Charles E. Rosenberg standard units. Thus the patterned regularity of temperature readings might "aid in the discovery of the laws regulating the course of certain diseases" (Wunderlich and Seguin 1871, vii). Similarly, pH readings or red cell counts seemed to provide objective ways of helping characterize an ailment's essential character; aggregated, they promised ever more precise understandings of disease as entity. Disease could now be operationally understood and described. It was measured in units, represented in the visible form of curves or continu- ous tracings, and taught to successive generations of medical students. Advocates of scientific medicine a century ago did not, of course, think that each of these measures could do more than reflect one characteristic of a particular disease entity. Each individual curve or tracing could in this sense be likened to the particular findings of the blind men who in the well-known fable were asked to describe an elephant. One said it
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late 19th century, blind men, particular disease entity, seemingly objective tools, statistician William Farr