English lessonsBMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39426.731806.59 (Published 13 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1267
- Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor
Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary has several entries relating to medicine. In Voltaire’s day educated men were expected to know something about everything, because so little was known about anything. Voltaire it was who introduced the French to the work of Sir Isaac Newton; he also introduced them to the idea of inoculation against smallpox.
His entry on inoculation in the dictionary starts: “It is said in Christian Europe that the English are madmen and hotheads; madmen because they give smallpox to their children to prevent them getting it; and hotheads, because they willingly give their children a horrible disease for certain with the idea of preventing one in the future that is uncertain.”
In the part …