Theory and Fact
When we meet a fact which contradicts a prevailing theory, we must accept the fact and abandon the theory, even when the theory is supported by great names and generally accepted.
– Claude Bernard, Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (Translated by H. C. Greene), 1865
The following case illustrative of the tenacity of virulence of snake-venom was reported by Mr. Temple, Chief Justice of Honduras, and quoted by a London authority.
While working at some wood-cutting a man was struck on a heavy boot by a snake, which he killed with an axe. He imagined that he had been efficiently protected by the boot, and he thought little of the incident. Shortly afterward he began to feel ill, sank into a stupor, and succumbed.
His boots were sold after his death, as they were quite well made and a luxury in that country. In a few hours the purchaser of the boots was a corpse, and every one attributed his death to apoplexy or some similar cause.
The boots were again sold, and the next unfortunate owner died in an equally short time.
It was then thought wise to examine the boots, and in one of them was found, firmly embedded, the fang of the serpent. It was supposed that in pulling on the boots each of the subsequent owners had scratched himself and became fatally inoculated with the venom, which was unsuspected and not combated.
– George M. Gould & Walter L. Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities in Medicine, 1901
Our knowledge is an incomplete piece of patchwork; but each one of us is bound to make the best possible use of the incomplete knowledge he possesses, conscious always that his results are any day liable to be replaced by new discoveries or ideas.
– Carl Wilhelm Wolfgang Ostwald, Individuality and Immortality (Translated by Thomas Seltzer), 1906