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Should eponyms be abandoned? No

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 30 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:425

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Judith A Whitworth, director
  1. John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
  1. director{at}

    Medicine has been enthusiastic in naming tests, symptoms, and diseases after their discovers. Alexander Woywodt and Eric Matteson argue that eponyms are no longer appropriate, but Judith A Whitworth believes they remain a useful reflection of medical history

    Some years ago, filling in time between candidates in a clinical examination, I was chatting to a colleague about eponyms. His view was that eponyms were not particularly useful and he recalled an encounter with a young woman struggling in a similar examination. She couldn't find the lymph nodes and seemed unfamiliar with pulmonary auscultation. To bolster her spirits, he asked her who discovered Koch's bacillus. She became even more anxious and lost for words. My colleague helpfully asked, “Who wrote Mendelssohn's Spring Song?” and she burst into tears. Similarly, I recall a friend coming out of a fine arts examination and asking who designed the Eiffel Tower.

    I understand there was a long line of people happy to argue that eponyms be abolished, and few prepared to take the contrary view. This I can only ascribe to the well known human propensity to enjoy tilting …

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