Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries

Steven B. Harris sbharris at
Thu Aug 27 03:09:29 EST 1998

In <bpmurray*STUFFER*-2608981957260001 at>
bpmurray*STUFFER* (Bernard P. Murray, PhD) writes: 

>> All great men, to be sure, but my own vote goes to Jenner for his
>> courage...
>I don't remember reading that he tested the vaccine on himself...
>     Bernard
>Bernard P. Murray, PhD
>Dept. Cell. Mol. Pharmacol., UCSF, San Francisco, USA

    Hear, hear!  Jenner's work comes very close to being immoral.  Not
only did he test the vaccine on some poor kid, but then he DELIBERATELY
tried to give the kid real smallpox, to test the vaccine.  I'm not

   My vote goes to the three brave doctors (which did NOT include
Walter Reed) who deliberately let themselves be bitten by mosquitos to
see if they could contract yellow fever that way, even knowing how
often deadly the disease was.  And several of them did get it.  One of
them, a guy whose name I'm ashamed to say escapes me just at the moment
(wouldn't you know it) actually died of the disease.  They should have
named the D.C. hospital after HIM.   There's a good account of his
heroism in L. Altman's book WHO GOES FIRST?   Which I can't locate my
copy of at the moment.

    I do remember the name of Werner Forsmann, the guy who first proved
that you could run a catheter into a vein and down into the heart of a
living human without killing them, by tying his lab assistant down who
was trying to stop him,  inserting the catheter into his own arm vein,
advancing it into his heart, and then marching down the hall that way
to take the confirming X-ray.  He certainly deserved the Nobel, and got

   And in my mind also is ever the picture of Louis Pasteur, partly
paralyzed by a stroke, leaning close to the face of a rabid and
snarling bulldog held down by a lab assistant, in order to mouth-pipet
a sample of saliva.  There were giants in those days.  I don't consider
Jenner one of them.

                                    Steve Harris, M.D.



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