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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Johanna Shapiro, PhD (University of California Irvine College of Medicine)
Description: This is a handsome compilation of medically related quotations.
Purpose: The editors, both renowned scholars, identify several uses for this text, including scrutinizing quotations either to challenge or confirm one's own strongly held viewpoints; or simply to acquire or deepen a sense of medical history.
Audience: Educators, writers, and speakers in medically related fields will find the book invaluable.
Features: This book consists of alphabetized general topics and specific diagnoses, each with accompanying quotations arranged in chronological order. Of greatest interest, in my judgment, are issues that penetrate to the heart of medicine: "Medicine," "Physician-Patient Relations," "Medical Practice." In these sections voices from a multiplicity of perspectives are heard, and the values and conflicts that have characterized medicine through the ages are most clearly elucidated. The book is well researched, with precise citation sources, and an exhaustive index. It is a timely update and expansion of a book published in 1968, Strauss' Familiar Medical Quotations. One small shortcoming is the lack of biographical information about contributors, especially more obscure individuals who may not be familiar to readers.
Assessment: The dictionary-style organization might seem conducive to supplying quotational "quick-fixes" for tedious or intellectually sloppy thought. Instead, perusal of this book invites serious philosophical musing. Confronted with the keen minds of Hippocrates, Descartes, Mark Twain, or William Osler, one cannot help pondering the past and future of medicine. The lesser-known John Morgan observed in 1765, "As the most precious metals in a state of ore are mixed with dross, so the choice truths of Medicine are frequently blended with a heap of rubbish." Contemplating these words, we can only hope to cling to medicine's timeless verities while having the wisdom to discard its dross.