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PERSPECTIVES IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE Volume 12 · Number 1 · Autumn 196S THE EVOLUTION OF MODERN CARDIOLOGY WERNER FORSSMANN* Revolutionary discoveries never occur like isolated comets; only for the superficial observer do they burst forth with the radiant splendor ofa nova. Whoever traces them seriously always finds that, like a new star, they stem from a long period ofdevelopment and in them one can recognizethe spiritual influence ofthepast, springing up fromunknown sources. All discoveries—like famous men of old and their achievements—are inseparably bound to the spiritual development ofhumanity and, in their particular field, they form part ofan endless chain. In order to understand their origin and evaluate them, one must plunge deeply into thepastand study thehistory ofscience. This should beviewed in relation to history in general and especially to thehistory ofcivilization. Like everything else in life, scientific progress is governed by strict laws, and oral and written tradition is the starting and finishing point. These principles are handed down, unchanged, as fundamental knowledge until someone with a revolutionary spirit and critical mind challenges their static condition and discovers errors which he can no longer tolerate. The effort to fill the gaps in the conventional trend ofthought and to insure its continuity leads the critical mind into theoretical speculations which always run in diametrically opposed directions. The conservative scientist tries to uphold tradition at anyprice, while the progressive scientist tries to expound, in a dynamic and revolutionary way, new, clear, and durable concepts. This struggle between conservative and revolutionary * Evangelisches Krankenhaus, Düsseldorf, Fürstenwall 91, Federal Republic ofGermany. Permission to republish this essay, which appeared in Reflections on Biologic Research, has been granted by Warren H. Green, Publishers. thinking represents a problem for every generation, often leading to severe conflicts that are fought with the bitterest animosity, becoming keener the longer the conservative period lasts. Hatred and enmity increase mainly because the conservative side, forced more and more to take the defensive, tries to stifle the enemy with moral rather than scientific arguments. Here lies the crux ofthe problem which the following generation always forgets, or else it fails to grasp fully the import ofthese personal or general conflicts, which endanger the material and spiritual existence ofthe liberal scientist. In no way does his life bear the traces ofromantic ecstasy which is often portrayed in cheap and popular literature. On the contrary, it is hard and it becomes lonelier as he cuts himselfofffrom a life ofconformity. It requires courage, energy and also an enormous strength to bear the ups and downs oflife. At the beginning of his career, the young scientist is hardly aware of these difficulties. Overwhelmed by thejoy ofthe fresh line ofresearch and above all ofthe broad horizons which openup before him, he is filled with tremendous happiness. He is willing to devote his life and the work which is still in his mind to all humanity as a mother carries her child who is conceived in love. But all too soon he will be brought back from his enthusiastic state to reality. He realizes that, except for a few who are capable offollowing his train ofthought, his contemporaries are either indifferent to him or consider him an outsider. His ideas are not understood and are branded devious and worthless. In this way, he doesnotplay the imaginary role ofa pioneer, but rather—in the eyes ofthe inert and thoughtless conservative mass—he bears the mark ofan intruder who wants to change the existing conventional ways. Here he stands at the crossroads: he can choose whether to give up his plans and return contrite to the bosom of society or, ifhe is so obsessed by his ideas, to suffer loneliness and the heartlessness of others—all of which he must endure without help. With the latter decision, he brings upon himselfprivation and a mental burden ofwhich nobody can relieve him. Even later recognition or fame cannot eliminate the scars which he acquired during his struggle. Fewhave the good fortune after self-denial and personal renunciation, enmities, and humiliations, to achieve recognition and the crown ofglory from a grateful younger generation , and even this is no consolation for what the scientist has been through. Actually, every true scientist and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 1-11
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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