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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 23 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1756
  1. Richard Smith, director, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, London
  1. richardswsmith{at}

It is not wholly fanciful to compare the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care with On the Origin of Species. Both books resulted from a rigorous accumulation of data and fundamentally changed our world view. Darwin’s book showed our descent from apes. The atlas exploded the belief that medicine is based firmly on science.

The first Dartmouth Atlas was published in 1996, and it is now a rich website with well presented maps and publications on healthcare in the United States. “Jack” Wennberg (as he is known) is the main author but was not the first to identify variations. The atlas pays tribute to the British paediatrician J Alison Glover, who observed in the 1930s that …

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