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 In the field of medicine and biology the Encyclop?dia Britannica reveals so narrow and obvious a partisanship that there has already been no little resentment on the part of American scientists. This country is surpassed by none in biological chemistry; and our fame in surgery and medical experimentation is world-wide. Among the ranks of our scientists stand men of such great importance and high achievement that no adequate history of biology or medicine could be written without giving vital consideration to them. Yet the Britannica fails almost completely in revealing their significance. Many of our great experimenters—men who have made important original contributions to science and who have pushed forward the boundaries of human knowledge—receive no mention whatever; and many of our surgeons and physicians whose researches have marked epochs in the history of medicine meet with a similar fate. On the other hand you will find scores of biographies of comparatively[149] little known and unimportant English scientists, some of whom have contributed nothing to medical and biological advancement. It is not my intention to go into any great detail in this matter. I shall not attempt to make a complete list of the glaring omissions of our scientists or to set down anywhere near all of the lesser British scientists who are discussed liberally and con amore in the Britannica. Such a record were unnecessary. But I shall indicate a sufficient number of discrepancies between the treatment of American scientists and the treatment of English scientists, to reveal the utter inadequacy of the Britannica as a guide to the history and development of our science. If America did not stand so high in this field the Encyclop?dia’s editors would have some basis on which to explain away their wanton discrimination against our scientific activities. But when, as I say, America stands foremost among the nations of the world in biological chemistry and also holds high rank in surgery and medicine, there can be no excuse for such wilful neglect, especially as minor British scientists are accorded liberal space and generous consideration.
First we shall set down those three earlier pathfinders in American medicine whose names do not so much as appear in the Britannica’s Index:—John[150] Morgan, who in 1765, published his Discourse Upon the Institution of Medical Schools in America, thus becoming the father of medical education in the United States; William Shippen, Jr., who aided John Morgan in founding our first medical school, the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, and gave the first public lectures in obstetrics in this country, and who may be regarded as the father of American obstetrics; and Thomas Cadwalader, the first Philadelphian (at this time Philadelphia was the medical center of America) to teach anatomy by dissections, and the author of one of the best pamphlets on lead poisoning.
Among the somewhat later important American medical scientists who are denied any mention in the Britannica are; John Conrad Otto, the first who described hemophilia (an abnormal tendency to bleeding); James Jackson, author of one of the first accounts of alcoholic neuritis; James Jackson, Jr., who left his mark in physical diagnosis; Elisha North, who as early as 1811 advocated the use of the clinical thermometer in his original description of cerebrospinal meningitis (the first book on the subject); John Ware, who wrote one of the chief accounts of delirium tremens; Jacob Bigelow, one of the very great names in American medicine, whose essay, On Self-Limited Diseases,[151] according to Holmes, “did more than any other work or essay in our language to rescue the practice of medicine from the slavery to the drugging system which was a part of the inheritance of the profession”; W. W. Gerhard, who distinguished between typhoid and typhus; Daniel Drake, known as the greatest physician of the West, who as the result of thirty years of labor wrote the masterpiece, Diseases of the Interior Valley of North America; Caspar Wistar, who wrote the first American treatise on anatomy; and William Edmonds Horner, who discovered the tensor tarsi muscle, known as Horner’s muscle.... Not only are these men not accorded biographies in the “universal” and “complete” Encyclop?dia Britannica, but their names do not appear!
The father of American surgery was Philip Syng Physick, who invented the tonsillotome and introduced various surgical operations; but you must look elsewhere than in the Britannica for so much as a mention of him. And although the history of American surgery is especially glorious and includes such great names as: the Warrens; Wright Post; J. C. Nott, who excised the coccyx and was the first who suggested the mosquito theory of yellow fever; Henry J. Bigelow, the first to describe the Y-ligament; Samuel David Gross, one of the chief surgeons of the nineteenth[152] century; Nicholas Senn, one of the masters of modern surgery; Harvey Cushing, perhaps the greatest brain surgeon in the world to-day; George Crile, whose revolutionary work in surgical shock was made long before the Britannica went to press; and William S. Halsted, among the greatest surgeons of the world,—as I have said, although America has produced these important men, the Encyclop?dia Britannica ignores the fact entirely, and does not so much as record one of their names!
Were all the rest of American medical scientists given liberal consideration in the Britannica, it would not compensate for the above omissions. But these omissions are by no means all: they are merely the beginning. The chief names in modern operative gynecology are American. But of the nine men who are the leaders in this field, only one (Emmet) has a biography, and only one (McDowell) receives casual mention. Marion Sims who invented his speculum and introduced the operation for vesicovaginal fistula, Nathan Bozeman, J. C. Nott (previously mentioned), Theodore Gaillard Thomas, Robert Battey, E. C. Dudley, and Howard A. Kelly do not exist for the Britannica.
Furthermore, of the four chief pioneers in an?sthesia—the practical discovery and use of which[153] was an American achievement—only two are mentioned. The other two—C. W. Long, of Georgia, and the chemist, Charles T. Jackson—are apparently unknown to the British editors of this encyclop?dia. And although in the history of pediatrics there is no more memorable name than that of Joseph O’Dwyer, of Ohio, whose work in intubation has saved countless numbers of infants, you will fail to find any reference to him in this “unbiased” English reference work.
One must not imagine that even here ends the Britannica’s almost unbelievable injustice to American scientists. John J. Abel is not mentioned either, yet Professor Abel is among the greatest pharmacologists of the world. His researches in animal tissues and fluids have definitely set forward the science of medicine; and it was Abel who, besides his great work with the artificial kidney, first discovered the uses of epinephrin. R. G. Harrison, one of the greatest biologists of history, whose researches in the growth of tissue were epoch-making, and on whose investigations other scientists also have made international reputations, is omitted entirely from the Britannica. S. J. Meltzer, the physiologist, who has been the head of the ............
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