Papin D (1704)

123. Papin an Leibniz. In: Gerland E (1881) Leibnizens und Huygens’ Briefwechsel mit Papin. Berlin:Verlag der Koniglichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. p 328.

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123. [Correspondence from] Papin to Leibniz
Cassel this 11th August 1704.

I learned with much joy that your illness did not have any unfortunate consequences: Monsieur Dolaeus also told me that although he would be honoured to be of service to you, he is pleased that it was not needed on this occasion: he sends his regards. He also agrees with the view that a work containing only what we know of Medicine would be a small volume: but adds that, very often, it remains necessary to issue a prescription : because the afflicted themselves want it and a doctor would in due course lose his practice if he prescribed only when he saw it to be necessary: the expedient he has found to satisfy his patients without harming them: is to give them something completely innocuous such as pills of white bread-crumbs browned until they become unrecognizable: and he says that very often he has found that the afflicted have reported great satisfaction: either because by coincidence this remedy came just as the disease was diminishing, or because the force of imagination had contributed to establishing matters in the state that the patient imagined that they ought to be in. With regard to doctors who always prescribe, even for patients who do not want this: I believe, Monsieur, that they do it not only out of habit but also because they really believe that the precepts of their mentors are divine and they are themselves subject to their authority, I have seen a few such examples.

Translated by Kelly Saint-Denn and Clara Blanchard


The editors of the James Lind Library are: 

Indebted for this translation to Kelly Saint-Denny (Psychologue clinicienne, Clinique de médecine néonatale, CHU Lille, France) and Clara Blanchard (Chef de clinique universitaire, Département de Médecine générale, Université de Poitiers, France. Email: