I did find someone using the quote in an article in American Medical News,
but there is no further attribution. Using "hoof beats" rather than
"footsteps" in the quote makes it even more on target.
We need to get them to think more broadly," Dr. Hamburg said. "In medical
school, we're taught that when you hear hoof beats, you don't think zebra."
But this is an era that -- for a whole set of reasons including trade,
commerce, ease of travel and, yes, bioterrorism -- requires a different
approach, she said. "Sometimes, we need to think zebra."

Bruce Abbott
LSU HSC Library
433 Bolivar St.
New Orleans, LA  70112

504-568-6103 (voice)
504-568-7718 (fax)
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-----Original Message-----
From: Sally Vanmetre [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2001 7:44 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Chat: Zebra Quotation

What an interesting discussion this has caused!  A delightful departure from
the clinical and business parts of medical librarianism.  Thanks, all!

Sally  Van Metre,  MLIS
Medical/Staff Library
VAMC, Martinsburg, WV 25401
Ph: 304/263-0811, X3826
Fax: 304/262-4847
[log in to unmask]

-----Original Message-----
From: Wentz, Reinhard [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2001 6:51 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Chat: Zebra Quotation

Dear Medlibbers,

I am not able to source this particular quotation, but it sounds like one
used to demonstrate the rule of parsimony, also known as 'Occam's Razor'.
This suggests that, all things being equal, one should always go for the
simplest explanation, the explanation requiring the least amount of
intellectual somersaults or unlikely scenarios. The example I sometimes use:
If you see a pig flying in the distance, don't think 'pig flying', but 'hot
air balloon in the shape of a pig'.

The suggestion 'When you hear footsteps, don't think zebra' is of course
much more elegant. It applies Occam's Razor to metaphors used to illustrate

Best wishes from sunny London