to talk properly, and to support what he has to say by good reasons.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479), as translated by James Joseph Walsh in Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 261.
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It is possible to read books on Natural History with intelligence and profit, and even to make good observations, without a scientific groundwork of biological instruction; and it is possible to arrive at empirical facts of hygiene and medical treatment without any physiological instruction. But in all three cases the absence of a scientific basis will render the knowledge fragmentary and incomplete; and this ought to deter every one from offering an opinion on debatable questions which pass beyond the limit of subjective observations. The psychologist who has not prepared himself by a study of the organism has no more right to be heard on the genesis of the psychical states, or of the relations between body and mind, than one of the laity has a right to be heard on a question of medical treatment.
The Physical Basis of Mind (1877), 4.
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It is said to be the manner of hypochondriacs to change often their physician …For a physician who does not admit the reality of the disease cannot be supposed to take much pains to cure it.
First Lines of the Practice of Physic, (annoted by John Rotheram, 1796), Vol. 3, 297-8.

It is Surgery that, long after it has passed into obsolescence, will be remembered as the glory of Medicine.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 51.
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It ought ... to be understood that no one can be a good physician who has no idea of surgical operations, and that a surgeon is nothing if ignorant of medicine. In a word, one must be familiar with both departments of medicine.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479). In Henry Ebenezer Handerson, Gilbertus Anglicus (1918), 77,
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It seeming impossible in any other manner to properly restrict the use of this powerful agent [calomel, a mercury compound, mercurous chloride], it is directed that it be struck from the supply table, and that no further requisitions for this medicine be approved by Medical Directors. ... modern pathology has proved the impropriety of the use of mercury in very many of those diseases in which it was formerly unfailingly administered. ... No doubt can exist that more harm has resulted from the misuse [of this agent], in the treatment of disease, than benefit from their proper administration.
W.A. Hammond, Surgeon General, Washington D.C., 4 May 1863
'Circular No. 6,', in William Grace, The Army Surgeon's Manual (1864), 121.
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It takes fifty years from the discovery of a principle in medicine to its adoption in practice.
In Jess M. Brallier, Medical Wit & Wisdom (1993), 29.
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It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
'The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace', The Inimitable Jeeves (2011), 193.
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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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Laplace considers astronomy a science of observation, because we can only observe the movements of the planets; we cannot reach them, indeed, to alter their course and to experiment with them. “On earth,” said Laplace, “we make phenomena vary by experiments; in the sky, we carefully define all the phenomena presented to us by celestial motion.” Certain physicians call medicine a science of observations, because they wrongly think that experimentation is inapplicable to it.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 18. A footnote cites Laplace, Système du monde, Chap. 2.
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Laughter is a most healthful exercise; it is one of the greatest helps to digestion with which I am acquainted; and the custom prevalent among our forefathers, of exciting it at table by jesters and buffoons, was in accordance with true medical principles.
In George Moody, The English Journal of Education (1858), New Series, 12 , 411.
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Let the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine.
Quoted in Reader's Digest (Mar 1922).
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Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness by promising that he will soon be well, by allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him and by having someone tell him jokes, and let him be solaced also by music on the viol or psaltery. The surgeon must forbid anger, hatred, and sadness in the patient, and remind him that the body grows fat from joy and thin from sadness.
In James Joseph Walsh, Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 270.
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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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Many dishes many diseases,
Many medicines few cures.
In Poor Richard’s Almanack (1734).
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March 24, 1672. I saw the surgeon cut off the leg of a wounded sailor, the stout and gallant man enduring it with incredible patience without being bound to his chair as usual on such painful occasions. I had hardly courage enough to be present. Not being cut off high enough, the gangrene prevailed, and the second operation cost the poor creature his life.
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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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Medical statistics are like a bikini bathing suit: what they reveal is interesting; what they conceal is vital.
'Shoot Out in Marlboro Country', Mother Jones Magazine (Jan 1979), 36.
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Medicine cures the man who is fated not to die.
Chinese proverb.
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Medicine deals with the states of health and disease in the human body. It is a truism of philosophy that a complete knowledge of a thing can only be obtained by elucidating its causes and antecedents, provided, of course, such causes exist. In medicine it is, therefore, necessary that causes of both health and disease should be determined.
'Concerning the Subject-Matter of Medicine', in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 11.
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Medicine for the soul.
[Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes.]
(I. 49. 3) In Kate Louise Roberts, Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1922), 78.
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Medicine has been defined to be the art or science of amusing a sick man with frivolous speculations about his disorder, and of tampering ingeniously, till nature either kills or cures him.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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Medicine has made all its progress during the past fifty years. ... How many operations that are now in use were known fifty years ago?—they were not operations, they were executions.
Speech at the Twentieth Anniversary Dinner of the Society of Medical Jurisprudence, New York (8 Mar 1902). In Mark Twain and Paul Fatout (ed.,) Mark Twain Speaking (2006), 429-430.
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Medicine in its present state is, it seems to me, by now completely discovered, insofar as it teaches in each instance the particular details and the correct measures. For anyone who has an understanding of medicine in this way depends very little upon good luck, but is able to do good with or without luck. For the whole of medicine has been established, and the excellent principles discovered in it clearly have very little need of good luck.
Places in Man, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1995), Vol. 8, 93.
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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 a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.
William Bennett Bean (ed.), Sir William Osler: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings and Writings, No. 265 (1950), 125.
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Medicine is a science which hath been (as we have said) more professed than laboured, and yet more laboured than advanced: the labour having been, in my judgment, rather in circle than in progression. For I find much iteration, but small addition. It considereth causes of diseases, with the occasions or impulsions; the diseases themselves, with the accidents; and the cures, with the preservation.
The Advancement of Learning (1605) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 3, 373.

Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. Medicine, as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution: the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution.
(1848), in his weekly medical newspaper Die Medizinische Reform, 2. In Henry Ernest Sigerist, Medicine and Human Welfare, (1941) 93.
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Medicine is an incoherent assemblage of incoherent ideas, and is, perhaps, of all the physiological Sciences, that which best shows the caprice of the human mind. What did I say! It is not a Science for a methodical mind. It is a shapeless assemblage of inaccurate ideas, of observations often puerile, of deceptive remedies, and of formulae as fantastically conceived as they are tediously arranged.
Bichat's General Anatomy, vol. 1, 17. Quoted in Alva Curtis, A Fair Examination and Criticism of All the Medical Systems in Vogue (1855), 1.
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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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Medicine is not meant to live on.
Collected in Henery George Bohn, A Handbook of Proverbs: Comprising Ray's Collection of English Proverbs (1855), 25.

Medicine is of all the Arts the most noble; but, owing to the ignorance of those who practice it, and of those who, inconsiderately, form a judgment of them, it is at present behind all the arts.
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 283.

Medicine is the one place where all the show is stripped of the human drama. You, as doctors, will be in a position to see the human race stark naked—not only physically, but mentally and morally as well.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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Medicine is the science by which we learn the various states of the human body in health and when not in health, and the means by which health is likely to be lost and, when lost, is likely to be restored back to health. In other words, it is the art whereby health is conserved and the art whereby it is restored after being lost. While some divide medicine into a theoretical and a practical [applied] science, others may assume that it is only theoretical because they see it as a pure science. But, in truth, every science has both a theoretical and a practical side.
'The Definition of Medicine', in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 9.
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Medicine may be defined as the art or the science of keeping a patient quiet with frivolous reasons for his illness and amusing him with remedies good or bad until nature kills him or cures him.
Ménagiana (1693).

Medicine rests upon four pillars—philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, and ethics. The first pillar is the philosophical knowledge of earth and water; the second, astronomy, supplies its full understanding of that which is of fiery and airy nature; the third is an adequate explanation of the properties of all the four elements—that is to say, of the whole cosmos—and an introduction into the art of their transformations; and finally, the fourth shows the physician those virtues which must stay with him up until his death, and it should support and complete the three other pillars.
Vas Buch Paragranum (c.1529-30), in J. Jacobi (ed.), Paracelsus: Selected Writings (1951), 133-4.
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Medicine would be the ideal profession if it did not involve giving pain.
The Health Master (1913), 61.
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MEDICINE, n.  A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  215.
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Medicine, like every useful science, should be thrown open to the observation and study of all. It should, in fact, like law and every important science, be made part of the primary education of the people. … We should at once explode the whole machinery of mystification and concealment—wigs, gold canes, and the gibberish of prescriptions—which serves but as a cloak to ignorance and legalized murder.
Populist philosophy, of Samuel Thomson (1769-1843), founder of the Thomsonian System of medicine, as stated in New York Evening Star (27 Dec 1833)., as cited in the Thomsonian Recorder (17 Jan 1835), 3, 127. Quoted in Paul Starr The Social Transformation of American Medicine (1984), 56.
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Medicine, likewise, because it deals with things, has always been for our serener circles a Cinderella, blooming maid as happily as she has grown nevertheless.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 16.

My opinion is, that more harm than good is done by physicians; and I am convinced, that, had I left my patients to nature, instead of prescribing drugs, more would have been saved.
