Quotes from Historical Figures

Personal Health Awareness

  • Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known as Juvenal (1st – 2nd Century AD): “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

Over time and separated from its context, the phrase has come to have a range of meanings. It can be construed to mean that only a healthy body can produce or sustain a healthy mind. Its most general usage is to express the concept of a healthy balance in one’s mode of life.

  • Plutarch [46-120] : “Each person ought neither to be unacquainted with the perculiarities of his own pulse, nor ignorant of any idiosyncracy which his body has…For the man…is but a blind and deaf tenant in his own body, who…gets his knowledge from another, and must enquire of his physician…” Moralia, “Advice About Keeping Well”
  • Paracelsus [1493-1541]: “Let no one who can be his own, belong to another.” (Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest.) (Motto on various woodcuts of Paracelsus and on title pages of several of his books.)
  • Sir Francis Bacon [1561-1626]: “There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic: a man’s own observation, what he finds good of, is the best physic to preserve health.” Essays, “Of Regiment of Health”
  • Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826]: “No knowledge can be more satisfactory to a man than that of his own frame, its parts, their functions and actions.” (Letter to Dr Thomas Cooper, October 7 1814)
  • Thomas Carlyle [1795-1881]. “The healthy know not of their health, but only the sick: this is the Physician’s Aphorism.” Characteristics
  • Herbert Spencer [1820-1903]: “The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality.” Cited in Strauss: Familiar Medical Quotations
  • John Steinbeck [1902-1968]: “The medical profession is unconsciously irritated by lay knowledge.” East of Eden, Ch. 54
  • Sir William Osler [1849-1919]:  Our mission is of the highest and of the noblest kind, not alone in curing disease but in educating the people in the laws of health…” Aequanimitas, with Other Addresses, “Teaching and Thinking”
  • Thomas McKeown [1912-1988]: The requirements of health can be stated simply. Those fortunate enough to be born free of significant congenital disease or disability will remain well if three basic needs are met: they must be adequately fed; they must be protected from a wide range of hazards in the environment; and they must not depart radically from the pattern of personal behaviour under which man evolved, for example, by smoking, overeating or sedentary living.

[T McKeown, The Role of Medicine: Dream, Mirage, or Nemesis? Nuffield 1976]

Disease prevention

  • Huang Ti (The Yellow Emperor) [2697-2597 BCE]. “Hence the sages did not treat those who were already ill, they instructed those who were not yet ill…” To administer medicines to diseases which have already developed…is comparable to the behaviour of those persons who begin to dig a well after they have become thirsty, and of those who begin to cast weapons after they have already engaged in battle.” Nei Ching Su Wên, Bk I, Sect 2
  • Hippocrates [460-377 B.C.]. “…I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure….” The Hippocratic Oath, Modern Version
  • Ch’in Yueh-jen [ca. 225 BCE].“The skilful doctor treats those who are well but the inferior doctor treats those who are ill.”
  • Huai-nan Tzu (Liu An) [d. 122 BCE].“The good doctor pays constant attention to keeping people well so that there will be no sickness.”
  • Thomas Adams [fl. 1612-1653]. “He is a better Physician that keepes diseases off us, than he that cures them being on us. Prevention is so much better than healing, because it saves the labour of being sick.” Works, “The Happinesse of the Church”
  • Louis Pasteur [1822-1895]. “When meditating over a disease, I never think of finding a remedy for it, but, instead, a means of preventing it.” Address to the Fraternal Association of Former Students of the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Paris, May 15 1884.
  • Sir William Osler [1849-1919]. “To prevent disease, to relieve suffering and to heal the sick – that is our work.” Aequanimitas, with Other Addresses, “Chauvinism in Medicine”
  • William J. Mayo [1861-1939]. “The aim of medicine is to prevent disease and prolong life, the ideal of medicine is to eliminate the need of a physician.” National Education Association: Proceedings and Addresses 66 1928 163
  • Thomas, Lord Horder [1871-1955]. “Inevitably, the doctor’s work in the future will be more and more educational, and less and less curative. More and more will he deal with the physiology and psychology of his patient, less and less with his pathology. He will spend his time keeping the fit fit, rather than trying to make the unfit fit.”
  • Haven Emerson [1874-1957]. “The social cost of sickness is incalculable. The prevention of disease is for the most part a matter of education, the cost is moderate, the results certain and easily demonstrated.” The Social Cost of Sickness
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