The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.
Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE (www.oxfordreference.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 December 2023


  1. I am dying with the help of too many physicians.
    Alexander the Great 356–323 bc Greek monarch, King of Macedon from 336 bc: attributed
  2. Medicinal discovery,
    It moves in mighty leaps,
    It leapt straight past the common cold
    And gave it us for keeps.
    Pam Ayres 1947–  English writer of humorous verse: ‘Oh no, I got a cold’ (1976)
  3. Physicians of the Utmost Fame
    Were called at once; but when they came
    They answered, as they took their Fees,
    ‘There is no Cure for this Disease.’
    Hilaire Belloc 1870–1953 British poet, essayist, historian, novelist, and Liberal politician: Cautionary Tales (1907) ‘Henry King’
  4. I would rather be kept alive in the efficient if cold altruism of a large hospital than expire in a gush of warm sympathy in a small one.
    Aneurin Bevan 1897–1960 British Labour politician: speech, House of Commons, 30 April 1946
  5. We all labour against our own cure, for death is the cure of all diseases.
    Sir Thomas Browne 1605–82 English writer and physician: Religio Medici (1643) pt. 2, sect. 9
  6. If a lot of cures are suggested for a disease, it means that the disease is incurable.
    Anton Chekhov 1860–1904 Russian dramatist and short-story writer: The Cherry Orchard (1904) act 1
  7. Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.
    to be said 15 to 20 times, morning and evening
    Émile Coué 1857–1926 French psychologist: De la suggestion et de ses applications (1915)
  8. The wounded surgeon plies the steel
    That questions the distempered part;
    Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
    The sharp compassion of the healer's art
    Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.
    T. S. Eliot 1888–1965 American-born British poet, critic, and dramatist: Four Quartets ‘East Coker’ (1940) pt. 4
  9. We shall have to learn to refrain from doing things merely because we know how to do them.
    Theodore Fox 1899–1989 English doctor: speech to Royal College of Physicians, 18 October 1965
  10. May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain… May neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children.
    known as ‘The Prayer of Maimonides’ and frequently wrongly attributed to Maimonides, but written in German and translated into Hebrew by a modern Jewish doctor
    Marcus Hertz 1747–1803 German physician: G. Deutsch ‘The Prayer of Maimonides’ in American Israelite 19 March 1908
  11. Life is short, the art long.
    often quoted as ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’, after Seneca's rendering in De Brevitate Vitae sect. 1
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: Aphorisms sect. 1, para. 1 (tr. W. H. S. Jones); see Chaucer
  12. As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least to do no harm.
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: Epidemics
  13. I swear by Apollo the physician, by Asclepius, by Health, by Panacea and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgement, this oath and this indenture.
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: The Hippocratic Oath (tr. W. H. S. Jones)
  14. I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgement, but never with a view to injury or wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: The Hippocratic Oath (tr. W. H. S. Jones)
  15. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: The Hippocratic Oath (tr. W. H. S. Jones)
  16. Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: Precepts ch. 1 (tr. W. H. S. Jones, 1923)
  17. One of the most difficult things to contend with in a hospital is the assumption on the part of the staff that because you have lost your gall bladder you have also lost your mind.
    Jean Kerr 1923–2003 American writer: How I Got to be Perfect (1979)
  18. It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a Hospital that it should do the sick no harm.
    Florence Nightingale 1820–1910 English nurse: Notes on Hospitals (1863 ed.) preface
  19. What nursing has to do … is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.
    Florence Nightingale 1820–1910 English nurse: Notes on Nursing (1860)
  20. The young physician starts life with twenty drugs for each disease, and the old physician ends life with one drug for twenty diseases.
    William Osler 1849–1919 Canadian-born physician: Aphorisms from His Bedside Teachings and Writings (1950, ed. William Bennett Bean)
  21. One finger in the throat and one in the rectum makes a good diagnostician.
    William Osler 1849–1919 Canadian-born physician: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings (1961)
  22. The desire to take medicine is perhaps the greatest feature which distinguishes man from animals.
    William Osler 1849–1919 Canadian-born physician: H. Cushing Life of Sir William Osler (1925) vol. 1, ch. 14
  23. Cured yesterday of my disease,
    I died last night of my physician.
    Matthew Prior 1664–1721 English poet: ‘The Remedy Worse than the Disease’ (1727)
  24. By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death
    Will seize the doctor too.
    William Shakespeare 1564–1616 English dramatist: Cymbeline (1609–10)
  25. Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
    William Shakespeare 1564–1616 English dramatist: Macbeth (1606) act 5, sc. 3, l. 47 (Oxford Standard Authors ed.)
  26. There is at bottom only one genuinely scientific treatment for all diseases, and that is to stimulate the phagocytes.
    George Bernard Shaw 1856–1950 Irish dramatist: The Doctor's Dilemma (1911) act 1
  27. Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.
    Thomas Szasz 1920–2012 Hungarian-born psychiatrist: The Second Sin (1973) ‘Science and Scientism’
  28. Medicine is a social science and politics is nothing but medicine on a large scale.
    Rudolf Virchow 1821–1902 German pathologist: ‘The Charity Physician’ (1848) in L. J. Rather (ed.) Collected Essays on Public Health and Epidemiology (1985)
  29. Ah, well, then, I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means.
    at the mention of a huge fee for a surgical operation
    Oscar Wilde 1854–1900 Irish dramatist and poet: R. H. Sherard Life of Oscar Wilde (1906) ch. 18