To Our Readers, Sep. 18, 1996

We human beings have sought to heal ourselves for as long as we have experienced disease and injury. For at least 3,000 years, the practitioners of medicine have codified these efforts, chronicling each new theory and practice--for the benefit not only of future healers but also of anyone eager to understand the limits of survival.

But the process of learning, for both individuals and societies, usually comes in fits and starts. Throughout history bursts of knowledge--the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Industrial Revolution--have created a succession of new plateaus for human achievement. Medicine is now experiencing just such a surge...

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