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[Perspectives] William Harvey’s demonstration rod

What do Napoleon’s toothbrush, George Washington’s false teeth, and William Harvey’s pointer have in common? They are all in museums, not because of their intrinsic value but by virtue of their association with a famous individual. Most historians these days doubt the cogency of Thomas Carlyle’s comment that “History is the essence of innumerable biographies”, and of great men at that. Nevertheless, the cult of celebrity means that even ordinary objects acquire special significance when they were once the possession of someone deemed worthy of remembering.

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