Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Leave the quacks alone

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 08 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e843
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Joseph Sampson Gamgee (1828-1886) was one of three brothers all of whom made it into the Valhalla of British posthumous eminence, the Dictionary of National Biography. A surgeon, he is remembered today mainly for the absorbent dressing that he invented and whose use he advocated; he also had a quarrel with Joseph Lister over antisepsis. He was a contemporary of Lister’s at medical school and went on to examine Lister’s methods, which he praised though not without reservation. Lister took this badly, as if he who was not wholly for him was wholly against him. This is not a completely uncommon human trait, as anyone who has ever sat on a hospital committee will know.

Gamgee had been a surgeon in Malta …

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