The work of the seventeenth-century physician Thomas Sydenham (1624–89), the ‘English Hippocrates’, reminds us that that while medicine is a science, healing is an art. Rather than embracing the scientific method as did Bacon and Harvey, Sydenham’s thinking about the practice of medicine grew out of his clinical experience. He was convinced that the physician should study with his own eyes, rather than primarily through books or hypothesis, and that this close observation would uncover the true indications as to what remedial measure should be taken to combat disease.
William Osler (1849–1919) was the most famous modern advocate of bedside teaching and patient-centred care. ‘Listen to the patient,’ was Osler’s mantra, ‘he is telling you the diagnosis.’ His world-wide reputation was forged in Canada and subsequently at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. In 1904 he was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford.
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