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A journal’s 200-year history

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2012 - Autumn


When the first issue of The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery, and the Collateral Branches of Science appeared in January of 1812, New England was “a medical backwater,” said Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D., at internal medicine grand rounds in May.

Drazen, the journal’s present editor, said that founder and physician John Collins Warren felt that the new country needed a medical magazine. “Physicians in New England needed to know what was happening in the seats of learning in Berlin, London, and Paris,” Drazen said. The journal would appear quarterly, be delivered on horseback, and cost $3 per year.

Since then, it has assumed different forms until settling on its current name, The New England Journal of Medicine, in 1928. This year it celebrates its bicentennial.

The journal has continued to inform physicians throughout its history. In 1898 it reported on a new device called an X-ray. During World War II it explored the medical aspects of war. In 1942 it reported on a new drug called penicillin, and in 1981 it published three articles on a little-understood disease called gay-related immune deficiency, or grid, now called HIV/AIDS.

“I firmly believe that physicians need the best and most up-to-date medical information,” Drazen said, echoing the founding editor’s mission.