Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Don Quixote

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 08 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:997
  1. Carmen Pinto, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Institute of Psychiatry, London
  1. Carmen.Pinto{at}

    “Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember” is one of the most famous beginnings of all books. Doctors who believe that only psychiatrists could benefit from reading Don Quixote would be surprised to hear that the 17th century English physician Thomas Sydenham advised the poet and royal physician Richard Blackmore that, to learn medicine, he should read it. And this is because, apart from the famous madness of its main character, plenty of medical knowledge is to be found in its pages.

    Miguel de Cervantes was writing at the same time as William Shakespeare. In the early 17th century Spain was going through a particularly dark period in which the Inquisition made sure that no scientific ideas were …

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