18 Quotes About Physicians by Famous Thinkers

Rudyard Kipling.

Take these pearls of wisdom to heart from some of history's famous thinkers about the role of a physician. Agree with them, or disagree, but either way, take time to mull them over. Any of these quotes spark a reaction with you?

  1. In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods, than in giving health to men. 
    — Marcus Tullius Cicero
    Henry Thomas Riley, Dictionary of Latin Quotations, Proverbs, Maxims, and Mottos (1866), 152. 
  1. The physician heals, Nature makes well. 
    — Aristotle
  2. A doctor is nothing more than consolation for the spirit. 
    — Petronius Arbiter
    Satyricon, Cap. 42. In Iain Bamforth, The Body in the Library (2003), 298. 
  3. The doctor is the servant, not master for teaching Nature. 
    — Anonymous
    In Alfred J. Schauer, Ethics in Medicine (2001), 119. 
  4. A certain author defines a doctor to be a man who writes prescriptions till the patient either dies or is cured by nature. 
    — Peter Shaw
    The Reflector: Representing Human Affairs As They Are (1750). In The Pocket Lacon (1839), Vol. 1, 59. 
  5. A doctor is the only man who can suffer from good health. 
    — Anonymous
    In Edward Jewitt Wheeler, et al., The Literary Digest (1931),13. 
  6. A doctor must work eighteen hours a day and seven days a week. If you cannot console yourself to this, get out of the profession 
    — Martin H. Fischer
    Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944). 
  1. A lucky physician is better than a learned one. 
    — English Proverb
    In Dwight Edwards Marvin, The Antiquity of Proverbs (1922), 238. 
  2. A man is a poor physician who has not two or three remedies ready for use in every case of illness. 
    — Asclepiades
  3. A man who cannot work without his hypodermic needle is a poor doctor. The amount of narcotic you use is inversely proportional to your skill. 
    — Martin H. Fischer
    Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944). 
  1. A physician is an unfortunate gentleman who is every day required to perform a miracle; namely to reconcile health with intemperance. 
    — Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
    In Great Thoughts from Master Minds (1887), 8, 49.
  2. A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more than even the whole man—he must view the man in his world. 
    Harvey Cushing
  3. A wise physician, skill’d our wounds to heal, is more than armies to the public weal. 
    — Alexander Pope
    Homer and Alexander Pope (trans.), The Iliad of Homer (1809), Vol. 2, 144.
  4. All knowledge attains its ethical value and its human significance only by the human sense with which it is employed. Only a good man can be a great physician. 
    — Carl Wilhelm Hermann Nothnagel
    Inaugural address (1882), quoted in Johann Hermann Baas, Henry Ebenezer Handerson (trans.), Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession (1889), 966.
  5. Any man who is intelligent must, on considering that health is of the utmost value to human beings, have the personal understanding necessary to help himself in diseases, and be able to understand and to judge what physicians say and what they administer to his body, being versed in each of these matters to a degree reasonable for a layman. 
    — Hippocrates
    Affections, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1988), Vol. 5, 7. 
  1. Beware of the young Doctor, & the old Barber. 
    — Benjamin Franklin
    In Poor Richard's Almanack (1733). 
  2. Doctors have been exposed—you always will be exposed—to the attacks of those persons who consider their own undisciplined emotions more important than the world's most bitter agonies—the people who would limit and cripple and hamper research because they fear research may be accompanied by a little pain and suffering. 
    — Joseph Rudyard Kipling
    Doctors (1908), 28-9.
  3. Given one well-trained physician of the highest type and he will do better work for a thousand people than ten specialists. 
    — William James Mayo
    From speech 'In the Time of Henry Jacob Bigelow', given to the Boston Surgical Society, Medalist Meeting (6 Jun 1921). Printed in Journal of the Medical Association (1921), 77, 601. 

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