Views & Reviews Between the lines

Getting tar struck

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39415.460694.59 (Published 06 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1215
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    There is nothing so stupid, said Cicero, but that some philosopher has not said it. Goodness knows what he would have said about the medical profession had the history of medicine been available to him. There is no treatment so ludicrous that doctors have not prescribed it, perhaps.

    Still, one will try anything when nothing else is available. The greatest minds are capable of the greatest absurdity when it comes to health preservatives. For example, Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753), the great Anglo-Irish empiricist philosopher who denied the existence of matter, was a great devotee of tar water, which he believed was efficacious against almost all known distempers. He wrote a book in praise of Tar Water entitled Siris: …

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