Quoted by E.T.M. Hurlbut, 'Homeopathy, Hygiene, and Opium,' Address at Annual Meeting of the Nebraska State Homeopathic Medical Association, 19 May 1874. In William Riddle Childs, et al., Pamphlets - Homeopathic (1851), Vol. 6, 3.
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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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Nor bring, to see me cease to live,
Some doctor full of phrase and fame,
To shake his sapient head, and give
The ill he cannot cure a name.
'A Wish' (1867). In Kenneth Allot (ed.), Matthew Arnold: A Selection (1954), 194.

Not one amongst the doctors, as you'll see
For his own friends desires to prescribe.
Fabulae Incertae, Fragment 46, A. In William Shepard Walsh, The International Encyclopedia of Prose and Poetical Quotations from the Literature of the World (1921), 197.
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Nothing is known in our profession by guess; and I do not believe, that from the first dawn of medical science to the present moment, a single correct idea has ever emanated from conjecture: it is right therefore, that those who are studying their profession should be aware that there is no short road to knowledge; and that observation on the diseased living, examination of the dead, and experiments upon living animals, are the only sources of true knowledge; and that inductions from these are the sole bases of legitimate theory.
Astley Paston Cooper, Astley Cooper, Bransby Blake Cooper, A Treatise on Dislocations and Fractures of the Joints (1851), 155.
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Now of the difficulties bound up with the public in which we doctors work, I hesitate to speak in a mixed audience. Common sense in matters medical is rare, and is usually in inverse ratio to the degree of education.
'Teaching and Thinking' (1894). In Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 131.
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Nowadays there is a pill for everything—to keep your nose from running, to keep you regular, to keep your heart beating, to keep your hair from falling out, to improve your muscle tone ... Why thanks to advances in medical science, every day people are dying who never looked better.
In Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (2003), 174-175.
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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 great achievements of the 1950s and 1960s was a [TV] series called Your Life in Their Hands, which dealt with medical science. It presented the scientific evidence for the connection between tobacco and cancer, against the entrenched opposition, all of which you can quite easily imagine. … The “television doctor” … presented the evidence of the connection between the two over and over again on television. A lot of people tried to stop it, but he carried on. It ruined his career, I suspect, in the medical sense, but he stuck to his guns. It’s one of early television’s badges of honour.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 32.
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One of the most successful physicians I have ever known, has assured me, that he used more bread pills, drops of colored water, and powders of hickory ashes, than of all other medicines put together. It was certainly a pious fraud.
In letter to Caspar Wistar (21 Jun 1807), collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 4, 93.
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Only about seventy years ago was chemistry, like a grain of seed from a ripe fruit, separated from the other physical sciences. With Black, Cavendish and Priestley, its new era began. Medicine, pharmacy, and the useful arts, had prepared the soil upon which this seed was to germinate and to flourish.
Familiar Letters on Chemistry (1851),5.
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Organic chemistry has literally placed a new nature beside the old. And not only for the delectation and information of its devotees; the whole face and manner of society has been altered by its products. We are clothed, ornamented and protected by forms of matter foreign to Nature; we travel and are propelled, in, on and by them. Their conquest of our powerful insect enemies, their capacity to modify the soil and control its microscopic flora, their ability to purify and protect our water, have increased the habitable surface of the earth and multiplied our food supply; and the dramatic advances in synthetic medicinal chemistry comfort and maintain us, and create unparalleled social opportunities (and problems).
In 'Synthesis', in A. Todd (ed.), Perspectives in Organic Chemistry (1956), 180.
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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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Owing to his lack of knowledge, the ordinary man cannot attempt to resolve conflicting theories of conflicting advice into a single organized structure. He is likely to assume the information available to him is on the order of what we might think of as a few pieces of an enormous jigsaw puzzle. If a given piece fails to fit, it is not because it is fraudulent; more likely the contradictions and inconsistencies within his information are due to his lack of understanding and to the fact that he possesses only a few pieces of the puzzle. Differing statements about the nature of things, differing medical philosophies, different diagnoses and treatments—all of these are to be collected eagerly and be made a part of the individual's collection of puzzle pieces. Ultimately, after many lifetimes, the pieces will fit together and the individual will attain clear and certain knowledge.
'Strategies of Resort to Curers in South India', contributed in Charles M. Leslie (ed.), Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study (1976), 185.
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Perhaps today there is a greater kindness of tone, as there is greater ingenuity of expression to make up for the fact that all the real, solid, elemental jests against doctors were uttered some one or two thousand years ago.
In 'The Evil Spoken of Physicians', The Proceedings of the Charaka Club (1902), 1, 80.

