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Primum Non Nocere

Arch Intern Med. 1965;115(3):345-350. doi:10.1001/archinte.1965.03860150089017.
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In this respect I shall ask you to be indulgent to a weakness of seniority by which it tends to overestimate the value of the elementary and the simple.

Wilfred Trotter

LATE IN his Presidency, Thomas Jefferson was taking a "lively interest" in his grandson's education. He wrote requesting the advice of an outstanding educator, Dr. Caspar Wistar, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania. The President was wondering if his grandson should repair to Philadelphia for training in the sciences; in botany, natural history, anatomy, and perhaps surgery, but not medicine. In his long letter he took the occasion to give an opinion of the then current state of practice in what he characterized as "the extent of my medical creed." It is to this passage of the letter that I want to draw attention.

Jefferson termed his views of medicine "unlearned." Unqualified perhaps, but surely not


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