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Medicine: Foster Mother of the Sciences

Whitfield J. Bell Jr., PhD
JAMA. 1966;196(1):50-54. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100140104028.
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Colonel Fielding H. Garrison, in an article published more than 35 years ago, presented a long list of physicians who had made important contributions to the sciences.1 The botanist Linnaeus, the zoologists Erasmus Darwin and Buffon, the chemist Joseph Black, for examples, were trained as physicians. In America, Louis Agassiz and Asa Gray were medical graduates; Joseph Leidy practiced medicine for a short time and as professor of anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania made basic discoveries in anatomy, paleontology, and parasitology; while the brothers John and Joseph Le Conte and their cousin John Lawrence Le Conte, physiciansall, are remembered for their work in physics, geology, and entomology, respectively.

Some years after Garrison's article appeared, Phyllis Allen Richmond, studying the research work of American doctors in the 19th century, concluded that "almost half of the American scientists who made significant research contributions during the nineteenth century were physicians."2


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