Physical misery is great everywhere out here [Africa]. Are we justified in shutting our eyes and ignoring it because our European newspapers tell us nothing about it? We civilised people have been spoilt. If any one of us is ill the doctor comes at once. Is an operation necessary, the door of some hospital or other opens to us immediately. But let every one reflect on the meaning of the fact that out here millions and millions live without help or hope of it. Every day thousands and thousands endure the most terrible sufferings, though medical science could avert them. Every day there prevails in many and many a far-off hut a despair which we could banish. Will each of my readers think what the last ten years of his family history would have been if they had been passed without medical or surgical help of any sort? It is time that we should wake from slumber and face our responsibilities!
In On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, trans. C. T. Campion (1948, 1998), 126-127.
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Physick, says Sydenham, is not to bee learned by going to Universities, but hee is for taking apprentices; and says one had as good send a man to Oxford to learn shoemaking as practising physick.
Diary of the Rev. John Ward, M. A. (1648-1769), ed. Charles Severn (1839), 242.
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Plutus himself,
That knows the tinct and multiplying med'cine,
Hath not in nature's mystery more science
Than I have in this ring.
All's Well that Ends Well (1603-4), V, iii.
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POTABLE, n. Suitable for drinking. Water is said to be potable; indeed, some declare it our natural beverage, although even they find it palatable only when suffering from the recurrent disorder known as thirst, for which it is a medicine. Upon nothing has so great and diligent ingenuity been brought to bear in all ages and in all countries, except the most uncivilized, as upon the invention of substitutes for water. To hold that this general aversion to that liquid has no basis in the preservative instinct of the race is to be unscientific—and without science we are as the snakes and toads.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  260-261.
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Printer's ink, when it spells out a doctor's promise to cure, is one of the subtlest and most dangerous of poisons.
'The Sure-Cure School,' Collier’s Weekly (14 Jul 1906). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 84.
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Remember the Three Princes of Serendip who went out looking for treasure? They didn't find what they were looking for, but they kept finding things just as valuable. That's serendipity, and our business [drugs] is full of it.
'What the Doctor Ordered&#-30;, Time (18 Aug 1952)
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Satire is a composition of salt and mercury; and it depends upon the different mixture and preparation of those ingredients, that it comes out a noble medicine, or a rank poison.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 502.
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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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Some of them wanted to sell me snake oil and I’m not necessarily going to dismiss all of these, as I have never found a rusty snake.
Speech to Alzheimer's Research Trust Conference, Bristol (13 Mar 2008).
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South Africa might be called the Daughter of Medicine. For was not the fight against scurvy the very reason for the establishment of the settlement at the Cape with its garden and hospital?
In article 'The History of Medicine in South Africa', South African Medical Journal (14 Sep 1957), 31, No. 37, 938. The expression 'daughter of medicine' has been used before in various contexts.
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Such is the respect for physicians that most people are astonished when one of them falls sick—and yet they do.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 140.
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Surely every medicine is an innovation, and he that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils for time is the greatest innovator.
XXIV. On Innovation,' Essays (1597). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 32
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Surgeon: A man who's always out for his cut.
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Surgery is the cry of defeat in medicine.
In Fischerisms (1930), 7.
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Surgery is the red flower that blooms among the leaves and thorns that are the rest of medicine.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 51.
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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 alchemists in their search for gold discovered other things [of greater value].
With the phrase “of greater value” in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 415. The more specific description '—gunpowder, china, medicines, the laws of nature' is given for 'of greater value' in Counsels and Maxims: Being the Second Part of Arthur Schopenhauer's Aphorismen Zur Lebensweisheit translated by Thomas Bailey Saunders (2nd Ed., 1890), 16.
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The art of healing is like an unroofed temple, uncovered at the top and cracked at the foundation.
Quoted by Isaac Jennings, in Medical Reform; a Treatise on Man's Physical Being and Disorders (1847), 33.

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 best of all medicines are rest and fasting.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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The bitterness of the potion, and the abhorrence of the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation. It must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach that must purge and cure it.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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The Chinese … use fossil teeth as one of their principal medicines. Some Chinese families have for centuries been in the business of “mining” fossils to supply the drug trade.
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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 fact that death from cancer is on the increase is not only a problem of medicine, but its at the same time testifies to the wonderful efficiency of medical science... [as it] enables more persons top live long enough to develop some kind of cancer in old and less resistant tissues.
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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The following lesson is of great and important significance, worthy of committing to memory, namely, in arranging the composition of medications one should pay careful attention and direct one’s willpower, because many times antagonistic medicines become mixed in which are useless and inappropriate for their intended use.
