'Doctor Franklin's Medicine' explores founding father's vast medical legacy

Benjamin Franklin's myriad contributions as scientist, inventor, publisher and statesman will be back in the spotlight in coming months as America celebrates his 300th birthday on Jan. 17, 2006.

Major exhibits on his life and work are opening in London and Philadelphia, and a traveling exhibit moves next year to museums in St. Louis, Houston, Denver, Atlanta and Paris. While much of the hoopla will focus on Franklin's role as an influential American diplomat, a new book suggests that he deserves considerable recognition for his important but overlooked contributions to medicine.

"Franklin played a critical role in development of modern medicine," suggests Stanley Finger, Ph.D., a noted medical historian and professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. "With strong interests in bedside and preventative medicine, hospital care, and even medical education, he helped to change medical care in both America and Europe."

In his forthcoming book, "Doctor Franklin's Medicine" (University of Pennsylvania Press, January 2006), Finger presents a colorful and context-rich analysis of Franklin's medical efforts.

Finger has written widely on the history of the brain and behavioral sciences, and his recent books include "Origins of Neuroscience," "Trepanation," and "Minds Behind the Brain." He is also senior editor of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences.

'A rare bird'

More than a simple listing of Franklin's medical contributions, Finger's latest book reveals what was theorized about health and disease early in the 18th century, and shows how Franklin strove to improve medicine with careful observations, actual experiments and hard data.

"Franklin was a rare bird," Finger says. "His broad contributions are especially remarkable in that he had no medical training and, in fact, only two years of classroom education. What is even more amazing is that he came from the c

Contact: Gerry Everding
Washington University in St. Louis

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