Monday, June 06, 2016

Learning from history - or not.

Have just been listening to "Start the week" on BBC Radio 4 on my way home from a meeting. the programme about "Genes: Our medical inheritance" is available to listen to on the BBC website at

The story which I felt I had to post if only so that I would remember it was told towards the end of the programme about how tremendous progress was made in understanding and treating injuries during World War One and how it was then forgotten.

Presenter Andrew Marr asked the medical historian who was telling the story, Emily Mayhew, whether the reason for this was because the country wanted to turn its' back on the horrors of the war and was told that it was not on those grounds but for a much more boring institutional reason.

"Money!" exclaimed Marr, obviously assuming this must be the reason.

But he was told, no, it wasn't for lack of money either.

It was institutional inertia: the culture of the leading medical colleges and authorities were in favour of general surgery and general practice and against the development of specialisms. Consequently, for reasons of institutional orthodoxy, the people who had made enormous advances which, had we built on them in the following century, could have produced even further progress in treating trauma and injury, were put "back in their boxes" and all that progress "simply ebbed away" and was largely forgotten for many years.

A warning to all of us: do not allow received wisdom to kill new ideas.


Jim said...

I know a group of people who can relate to that. :o|

Jim said...

I know a group of people who can relate to that. :o|

Chris Whiteside said...