On a medical misattribution [quotation research]

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 26 11:19:25 UTC 2013

Thank you very much Bonnie for sharing your impressive paper. You and
your co-author are helping to teach biomedical researchers
specializing in infectious disease that there also exist infections in
the conceptual or memetic domain. Authors of books and articles act as
transmission vehicles that replicate incorrect quotations from one
textual instance to another.

This unsubstantiated quotation has unfairly diminished the legacy of
Dr. William H. Stewart. Hence, I offer the following mutation.

It's time to close the book on this infectious misquotation, declare
that the war against false attributions has hardly begun, and shift
national resources to such chronic problems as incomplete databases,
poor OCR, and sloppy meta-data.


On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 8:33 PM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake
<b.taylorblake at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      On a medical misattribution [quotation research]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Earlier this year, Brad Spellberg and I published an article refuting
> the assertion that William H. Stewart, U.S. Surgeon General under
> Presidents Johnson and Nixon, had pronounced during his tenure (before
> the emergence in the U.S. of HIV and similar) that
> "It is time to close the book on infectious diseases, and declare the
> war against pestilence won."
> Not only is the belief that Stewart had asserted this ingrained in the
> infectious disease and public health communities, but it’s also been
> embraced by members of the lay public who see the attribution as a
> supreme example of scientific hubris and shortsightedness.  It's
> unfortunate that this misattribution has become a part of the late
> Surgeon General's legacy.
> Several of you are interested in quotation research, so I thought I'd
> mention this work, which appeared in *Infectious Diseases of Poverty*.
> The (free) full text of the paper can be found at
> http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3707092/pdf/2049-9957-2-3.pdf (PDF)
> or
> http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3707092/ (HTML; I'm afraid
> there are some formatting problems in this version)
> I should note that although it took us just a few months to do the
> research and write the manuscript, it took years and several
> submissions to various peer-reviewed medical journals to see this
> published.  More than once during the cycles of manuscript submission
> and rejection we were presented with a particularly discouraging
> question from a reviewer, "What difference does it make whether he
> said it or not?"
> -- Bonnie
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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