As quoted in Fred Rosner, The Medical Legacy of Moses Maimonides (1998), 51.
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The glory of medicine is that it is constantly moving forward, that there is always more to learn. The ills of today do not cloud the horizon of tomorrow, but act as a spur to greater effort.
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. As cited in epigraph to Thomas M. Habermann (ed.), Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine Review (2006), Foreward.
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The great horde of physicians are always servile imitators, who can neither perceive nor correct the faults of their system, and are always ready to growl at and even to worry the ingenious person that could attempt it. Thus was the system of Galen secured in the possession of the schools of physic.
In Lectures Introductory to the Practice of Physic, Collected in The Works of William Cullen: Containing his Physiology, Nosology, and first lines of the practice of physic (1827), Vol. 1, 386.
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The inclusion of lemon or lime juice in grog, made compulsory in 1795, therefore reduced the incidence of scurvy dramatically. And since beer contains no vitamin C, switching from beer to grog made British crews far healthier overall.
In A History of the World in 6 Glasses (2005, 2009), 110.
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The inexperienced and presumptuous band of medical tyros let loose upon the world destroys more of human life in one year than all the Robin Hoods, Cartouches, and Macheaths do in a century.
In letter to Caspar Wistar (21 Jun 1807). Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 4, 93. (Jefferson regards Robin Hood as a villain, on a par with with Cartouche, an 18th-century highwayway, and Macheath, the cutthroat in John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.)
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The man who inspired me most, I think, was Dr. Alfred Blalock, who was professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins. He was a rather simple man with a burning curiosity. It was through his curiosity that he made many real contributions to medical science.
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The name of medicine is thought to have been given from 'moderation', modus, that is, from a due proportion, which advises that things be done not to excess, but 'little by little', paulatim. For nature is pained by surfeit but rejoices in moderation. Whence also those who take drugs and antidotes constantly, or to the point of saturation, are sorely vexed, for every immoderation brings not health but danger.
Etymologies [c.600], Book IV, chapter 2, quoted in E. Grant (ed.), A Source Book in Medieval Science (1974), trans. W. D. Sharpe (1964), 701.
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The Nobel Prize is fine, but the drugs I've developed are rewards in themselves.
Quoted in the New York Times (18 Oct 1988).
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THE OATH. I swear by Apollo [the healing God], the physician and Aesclepius [son of Apollo], and Health [Hygeia], and All-heal [Panacea], and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation—to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 344-5.
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The only sure foundations of medicine are, an intimate knowledge of the human body, and observation on the effects of medicinal substances on that. The anatomical and clinical schools, therefore, are those in which the young physician should be formed. If he enters with innocence that of the theory of medicine, it is scarcely possible he should come out untainted with error. His mind must be strong indeed, if, rising above juvenile credulity, it can maintain a wise infidelity against the authority of his instructors, and the bewitching delusions of their theories.
In letter to Caspar Wistar (21 Jun 1807), collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 4, 93.
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The patient does not care about your science; what he wants to know is, can you cure him?
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The poets did well to conjoin music and medicine, in Apollo, because the office of medicine is but to tune the curious harp of man's body and reduce it to harmony.
The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 2. Reprinted in The Two Books of Francis Bacon: Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human (2009), 106.
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The practice of medicine is a thinker’s art, the practice of surgery a plumber’s.
In Fischerisms (1930), 7.
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The practice of physic is jostled by quacks on the one side, and by science on the other.
William B. Bean (ed.), Aphorisms from Latham (1962), 22.
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The public blabbers about preventative medicine, but will neither appreciate nor pay for it. You get paid for what you cure.
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The road to a clinic goes through the pathologic museum and not through the apothecary's shop.
Quoted without further citation in The New Encyclopedia Britannica (1986), Vol. 5, 566.
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The safest thing for a patient is to be in the hands of a man engaged in teaching medicine. In order to be a teacher of medicine the doctor must always be a student.
Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic (1927).
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The science and technology which have advanced man safely into space have brought about startling medical advances for man on earth. Out of space research have come new knowledge, techniques and instruments which have enabled some bedridden invalids to walk, the totally deaf to hear, the voiceless to talk, and, in the foreseeable future, may even make it possible for the blind to “see.”
'From Outer Space—Advances For Medicine on Earth', contributed in Lillian Levy, Space, Its Impact on Man and Society (1965, reprinted 1973), 117.
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The scope of Medicine is so wide as to give exercise to all the faculties of the mind, and it borrows from the stores of almost every form of human knowledge—it is an epitome of science.
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), 4.
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The silencing of the rainforests is a double deforestation, not only of trees but a deforestation of the mind’s music, medicine and knowledge.
