In this letter Sabin responds to Dr. Corner's review comments on her biography of Franklin Mall, and notes that the project
has awakened a great interest in the history of medicine in relation to the history of ideas.
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1934-11-02 (November 2, 1934)
Sabin, Florence R.
Corner, George W.
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Florence R. Sabin Papers
Reproduced with permission of Geraldine F. Swan.
At the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, 1925-1938
Mall, Franklin (New Data)#1
November 2, 1934.
Dear Doctor Corner:
I was more than delighted with your review of my Life of Mall; quite elated, in fact, and I sent you a telegram at once.
You raised a lot of interesting questions. I had not thought of expanding the chapter in connection with Mall's students,
but it is an exceedingly interesting point. Last year there was a young man here in Doctor Brown's department, a Doctor
Casey who is now with Doctor Cash in Virginia, who was greatly interested in statistics. He took a given decade, tabulated
all of the articles in scientific journals according to the universities from which they came, and selected the first ten,
the second ten, and then the rest of the universities just according to the number of articles from their departments. Then
he studied the pupils of the different investigators here at the Institute according to whether they made posts in the first
ten, the second ten, or the scattering group. He gave an arbitrary rating according to the placing of students and some very
interesting results came out. He suggested that I make out a list of Mall's students and where they had gone, and I did
enough to show that he would have had, of course, a very high rating. It is a very artificial rating, because it is based
on numbers of papers rather than on quality of work. To study the question carefully would mean to take each one, read his
work, and get a fair estimate of his achievement. From the standpoint of reaching it would be a very interesting study.
Here at the Institute, Doctor Van Slyke came out with a very high rating.
You are quite right that the book goes to an anti-climax. I was well aware of it. The last chapter is weak. What it needs
is a really a profound study of the meaning of the research institute with relation to the university. It would be a study
that would be well worth while, but to do anything with it would have taken me at least six months of study, if not much more,
and the time came when I had to finish up and publish for I had already given time to it that was needed in my work here,
and then mentally I had to stop. I noticed that the chapter started Doctor Flexner to thinking about the real place of the
research institute, and I propose to think a lot about it in the next few years. There is more tension at an institute than
in a university.
In regard to the Full-Time chapter, I think that I am really right that the real motive force and the ideas were in Mall.
I remember so vividly how many times Doctor Mall would say to me, "Well, Popay has cold feet and I have to begin all over
again." Then he was talking about it in the very early days of the medical school. My memory is vivid of that, at a
time when Doctor Welch insisted to me that nothing was said about it, that no one had thought of it. Doctor Welch brought
that out in questioning the remark of Osler when he left: "Now I go, and you have your way." Doctor Welch said that
that remark could not possibly refer to the Full-Time because no one had thought of it then and yet that was the very year
that Doctor Mall had published about it and I have quoted that even before Doctor Mall went to Baltimore he used to talk about
it at Chicago University. I think there is real documentary evidence for all I have claimed in the files in Baltimore.
The writing of the book has given me a great awakening of an interest in the history of medicine. I have a feeling that much
medical history has been written by men who did not grasp the significance of the ideas of medicine in relation to the history
of thought. You can do wonderful work along that line for you are both a trained historian and a trained physician.
Doctor Sewall called my attention to the fact that though I had said that Doctor Welch gave the first course in histology
and bacteriology in this country, Martin, that is Newell Martin, gave a course in histology at the Hopkins University still
earlier, following the English tradition of having histology given with physiology. Also that Sternberg gave bacteriology
also at the university, following Pasteur's methods very closely. I am keeping all of these corrections both with reference
to a possible reprinting and also as historical data. I am now writing to men like Professor Gage to get material from them
before it is too late.
Professor Sigerist is writing a review for the Bulletin from the historical aspect; but no other review will be as fine as
yours and I am deeply grateful to you for it. I shall be very pleased if my book comes to be regarded as historical material
of a very interesting period in medical education. Its greatest lesson to me is this, that it should mean to the younger
generation coming on and dissatisfied with present conditions, that a generation of young people might create something for
themselves, something quite new and not handed down to them by others. That is what Mall and his generation did and I expect
that the great new things have to come out of young minds.
The report of the Nominating Committee is going to be Doctor Weed and Doctor Scammon. I will send it in formally just as
soon as I hear from the second member. It agrees with his vote, so it is now sure.