Volume 50, Issue 4, April 2021

Book review: Travels through historic medical education sites of Europe

Stephen A Margolis   
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Front cover of Travels through historic medical education sites of Europe

Author: Richard Hays
Cambridge, Tas: Forty South Publishing
Paperback ISBN 9780648854098

‘Study the past, if you would divine the future.’

– Confucius1

Armchair travel has taken on a new dimension since the arrival of COVID-19. After many months’ absence, travel writing has made a tenuous return as the date we can physically travel beyond Australia seems to recede into the distance.

With this in mind, I wandered through this seemingly low-key yet somewhat informative guide to the key locations ‘relevant to the development of medical practice and medical education in the modern western world’. The text pulls together a broad range of locations, highlighting their historical medical connections as well as ease of access for the traveller. The former was informative, the latter not currently relevant and perhaps inaccurate in the post-COVID-19 world?

A knowledge of the history of medicine provides the foundation for understanding modern clinical practice. During my formative years in medical training, our teachers regaled us with endless stories of the characters behind the eponymous names applied to much of what we learnt. We studied Notable names in medicine and surgery,2 as the historical details of key players were often tested in exams. Much as medical learning is based on our experiences with specific patients, I link my knowledge of diseases with the life and times of the noted physicians whose names are attached. Consequently, I was interested in the text discussion of the Musée Dupuytren in Paris, a little-known collection. However, spurred on by Hays’ description, I spent quite some time virtually exploring the works of Baron Guillaume Dupuytren, including the original specimens demonstrating the eponymous physical sign.

Rather than a formal, definitive history text or a typical guidebook, the content helps guide the reader across the landscape of Europe, from one important location to the next, describing the context and importance for each site. The content is chaptered by location and country, allowing readers to move across the chapters rather than necessarily reading in sequence. The inclusion of URLs provided a more immersive experience, allowing a rapid transition from the text to the virtual world online. Perhaps this will be the extent of travel experiences for some time?

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the internet tour it stimulated, a virtual guide to a potted history of the art and science behind clinical medicine.

Stephen A Margolis, OAM
Editor in Chief, Australian Journal of General Practice;
Professor, School of Medicine, Griffith University, Qld;
Staff Specialist,
Royal Flying Doctor Service, Qld

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  1. Brainy quotes. Confucius quotes. Mercer Island, WA: BrainyQuote, 2021. Available at [Accessed 27 January 2021]. Search PubMed
  2. Bailey H, Bishop WJ. Notable names in medicine and surgery. 2nd edn. London, UK: H. K. Lewis & Co, 1946. Search PubMed

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