In 'Fifty Years On, the Silence of Rachel Carson’s Spring Consumes Us', The Guardian (25 Sep 2012),
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The situation with regard to insulin is particularly clear. In many parts of the world diabetic children still die from lack of this hormone. ... [T]hose of us who search for new biological facts and for new and better therapeutic weapons should appreciate that one of the central problems of the world is the more equitable distribution and use of the medical and nutritional advances which have already been established. The observations which I have recently made in parts of Africa and South America have brought this fact very forcible to my attention.
'Studies on Diabetes and Cirrhosis', Proceedings, American Philosophical Society (1952) 96, No. 1, 29.
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The statistical method is required in the interpretation of figures which are at the mercy of numerous influences, and its object is to determine whether individual influences can be isolated and their effects measured. The essence of the method lies in the determination that we are really comparing like with like, and that we have not overlooked a relevant factor which is present in Group A and absent from Group B. The variability of human beings in their illnesses and in their reactions to them is a fundamental reason for the planned clinical trial and not against it.
Principles of Medical Statistics (1971), 13.
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The student of medicine can no more hope to advance in the mastery of his subject with a loose and careless mind than the student of mathematics. If the laws of abstract truth require such rigid precision from those who study them, we cannot believe the laws of nature require less. On the contrary, they would seem to require more; for the facts are obscure, the means of inquiry imperfect, and in every exercise of the mind there are peculiar facilities to err.
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), 6.
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The sun has lost no beams, the earth no elements ; gravity is as adhesive, heat as expansive, light as joyful, air as virtuous, water as medicinal as on the first day. There is no loss, only transference. When the heat is less here it is not lost, but more heat is there.
In 'Perpetual Forces', North American Review (1877), No. 125. Collected in Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Elliot Cabot (ed.), Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 61.
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The superior doctor prevents sickness; The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; The inferior doctor treats actual sickness.
Chinese Proverb. In North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service Reports (1925-1926) (1926), 292, 305.
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The suppression of crime is not entirely a legal question. It is a problem for the physician, the economist and the lawyer. We, as physicians, should encourage the criminologist by lending to him the surgeon, the internist and all of the rest of the resources of medicine, just as we have done in the case of the flea man, the fly man, the mosquito man, the bed-bug man and all the other ologists.
From paper read at the Section on State Medicine and Public Hygiene of the State Medical Association of Texas at El Paso (11 May 1922), 'The Use Of Scopolamine In Criminology', published in Texas State Journal of Medicine (Sep 1922). Reprinted in The American Journal of Police Science (Jul-Aug 1931), 2, No. 4, 328.
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The theory of medicine, therefore, presents what is useful in thought, but does not indicate how it is to be applied in practice—the mode of operation of these principles. The theory, when mastered, gives us a certain kind of knowledge. Thus we say, for example, there are three forms of fevers and nine constitutions. The practice of medicine is not the work which the physician carries out, but is that branch of medical knowledge which, when acquired, enables one to form an opinion upon which to base the proper plan of treatment.
'The Definition of Medicine', in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 10.
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The three of us have worked on the development of the small and totally harmless fruit fly, Drosophila. This animal has been extremely cooperative in our hands - and has revealed to us some of its innermost secrets and tricks for developing from a single celled egg to a complex living being of great beauty and harmony. ... None of us expected that our work would be so successful or that our findings would ever have relevance to medicine.
Nobel Banquet Speech, 10 Dec 1995
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The two fulcra of medicine are reason and observation. Observation is the clue to guide the physician in his thinking.
Praxi Medica (1696), Introduction.
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The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.
'East Coker' (1940), Verse IV. Reprinted from the Easter Number of the New English Weekly (1940).

There are many arts and sciences of which a miner should not be ignorant. First there is Philosophy, that he may discern the origin, cause, and nature of subterranean things; for then he will be able to dig out the veins easily and advantageously, and to obtain more abundant results from his mining. Secondly there is Medicine, that he may be able to look after his diggers and other workman ... Thirdly follows astronomy, that he may know the divisions of the heavens and from them judge the directions of the veins. Fourthly, there is the science of Surveying that he may be able to estimate how deep a shaft should be sunk ... Fifthly, his knowledge of Arithmetical Science should be such that he may calculate the cost to be incurred in the machinery and the working of the mine. Sixthly, his learning must comprise Architecture, that he himself may construct the various machines and timber work required underground ... Next, he must have knowledge of Drawing, that he can draw plans of his machinery. Lastly, there is the Law, especially that dealing with metals, that he may claim his own rights, that he may undertake the duty of giving others his opinion on legal matters, that he may not take another man's property and so make trouble for himself, and that he may fulfil his obligations to others according to the law.
