On the shoulders of giants…

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In a letter dated February 5, 1676 (dated 1675 using the Julian calendar), Sir Isaac Newton opined to Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further [than you and Descartes], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”1 That comment is frequently cited by physicians and surgeons who wish to recognize the debt owed to our predecessors whose efforts have brought us to our present state of enlightenment and understanding of the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of surgical disease. Many “surgical greats” were available for selection as the “surgical giants” for this supplement of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. The four selected “giants,” whose contributions have had major influence on the organization and delivery of combat casualty care, were involved in wars of the early and mid-19th century (William Beaumont and Jonathan Letterman, respectively) and the two world wars of the 20th century (George Crile, World War I, and Edward D. Churchill, World War II) (Fig. 1). Each of the four was an experienced clinical surgeon of his time, and each appreciated the importance of scientific study to advance surgical care and improve patient outcomes.
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