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NEJM: The Burden of Disease and the Changing Task of Medicine

At first glance, the inaugural 1812 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery, and the Collateral Branches of Science seems reassuringly familiar: a review of angina pectoris, articles on infant diarrhea and burns. The apparent similarity to today's Journal, however, obscures a fundamental discontinuity (1812a, b, c; see Historical Journal Articles Cited). Disease has changed since 1812. People have different diseases, doctors hold different ideas about those diseases, and diseases carry different meanings in society. To understand the material and conceptual transformations of disease over the past 200 years, one must explore the incontrovertibly social nature of disease.

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