De Re Metallica (1556), trans. H. C. and L. H. Hoover (1950), 3-4.
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There are two objects of medical education: To heal the sick and to advance the science.
Collected Papers of the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation (1913).
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There is no such thing as chemistry for medical students! Chemistry is chemistry!
In G. B. Kauffman, Alfred Werner (1966), 60.
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There is only one cardinal rule: One must always listen to the patient.
Quoted by Walter Clemons, 'Listening to the Lost', Newsweek (20 Aug 1984).
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These hormones still belong to the physiologist and to the clinical investigator as much as, if not more than, to the practicing physician. But as Professor Starling said many years ago, 'The physiology of today is the medicine of tomorrow'.
'The Reversibility of Certain Rheumatic and Non-rheumatic Conditions by the use of Cortisone or of the Pituitary Adrenocorticotropic Hormone', Nobel Lecture, 11 Dec 1950. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1942- 1962 (1964), 334.
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These turdy-facy-nasty-paty-lousy-fartical rogues, with one poor groat's worth of unprepared antimony, finely wrapt up in several scartoccios, are able, very well, to kill their twenty a week, and play; yet, these meagre, started spirits, who have half stopt the organs of their minds with earthy oppilations, want not their favorers among your shrivell’d sallad-eating artizans, who are overjoyed that they may have their half-pe’rth of physic; though it purge them into another world, it makes no matter.
Spoken by character Volpone, disguised as a “mountebank Doctor” in Valpone: or, The Foxe (1605), collected in Ben Jonson and William Gifford, The Works of Ben Johnson (1879), 282.
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This remarkable [nuclear] energy is spreading its tentacles to almost all walks of life - be it power, agriculture, medicine, laser systems, satellite imagery or environment protection.
Interview in newsletter of the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (Oct 2001), online.
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To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason ... is like administering medicines to the dead.
In 'The American Crisis', No. V., to Gen. Sir William Howe (1 Mar 1778), collected in The Political and Miscellaneous Works of Thomas Paine (1819), 58.
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To array a man's will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine.
In Thomas Wallace Knox, Life and Work of Henry Ward Beecher: An Authentic, Impartial and Complete (1887), 274.
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To her [Florence Nightingale] chiefly I owed the awakening to the fact that sanitation is the supreme goal of medicine its foundation and its crown.
In Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women (1895), 176.
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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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Tungsten, X-rays, and Coolidge form a trinity that has left an indelible impression upon our life and times. The key word in this triad is Coolidge, for his work brought the element tungsten from laboratory obscurity to the central role of the industrial stage and gave the X-ray a central role in the progress of medicine throughout the world.
In National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, Vol. 53, 141.
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Tycho [Brahe] is a man with whom no one can live without exposing himself to the greatest indignities. The pay is splendid, but one can only extract the half of it. I have thought of turning to medicine.
As quoted in Willy Ley, Watchers of the Skies (1969) 92.
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Visitor’s footfalls are like medicine; they heal the sick.
African proverb, Bantu
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We are going through the body-snatching phase right now, and there are all these Burke and Hare attitudes towards geneticists-that they are playing God and that DNA is sacred. No, it's not. It's no more sacred than your toenails. Basically, we are not going to make long-term medical progress without understanding how the genes work.
[Referring to the similarity of fears and superstitions in genetics as once were associated with anatomy ]
Quoted by Sean O’Hagan, in 'End of sperm report', The Observer (14 Sep 2002).
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We cannot step aside and say that we have achieved our goal by inventing a new drug or a new way by which to treat presently incurable diseases, a new way to help those who suffer from malnutrition, or the creation of ideal balanced diets on a worldwide scale. We cannot rest till the way has been found, with our help, to bring our finest achievement to everyone.
Address to the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond (1 Dec 1950).
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We ought to observe that practice which is the hardest of all—especially for young physicians—we ought to throw in no medicine at all—to abstain—to observe a wise and masterly inactivity.
Speech (25 Jan 1828), in Register of Debates in Congress, Vol. 4, Col. 1170.
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We profess to teach the principles and practice of medicine, or, in other words, the science and art of medicine. Science is knowledge reduced to principles; art is knowledge reduced to practice. The knowing and doing, however, are distinct. ... Your knowledge, therefore, is useless unless you cultivate the art of healing. Unfortunately, the scientific man very often has the least amount of art, and he is totally unsuccessful in practice; and, on the other hand, there may be much art based on an infinitesimal amount of knowledge, and yet it is sufficient to make its cultivator eminent.
