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A doctor’s lifelong campaign to revive the Olympic games

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 29 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3691
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

Anybody who looks into the single eye of Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, would be forgiven for not guessing, but the revival of the modern Olympics is due in large part to the marathon efforts of a single minded English country doctor named William Penny Brookes.

Brookes was born in 1809 in Much Wenlock, in Shropshire, and trained in surgery in London, Paris, and Padua before returning to his home town to take over his father’s medical practice in 1831. Brookes was cast in the mould of the archetypal Victorian philanthropist, and threw himself into civic duties with gusto. Almost …

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