Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Organised squirmings

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 02 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7363
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Everyone knows that surgeons have a special type of personality, different from, say, that of haematologists: but how do they get it? Here is one explanation:

In early childhood an individual at three may exercise himself with tearing the limbs from insects, pulling worms apart . . . At fifteen he may be assistant to a butcher and learn to cut up meat. At twenty he may enter college and become an excellent student of physiology, being especially adept at vivisectional experiments. Later he goes into medicine and becomes an expert surgeon.

This description of the surgeon’s progress comes from John B Watson’s book, The Ways of Behaviorism, published in 1928. Watson (1878-1958) became famous for the …

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