From H.G. Sutton, Abstract of Lecture delivered at Guy's Hospital by Samuel Wilks, 'Introductory to Part of a Course on the Theory and Practice of Medicine', The Lancet (24 Mar 1866), 1, 308
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We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.
Address to the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond (1 Dec 1950). Quoted in James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last (1994, 1997), 48.
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Were I disposed to consider the comparative merit of each of them [facts or theories in medical practice], I should derive most of the evils of medicine from supposed facts, and ascribe all the remedies which have been uniformly and extensively useful, to such theories as are true. Facts are combined and rendered useful only by means of theories, and the more disposed men are to reason, the more minute and extensive they become in their observations
Quoted in John Edmonds Stock, Memoirs of the life of Thomas Beddoes (1810), 401.
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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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What others strive to see dimly and blindly, like bats in twilight, he [Petrus Peregrinus] gazes at in the full light of day, because he is a master of experiment. Through experiment he gains knowledge of natural things, medical, chemical, and indeed of everything in the heavens or earth. … He has even taken note of the remedies, lot casting, and charms used by old women and by wizards and magicians, and of the deceptions and devices of conjurors, so that nothing which deserves inquiry should escape him, and that he may be able to expose the falsehoods of magicians.
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When we have to do with an art whose end is the saving of human life, any neglect to make ourselves thorough masters of it becomes a crime.
Quoted without citation in United States Medical Investigator (1885), 21, 521. Seen in various other later publications, but also without citation. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Who would be a better source of information about the forests than aborigines themselves because they have lived off the forest for most of their lives. The forests have provided the aborigines with food, medicine and shelter among other things and yet, the aborigines have never abused or ravaged the forest the way others have.
Keynote address yesterday at the 21st IUFRO World Congress (International Union of Forestry Research Organisations), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As quoted in Lee Shi-lan 'Utilise Knowledge of Aborigines for the Conservation of Forests', New Straits Times (14 Aug 2000), 8.
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Why, in God's name, in our days, is there such a great difference between a physician and a surgeon? The physicians have abandoned operative procedures and the laity, either, as some say, because they disdain to operate with their hands, or rather, as I think, because they do not know how to perform operation. Indeed, this abuse is so inveterate that the common people look upon it as impossible for the same person to understand both surgery and medicine.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479). In Henry Ebenezer Handerson, Gilbertus Anglicus (1918), 77.
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With a few honorable exceptions the press of the United States is at the beck and call of the patent medicines. Not only do the newspapers modify news possibly affecting these interests, but they sometimes become their agents.
'The Nostrum Evil,' Collier’s Weekly (7 Oct 1905). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 5.
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You are still sending to the apothecaries and still crying out to fetch Master Doctor to me; but our apothecary’s shop is our garden and our doctor a good clove of garlic.
In The Great Frost of January 1608, originally published in the English Garner (1877-1890). Collected in Edward arber and Thomas Seccombe (eds.), Social England Illustrated: A Collection of XVIIth Century Abstracts (1903), 167.
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You have chosen the most fascinating and dynamic profession there is, a profession with the highest potential for greatness, since the physician’s daily work is wrapped up in the subtle web of history. Your labors are linked with those of your colleagues who preceded you in history, and those who are now working all over the world. It is this spiritual unity with our colleagues of all periods and all countries that has made medicine so universal and eternal. For this reason we must study and try to imitate the lives of the “Great Doctors” of history.
epilogue to A Prelude to Medical History
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[Mercurial medicines] affect the human constitution in a peculiar manner, taking, so to speak, an iron grasp of all its systems, and penetrating even to the bones, by which they not only change the healthy action of its vessels, and general structure, but greatly impair and destroy its energies; so that their abuse is rarely overcome. When the tone of the stomach, intestines, or nervous system generally, has been once injured by this mineral ... it could seldom be restored.
Quoted in Wooster Beach, A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Health (1848), 177.
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[Reply to a lady enquiring: “Have we lost faith?”] Certainly not, but we have only transferred it from God to the General Medical Council.
Invited to contribute to a series of article in a Manchester paper in reply to an enquiry [Have we lost faith?] the question, Shaws’s reply was the single sentence. In The Collected Works of Bernard Shaw (1930), Vol.22, 1.
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[When his physician father died of a heart attack:] It was then and there that I gave myself to medicine the way a monk gives himself to God. Not to have done so would have seemed an act of filial impiety. Since I could not find him in the flesh, I would find him in the work he did.
In Down From Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age (1992), 136.
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“There’s no need for fiction in medicine,” remarks Foster, “for the facts will always beat anything you fancy.”
'A Medical Document', in Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life (1894), 199-200.
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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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