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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Billroth Lecture

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 03 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8157
  1. Desmond O’Neill, consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine, Centre for Ageing, Neurosciences and the Humanities, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  1. doneill{at}

A casualty of the hegemony of the English language is our distancing from the primacy of Austro-Germanic leadership in medical research, practice, and education for the latter half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries. Virtually every field of medical practice continues to benefit from the imagination, energy, and systematic inquiry of giants such as Koch, Kraepelin, Virchow, Rokitansky, Semmelweiss, Freud, and countless others.

We may also underestimate their impact on education, in particular through the 1910 Flexner report in the US, which profoundly influenced teaching in medical schools both in the US and further afield. Flexner drew heavily on the scientific and innovative …

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