Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Famous for nothing

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 10 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6379
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Once upon a time, and quite unlike in our own days, eminence in the medical profession was not entirely dependent on merit, if by merit we mean only intellectual or scientific distinction. A good illustration of this is the career of Sir George Clark (1788-1870), physician to Queen Victoria. He was famous in his day, but he discovered nothing.

His career was interesting. He was the son of the butler to the Earl of Findlater. He qualified as a naval surgeon and was shipwrecked twice. He then studied in Paris and was one of the first British physicians to use the newfangled stethoscope. He then practised in Rome, living near the Piazza di Spagna. There …

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