Much has been made of the contribution Gutenberg’s printing press (1440) made to the spread of Martin Luther’s Theses (1517), and hence to the launch and spread of the Protestant Reformation. Gutenberg’s press enabled the distribution of thousands of copies of not only Luther’s work but also other religious documents and even entire Bibles, so that laypersons could access the documents of their faith and consider the roots of that faith privately, without the direct intervention of the clergy. A parallel version of this story can be found in medicine. Prior to the printing press, it was almost impossible to share widely the existing knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and treatment; the most common way of sharing knowledge was through personal letters, which—by definition—were not widely shared and could not be easily reproduced and distributed. The advancement of medicine was hampered—perhaps even stymied—by the lack of a medium for distributing the knowledge discovered by dispersed practitioners. Gutenberg’s press created an efficient medium for distributing this rare knowledge to large numbers of dispersed practitioners.
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Volume 60, Issue 1, January-February 2017
Innovation for Innovators