The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine

By Walter J. Friedlander | Go to book overview

Appendix II
History of the American Medical
Association's Official Symbol

The American Medical Association has had a strong influence on the American medical profession and on the perception of the profession by the public. Hence, in this history of a certain aspect of medical symbology, the history of what the A.M.A. has used as their symbol should be of some interest.

The earliest mention of a "distinctive, attractive and permanent badge to designate members" was in a presentation by Dr. Richard French Stone to the Business Committee at the 1898 annual convention. He stated that "this proposition has been discussed among members of the Association for many years, and the predominance of expressed sentiment is that some method of recognition when they meet by chance as well as on social and professional occasions, is a necessity." Other reasons he offered for adopting an official insignia was that it would identify medical professionals in cases of emergency and accidents, and it would encourage medical men to join the organization and, thereby "giving additional financial as well as numerical support."

Stone suggested a device made of gold and enamel "in the form of a circular shield, having for its central feature a spear-pointed cross, opposite to the arms of which are the initial letters of ' Members of American Medical Association.'" The circular shield and spear-pointed cross typify the protective armor of the period in which medicine had its origin. The cruciform center not only typifies the great advancement of the profession during the Christian era, but was also the idiographic sign or symbol of life and of the 'Healing Art' in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and other nations of the greatest antiquity. The initial letters and enameled National colors (red, white and blue) sufficiently symbolize the Nationality of our Association." 1

The Business Committee voted to adopt this badge. 2 In the September 9, 1899 issue of the Journal there is a note stating that "after considerable

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The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Medical Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Foreword xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Note 3
  • 2 - Definition of the Caduceus 5
  • Notes 12
  • 3 - Development of the Structure of the Caduceus 13
  • Notes 29
  • 4 - Hermes 31
  • Notes 59
  • 5 - Egyptian Hermes 61
  • Notes 81
  • 6 - Caduceus in Medicine: Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries 83
  • 7 - Caduceus as a Printer's Mark 109
  • 8 - U. S. Army's Medical Department Adopts the Caduceus 127
  • Notes 144
  • 9 - Present 145
  • Notes 154
  • 10 - Summary 155
  • Appendix I Persistence of Confusion About Hermes 159
  • Notes 165
  • Appendix II History of the American Medical Association's Official Symbol 167
  • Notes 169
  • Selected Bibliography 171
  • Index 175
  • About the Author 183
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