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Miller, F.C. (2001). Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries. By Meyer Friedman and Gerald W. Friedland. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998, 263 pp.. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 3(2):199-202.

(2001). Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3(2):199-202

Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries. By Meyer Friedman and Gerald W. Friedland. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998, 263 pp.

Review by:
Frederick C. Miller, M.D.

Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries by Meyer Friedman and Gerald W. Friedland, despite a title that recalls record albums of “greatest hits,” is a prodigious accomplishment, presenting a methodology for selecting ten (a relatively small number) medical discoveries of seminal importance from the scores of important developments in medicine, followed by a chapter devoted to a lengthy history and discussion of each of the ten chosen discoveries, and concluding with a comparison and contrast of common themes. The detail of historical data included is impressive, reflecting a scholarly review of many original documents, including references from as early as the 15th century.

In their preface, the authors offer their plan to select the “ten most significant medical discoveries since 1543” without which “medicine as we know and practice today would not be possible.” The authors caution that the book “does not desire to be the history of the evolution of Western Medicine,” for which the reader is referred elsewhere. They promise to include “an intimate account of the lives of the scientists principally responsible for the ten transcendent discoveries.”

Selection began with 100 significant discoveries from the “5,000 or more that had been made in Western Medicine” (e.g. the discoveries of insulin and cortisone were on their list of 100, but did not make the final cut). The authors narrow their choices to ten discoveries using their own experience (a combined total of 112 years of studying, practicing, and teaching medicine; decades of research; publications of over 500 medical articles and a half dozen medical books), along with the recommendations of three antiquarian medical book dealers, four collectors of rare and important medical publications, and consultation with 30 physicians affiliated with Stanford, and UCLA.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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