Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The nature of hypertension

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 24 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5750
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

In the first edition of his great poem The Vanity of Human Wishes Doctor Johnson warns us that the scholar’s life is not an easy one: “There mark what ills the Scholar’s life assail, / Toil, Envy, Want, the Garret, and the Jail.” Of these hazards, perhaps only the first two remain; and certainly scholars in medicine starve in no garrets. But the controversies on which they expend their energy can be prolonged and vigorous, sometimes—or always, according to Schopenhauer—truth seeming a lesser imperative than victory.

Among the most famous controversies in 20th century medicine was the momentous one between Sir George Pickering (1904-80) and Sir Robert Platt (1900-78) over the nature of hypertension: whether high blood pressure was merely …

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