Fillers Endpiece

When medical journals were much less boring

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 20 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1389

The following quotes come from Thomas Wakley, the founder and first editor of the Lancet. In the first he attacks James Johnson, surgeon to the Duke of Clarence (later William IV), proprietor and editor of the Medico-Chirurgical Journal, and an enemy of Wakley. The second is about Sir William Blizard, the arch conservative of the College of Surgeons. Both quotes are from Sir Peter Froggatt's article on Wakley.1

“As a journalist [Johnson] had all the morality without a scintilla of the intellect of Machiavelli…. His bad faith as a controversialist was in a great degree neutralized by his [utter] feebleness, and his desire to make dupes of his readers was countenanced by his want of power to deceive. In his method of arguing he resembled a clumsy card sharper who, with all imaginable disposition to slip a card, had not sufficient quickness to elude the vigilance of the spectators. He was disingenuous without plausibility; and dishonest without dexterity. He had the wriggling lubricity without the cunning of a serpent. Such was the editor … of … the [Medico-Chirurgical Journal].” (Froggatt, 1977)

“The following case of misplaced viscera is particularly curious. We believe, however, that several examples of a similar kind are to be found among the members of the Court of Examiners at the College in Lincoln's Inn Fields—we anticipate, for example, that when a post-mortem examination of Sir William Blizard shall be instituted, that the liver of this bitter knight will be found in his cranium, for during the whole of Sir William's life, his mouth has been performing the office of a ductus communis choledochus.” (Sprigge, 1897)


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