William Stewart Quote on Infectious Diseases – Urban Legend
Dr. William Stewart, then Surgeon General of USA, famously said in 1967, “It’s time to close the books on infectious diseases, declare the war against pestilence won, and shift national resources to such chronic problems as cancer and heart disease.”
Many, including myself, have used this quote to illustrate the shortsightedness of human nature, even in renowned experts, particularly with regards to the resilience of microbes in developing resistance to antimicrobial agents.
Well, it turns out that Dr. Stewart had never said those words, although it remains unclear how those words became attributed to him. There is an excellent piece published this morning discussing this erroneous quote in the New Yorker by Michael Specter, and the original investigation attempting to trace the quote to Dr. Stewart was conducted by Prof Brad Spellberg, currently chief medical officer of LA County – University of of Southern California, and a great clinician and scientist in his own right.
It is time to contribute towards setting the record straight.