Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Past Caring

Rhyme and reason

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 17 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4890
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

    With precious little time to stand and stare, it is scarcely surprising that few doctors wax poetical. The Georgian naval surgeon Tobias Smollett swapped his lancet and saw for a quill and ink, while in the 19th century John Keats opted to write of hemlock rather than administer morphine. But if anyone has successfully combined both oath and ode, it must be Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose contributions to medicine easily balance his homage to the muse.

    Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1809, Holmes showed an early interest in the human body at 8 years old when he took …

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