Edward J. Huth, MD, and T. Jock Murray, MD. American College of Physicians, Philadelphia, 2006. ISBN: 1-930513-67-4, $52.00.
Scope: This is a collection of quotations about medicine and health assembled by two learned physicians from their own collection and contributions of others. The authors are estimable: Huth, an internist, was for 19 years the editor of Annals of Internal Medicine; Murray, a neurologist, is the former chair of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians and former dean of the medical school at Dalhousie University.
The quotations are grouped alphabetically by topic; quotations within each topic are listed chronologically. For example, under the topic “doctors,” there are 60 quotations, starting with Marcus Valerius Martialis in 50 AD and ending with Sherwin Nuland in 2001. As you move through the 4 pages on “doctors,” you will find quotations from Petrarch, Paracelsus, Montaigne, Moliére, (Jonathan) Swift, (Alexander) Pope, (Benjamin) Franklin, Twain, (Oliver Wendell) Holmes, (Arthur Conan) Doyle, and (George Bernard) Shaw, to name the better known figures. There is also an index by authors.
Strengths: This is a marvelous resource for the roundsperson and after-dinner quipper. It is also an education in how wordsmiths have viewed medical topics through the course of time. In that way, it is a history of medicine-and it is marvelously illuminating. For example, Shaw is quoted as saying, “Even the fact that doctors themselves die of the very diseases they profess to cure passes unnoticed.” And Osler, who apparently said, “We doctors have always been a simple, trusting folk! Did we not believe Galen implicitly for fifteen hundred years?”
The only other source of this type is Familiar Medical Quotations (M. Strauss, editor), a book last published 50 years ago.
Weaknesses: This book is, after all, like a dictionary. You are unlikely to leaf through it; you would consult it for the apt occasion. And if you are not given to stuffing your speeches with quotations, you might never open it.
Recommended Audience: This book will appeal to anyone who loves language, history, or writing and especially to those who treasure the pithy quotation.
Critical Appraisal: With over 400 pages of material put together by two authors who clearly love language and history, this is the ultimate resource for medical sayings.
Jonathan D. Trobe, MD
Kellogg Eye Center
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan