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Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there also is love of humanity. ~ Hippocrates

Medicine is the art and science of healing; alternatively amongst certain Native American peoples it may refer to magic.


  • Change in our views seems to be the only permanent phenomenon, and in no science has the maxim: "Much arises which has already perished, and what is now honored is already declining," attained such extended verification as in the very science of medicine. Even so in this same science has been proven the truth of that other saying: "As long at man struggles he errs". To err in its struggles after the truth is, however, according to the resigned expression of Lessing, the portion of humanity, and absolute truth is of God alone.
  • Medicine is a science which hath been... more professed than laboured, and yet more laboured than advanced: the labour having been, in my judgment, rather in circle than in progression. For I find much iteration but small addition. It considereth causes of diseases, with the occasions or impulsions; the diseases themselves, with the accidents; and the cures with the preservations. The deficiencies which I think good to note being a few of many, and those such as are of a more open and manifest nature, I will enumerate, and not place.
    • Francis Bacon, The Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Human, 2nd Book to the King (1605) EnglishTr. Francis Headlam, translation revised by James Spedding, The Philosophical Works of Francis Bacon (1905) p. 105
  • Our world is one of terrible contradictions. Plenty of food but one billion people go hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, but poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die everyday in childbirth . . . Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe.
  • I find the medicine worse than the malady.
  • Medicine, guarded too by preliminary impediments, and frightful medusa-heads of quackery, which deter many generous souls from entering, is of the half-articulate professions, and does not much invite the ardent kinds of ambition. The intellect required for medicine might be wholly human, and indeed should by all rules be,—the profession of the Human Healer being radically a sacred one and connected with the highest priesthoods, or rather being itself the outcome and acme of all priesthoods, and divinest conquests of intellect here below. As will appear one day, when men take off their old monastic and ecclesiastic spectacles, and look with eyes again! In essence the Physician's task is always heroic, eminently human: but in practice most unluckily at present we find it too become in good part beaverish,—yielding a money-result alone. And what of it is not beaverish,—does not that too go mainly to ingenious talking, publishing of yourself, ingratiating of yourself; a partly human exercise or waste of intellect, and, alas, a partly vulpine ditto;—making the once sacred... Human Healer, more impossible for us than ever!
  • History is replete with examples of what happens when any group of authorities do not have to answer to empirical evidence but are free to define truth as they see fit. None of the examples has a happy ending. Why should it be otherwise with therapy?
    • Robert Todd Carroll, The Skeptic's Dictionary, entry on "repressed memory therapy (RMT)".
  • The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
    • This has been reprinted many times with slight variations on the wording; it is part of a much larger quote directly from Edison published in 1903:
Nineteen hundred and three will bring great advances in surgery, in the study of bacteria, in the knowledge of the cause and prevention of disease. Medicine is played out. Every new discovery of bacteria shows us all the more convincingly that we have been wrong and that the million tons of stuff we have taken was all useless.
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
They may even discover the germ of old age. I don't predict it, but it might be by the sacrifice of animal life human life could be prolonged.
Surgery, diet, antiseptics — these three are the vital things of the future in preserving the health of humanity. There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of diseases as now, and all their discoveries are tending to the simple truth — that you can't improve on nature.
  • Thomas Edison as quoted in "Wizard Edison" in The Newark Advocate (2 January 1903), p. 1 according to research by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson at
  • The ignorance and general incompetency of the average graduate of the American medical Schools, at the time when he receives the degree which turns him loose upon the community, is something horrible to contemplate.
    • Charles Eliot, President of Harvard University (1869). In response to this call for reform, Harvard Professor of Surgery Harold Bigelow replied "He actually proposes to have written examinations for the degree of doctor of medicine. I had to tell him that he knew nothing about the quality of Harvard medical students. More than half of them can barely write. Of course they can't pass written examinations...No medical school has thought it proper to risk large existing classes and larger receipts by introducing more rigorous standards".
  • Medicine is founded upon the nature and constitution of man, physically and psychically, in all his phases of existence, and must necessarily be related to all the sciences, with scarcely an exception; since man is a microcosm of the universe, and science and philosophy are exponents of his relation thereto. This is the foundation of Aristotle's epigrammatic phrase: "The philosopher should end with medicine; the physician commence with philosophy."
    • David Allyn Gorton, The History of Medicine, Philosophical and Critical (1910) Vol. 1
  • From inability to let well alone; from too much zeal for the new and contempt for what is old; from putting knowledge before wisdom, science before art and cleverness before common sense; from treating patients as cases; and from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the endurance of the same, Good Lord, deliver us.
    • Sir Robert Hutchison, 20th century physician, British Medical Journal (1953), 1: 671.
  • Medicine was the foster-mother of Chemistry, because it has to do with the preparation of drugs and the detection of poisons; of Botany, because it enabled the physician to recognize medicinal herbs; of Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, because the man who studied Human Anatomy and Physiology for purely medical purposes was led to extend his studies to the rest of the animal world.
    • Thomas Henry Huxley, "Universities: Actual and Ideal," Select Works of Thomas H. Huxley (1886)
  • Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn't organised to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.
  • Things are not going well for me. My chef at the Charité strongly disapproves of women students and took this means of showing it. About a hundred men (no women except myself) went round the wards today, and when we were all assembled before him to have our names written down, he called and named all the students except me, and then closed the book. I stood forward upon this, and said quietly, "Et moi aussi, monsieur." [And me, Sir.] He turned on me sharply, and cried, "Vous, vous n'êtes ni homme ni femme; je ne veux pas inscrire vôtre nom." [You, you are neither man nor woman; I don't want to write your name.] I stood silent in the midst of a dead silence."
    • Anna Kingsford Rudacille, Deborah (2000). The Scalpel and the Butterfly p. 35.
  • Before the eighteenth century the demographic impact of the profession of medicine remained negligible. Relatively few persons could afford to pay a doctor for his often very expensive services; and for every case in which the doctor's attendance really made a difference between life and death, there were other instances in which even the best available professional services made little difference to the course of the disease, or actually hindered recovery. ...Only with the eighteenth century did the situation begin to change; and it was not until after 1850 or so that the practice of medicine and the organization of medical services begin to make large-scale differences in human survival rates and population growth.
  • La philosophie est la mére de la médecine. [Philosophy is the mother of medecine.]
    • Kurt Polycarp Joachim Sprengel Histoire de la Médecine, Depuis son Origine Jusqu'au Dix-neuvième Siècle Tome premier, Introduction p. 5 as quoted by David Allyn Gorton, The History of Medicine, Philosophical and Critical (1910) Vol. 1

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 502-04.
  • Medicus carat, Natura sanat morbus.
    • The physician heals, Nature makes well.
    • Idea in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VII. 15. 7. Oxford text.
  • A man's own observation, what he find good of, and what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health.
  • Dat Galenus opes, dat Justinianus honores,
    Sed genus species cogitur ire pedes.
    • The rich Physician, honor'd Lawyers ride,
      Whil'st the poor Scholar foots it by their side.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), I. 2. 3. 15. Quoted by Dr. Robert F. Arnold. A like saying may be found in Franciscus Floridus Sabinus—Lectiones Subcisive, Book I, Chapter I. Also John Owen—Medicus et I. C.
    • Ovid, Fasti, I. 217; Amores, III, VIII. 55.
  • 'Tis not amiss, ere ye're giv'n o'er,
    To try one desp'rate med'cine more;
    For where your case can be no worse,
    The desp'rat'st is the wisest course.
  • Learn'd he was in medic'nal lore,
    For by his side a pouch he wore,
    Replete with strange hermetic powder
    That wounds nine miles point-blank would solder.
  • This is the way that physicians mend or end us,
    Secundum artem: but although we sneer
    In health—when ill, we call them to attend us,
    Without the least propensity to jeer.
  • Ægri quia non omnes convalescunt, idcirco ars nulla medicina est.
    • Because all the sick do not recover, therefore medicine is not an art.
    • Cicero, De Natura Deorum, II. 4.
  • Take a little rum
    The less you take the better,
    Pour it in the lakes
    Of Wener or of Wetter.

    Dip a spoonful out
    And mind you don't get groggy,
    Pour it in the lake
    Of Winnipissiogie.

    * Stir the mixture well
    Lest it prove inferior,
    Then put half a drop
    Into Lake Superior.

    Every other day
    Take a drop in water,
    You'll be better soon
    Or at least you oughter.
  • Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
    Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught.
    The wise for cure on exercise depend;
    God never made his work for man to mend.
    • John Dryden, Epistle to John Dryden of Chesterton, line 92.
  • So liv'd our sires, ere doctors learn'd to kill,
    And multiplied with theirs the weekly bill.
  • Even as a Surgeon, minding off to cut
    Some cureless limb, before in use he put
    His violent Engins on the vicious member,
    Bringeth his Patient in a senseless slumber,
    And grief-less then (guided by use and art),
    To save the whole, sawes off th' infected part.
  • For of the most High cometh healing.
    • Ecclesiasticus, XXXVIII. 2.
  • One doctor, singly like the sculler plies,
    The patient struggles, and by inches dies;
    But two physicians, like a pair of oars,
    Waft him right swiftly to the Stygian shores.
    • Quoted by Garth, The Dispensary.
  • A single doctor like a sculler plies,
    And all his art and all his physic tries;
    But two physicians, like a pair of oars,
    Conduct you soonest to the Stygian shores.
    • Epigrams Ancient and Modern. Edited by Rev. John Booth, London, 1863, p. 144. Another version signed D, (probably John Dunscombe) in note to Nichols' Select Collection of Poems.
  • "Is there no hope?" the sick man said,
    The silent doctor shook his head,
    And took his leave with signs of sorrow,
    Despairing of his fee to-morrow.
  • Oh, powerful bacillus,
    With wonder how you fill us,
    Every day!
    While medical detectives,
    With powerful objectives,
    Watch your play.
  • I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes.
  • A pill that the present moment is daily bread to thousands.
  • Orandum est, ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
    • A sound mind in a sound body is a thing to be prayed for.
    • Juvenal, Satires, X. 356.
  • You behold in me
    Only a travelling Physician;
    One of the few who have a mission
    To cure incurable diseases,
    Or those that are called so.
  • Physician, heal thyself.
    • Luke, IV. 23. Quoted as a proverb.
  • And in requital ope his leathern scrip,
    And show me simples of a thousand names,
    Telling their strange and vigorous faculties.
  • Adrian, the Emperor, exclaimed incessantly, when dying, "That the crowd of physicians had killed him."
  • How the Doctor's brow should smile,
    Crown'd with wreaths of camomile.
  • Dulcia non ferimus; succo renovamus amaro.
    • We do not bear sweets; we are recruited by a bitter potion.
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, III. 583.
  • Medicus nihil aliud est quam animi consolatio.
  • I have heard that Tiberius used to say that that man was ridiculous, who after sixty years, appealed to a physician.
    • Plutarch, De Sanitate tuenda, Volume II.
  • So modern 'pothecaries, taught the art
    By doctor's bills to play the doctor's part,
    Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
    Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
  • Learn from the beasts the physic of the field.
  • Who shall decide when doctors disagree,
    And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me?
  • Banished the doctor, and expell'd the friend.
  • You tell your doctor, that y' are ill
    And what does he, but write a bill,
    Of which you need not read one letter,
    The worse the scrawl, the dose the better.
    For if you knew but what you take,
    Though you recover, he must break.
  • But, when the wit began to wheeze,
    And wine had warm'd the politician,
    Cur'd yesterday of my disease,
    I died last night of my physician.
  • Physicians, of all men, are most happy: whatever good success soever they have, the world proclaimeth and what faults they commit, the earth covereth.
  • Use three Physicians,
    Still-first Dr. Quiet,
    Next Dr. Merry-man
    And Dr. Dyet.
    • From Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, Edition 1607.
  • No cataplasm so rare,
    Collected from all simples that have virtue
    Under the moon, can save the thing from death.
  • In poison there is physic; and these news,
    Having been well, that would have made me sick;
    Being sick, have in some measure made me well.
  • How does your patient, doctor?
    Not so sick, my lord,
    As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies.
  • Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd,
    Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
    Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
    And with some sweet oblivious antidote
    Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
    Which weighs upon the heart?
  • Therein the patient
    Must minister to himself.
    Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
  • If thou couldst, doctor, cast
    The water of my land, find her disease,
    And purge it to a sound and pristine health,
    I would applaud thee to the very echo,
    That should applaud again.
  • I do remember an apothecary,—
    And hereabouts he dwells,—whom late I noted
    In tatter'd weeds, with overwhelming brows,
    Culling of simples; meagre were his looks,
    Sharp misery had worn him to the bones:
    And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
    An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
    Of ill-shaped fishes; and about his shelves
    A beggarly account of empty boxes,
    Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
    Remnants of packthread and old cakes of roses,
    Were thinly scatter'd to make up a show.
  • Trust not the physician;
    His antidotes are poison, and he slays
    More than you rob.
  • Crudelem medicum intemperans æger facit.
    • A disorderly patient makes the physician cruel.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • He (Tiberius) was wont to mock at the arts of physicians, and at those who, after thirty years of age, needed counsel as to what was good or bad for their bodies.
    • Tacitus, Annals, Book VI, Chapter XLVI. Same told by Suetonius, Life of Tiberius, Chapter LXVIII.
  • Ægrescitque medendo.
    • The medicine increases the disease.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), XII. 46.
  • But nothing is more estimable than a physician who, having studied nature from his youth, knows the properties of the human body, the diseases which assail it, the remedies which will benefit it, exercises his art with caution, and pays equal attention to the rich and the poor.
    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique portatif ("A Philosophical Dictionary") (1764), Physicians.

Quotes in fiction[edit]

  • Take you up when you feeling down
    When you're sick he will come around
    Takes his cures from out the ground
    He's the one who can hypnotize
    And you'll never believe your eyes
    He can cause the dead to rise.
    • 10cc Baron Samedi from the album Sheet Music, written by Erik Stewart and Graham Gouldman.
  • Mr. Spock: Jim, I remind you that this is a silicon-based form of life. Dr. McCoy's medical knowledge will be totally useless.
Capt. Kirk: He is a healer, let him heal.
  • Doctor Seward: But, Professor Van Helsing, modern medical science does not admit of such a creature! The vampire is a pure myth, superstition.
Van Helsing: I may be able to bring you proof that the superstition of yesterday can become the scientific reality of today.
  • Adam: Your skills have given birth to many lives which never should have been....They are your GUILT...
  • Adam: Nature mandates that mankind will eventually succumb to its poison. However, humans created their own poison, called medicine. It's delusional to believe you can poison Nature to avoid your fate.
Stiles: No... It's delusional to dismiss people's deaths as "fate."
  • Mr. Spock: Even more fascinating. Slavery evolving into an institution, with guaranteed medical payments, old-age pensions.
Dr. McCoy: Quite logical, I'd say, Mister Spock. Just as it's logical that, uh... 20th-century Rome would use television to show its gladiator contest, or name a new car the Jupiter VIII.
Mr. Spock: Doctor, if I were able to show emotion, your new infatuation with that term would begin to annoy me.
Dr. McCoy: What term? 'Logic'? Medical men are trained in logic, Mr. Spock.
Mr. Spock: Really, Doctor? I had no idea they were trained. Watching you, I assumed it was trial and error.
  • Mother: Enough is enough, Michaela. Your father is gone, and so are his patients.
Mike: They were my patients, too.
Mother: (shakes her head) Your father, God rest his soul, indulged you in a fantasy.
Mike: I have a medical degree, Mother. That is not a fantasy.
Mother: In this world it is.
Mike: Then perhaps I belong in a different world.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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