Dr Johnson’s animal passionsBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5209 (Published 22 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5209
- Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor
Doctor Johnson sometimes accused himself of idleness, though his collected works, even without his dictionary and his edition of Shakespeare, are several thousand pages long.
He wrote extensively about matters medical—so extensively, in fact, that this medical writing far exceeds in extent the writing of the overwhelming majority of doctors in history. He wrote biographies of the Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave, for example, and Thomas Sydenham; he reviewed many medical books. He believed that medicine was of the second greatest benefit to humankind—after religion—and he kept abreast of developments in medicine.
Dr Johnson’s brief essay in the Idler for Saturday 5 August 1758, however, is the strongest attack on vivisection written in the 18th century, perhaps indeed …