The Best Hospitals Are Not Those Which Merely Use Knowledge But Those Which Create It

George W. Pickering? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A thoughtful quotation about the connection between medical research and medical care has been credited to Sir George W. Pickering:

Medicine is an advancing science and the best hospitals are not those which merely use knowledge but those which create it.

Pickering was a professor of medicine at Oxford University. I haven’t been able to find a solid citation online for this statement, and would be grateful if you would explore this.

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence QI has found appeared in the 1964 book “The Advancement of Child Health” by Albert V. Neale. The text discussed the intellectual ferment of the seventeenth century and then stated: 1

Sir George Pickering (1960), three centuries later, has an apt follow-up: ‘Medicine is an advancing science and the best hospitals in the world are not those which merely use new knowledge, but those which create it.’

This version of the quotation was a bit longer because it included the phrase “in the world” and the word “new”. The parenthetical date of 1960 suggested that the author planned to include a precise reference, but a careful examination of the book revealed no further information. The bibliography and notes sections contained no citations for Pickering in 1960.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1968 the reference work “Familiar Medical Quotations” printed the saying: 2

Sir George W. Pickering [1904– ]
Medicine is an advancing science and the best hospitals in the world are not those which merely use new knowledge, but those which create it.

In 2007 the quote was printed in another collection titled “A Spoonful of Sugar: 1,001 Quotations for the Pharmacist and Pharmaceutical Scientist”: 3

Medicine is an advancing science and the best hospitals in the world are not those which merely use new knowledge, but those which create it.
George White Pickering (1904-1980)
English physician and educationalist

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography described the career of Pickering which included the following key posts: 4

… from 1939, as professor of medicine at St Mary’s Hospital medical school; and finally in Oxford. From 1956 to 1968 he was regius professor of medicine and student of Christ Church, and from 1968 until he retired in 1974 he was master of Pembroke College, Oxford.

Pickering would have thought of himself as a medical scientist, but, though he did make significant contributions to our understanding of the control of blood flow and the cause of raised blood pressure, it was his influence on education that was his most important contribution to the medicine of his day.

In conclusion, QI was unable to locate a direct quotation from Pickering, but the statement has been attributed to him since the 1960s. Also, QI found no attributions to other individuals. The questioner’s version was somewhat shorter and simpler than the earliest known version which is probably more accurate.

(Thanks to Benjamin Rix Brooks whose inquiry inspired QI to construct this question and perform this exploration. Also, thanks to wonderful Skylar at FSU)

Notes:

  1. 1964, The Advancement of Child Health by A. V. Neale [Albert Victor Neale], Quote Page 35, University of London, Athlone Press, London. (Verified on paper; Great thanks to Skylar and the Florida State University library)
  2. 1968, Familiar Medical Quotations, Edited by Maurice B. Strauss. Quote Page 221, Little, Brown and Company, Boston. (Verified on paper)
  3. 2007, A Spoonful of Sugar: 1,001 Quotations for the Pharmacist and Pharmaceutical Scientist, Edited by Raymond C. Rowe and Joseph Chamberlain, Quote Page 221, Pharmaceutical Products Press: An Imprint of The Haworth Press, Binghamton, New York. (Google Books preview)
  4. 2004: Online edition October 2009, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Article: “Pickering, Sir George White (1904–1980)” by John Badenoch, Oxford University Press. (Accessed August 30, 2012) link