« PreviousContinue »
dispassionate temper, of an unbiassed judgment, of an ardent love of truth, and of devotion to its dictates, occur in every page of his performance. As we were aware of the strong prejudices and avowed bias of his continuator, we own that it was with some suspicion that we took up the
present volumes : but, on a perusal, we have found much less ground for complaint on this score than we had expected; and Mr. Noble's good sense seems to have suggested to him that he would not meet with the success of his model, and that he would never be allowed to stand by his side, without emulating the qualities which have given such celebrity to his book: If occasionally nature shews herself in the work before us, the author appears to have put forth no common efforts to controul his habitual turn, to discipline his feelings, and to give expansion to his views; and if we look in vain through his pages for the native candor, the fine taste, the chaste diction, and the consummate execution, which render the compositions of Granger so attractive, we witness a great portion of his diligence, a laudable endeavour to imitate his comprehensive conciseness
, and a commendable desire not merely to steer clear of gross partiality, but to administer substantial justice. The reader will therefore find these volumes highly interesting ; and though they contain many slight and are not free from some material errors, it should be recollected that in order to avoid these a writer must possess the zeal, the industry, and the impartiality of a Granger, and must like him devote a life to the pursuit.
8vo. PP: 53
Art. XII. Remarks on the Reform of the Pharmaceutical Nomencla
ture ; and particularly on that adopted by the Edinburgh Colege; read before the Liverpool Medical Society. By John Bustock, M.D., &c. &c.
is. 6d. Longman and Co. 1809. N the year 1992, the College of Physicians of Edinburgh
, the nomenclature, as far as it regarded the substances derived from chemical preparations, was regulated by the principles suggested and followed by the illustrious Bergman. The mention of this circumstance induces us to express our opinion that the system of chemical nomenclature which was adopted by the Swedish philosopher, when clothed in a Latin dress, approaches more nearly to the idiom of that language, than the modern nomenclature of the French, with all its advantages. Thus, soda vitriolata is not less precise than sulphas soda ; it is but little longer ; and it is a purer Latin expression. In throwing out this hint, however, we by
no means wish to see a language employed by the physician or the apothecary which was different from that of the chemist, merely for the purpose of preserving the purity of the Latin tongue ; nor to recommend the sacrifice of uniformity, perspicuity, and simplicity, in the nomenclature of the different departments of medical science, to an affected or even a real admiration of a dead language.
In 1801, the Edinburgh college expressed their approbation of a proposed new edition of the Pharmacopoeia : but this edition, for what reason we are ignorant, was not published till the year 1803 ; and in 1805, within the short period of two years, a republication, or rather another edition of the Pharmacopæia, containing farther alterations, and the correction of some errors, was undertaken by the same learned body, and presented to the world. It is to the last two editions of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia, that the observations of Dr. Bostock chiefly refer.
The subject which Dr. B. has brought under discussion, it must be acknowleged, is of very considerable magnitude ; and we are gratified to find that he has treated it with candour, moderation, and judgment. After some general remarks on the improved chemical nomenclature of the French philosophers, as well as on the reform which was introduced by Linné into the different departments of Natural History, the author proceeds first to consider the propriety of extending the new nomenclature to pharmacy, and then inquires how far the alterations made by the Edinburgh college are to be regarded as improvements.
On the first point, Dr. B. is of opinion that the arguments, which may
be adduced in favour of the new chemical nomenclature, are not applicable to medicine ; and he asserts that, on the contrary, other weighty considerations would induce us to adhere in most cases to the names already in general use : because, in the science of medicine, (which, he observes, treats only in an indirect manner of the constitution and chemical properties of the substances of the Materia Medica, and considers less the ingredients of which they are composed than their effects on the living body,) it seems to be of comparatively little importance whether the names by which they are designated should suggest correct' notions of their composition ; and because, it is added, the number of new substances introduced into the Materia Medica is very small, and, in the few instances in which a body is for the first time employed in medicine, it must have been previously well known by some familiar name. In order to give a disa Rev. Nov. 1809.
tinct view of the author's reasonings on this subject, we quote the following passage :
• The alteration of pharmaceutical terms is not merely unnecessary, it is positively injurious. In the administration of medicines three sets of men are concerned, the physician or surgeon who prescribes, the apothecary who compounds, and the druggist who sells them. It is obviously of the first importance that these persons should all speak the same language, and it may be confidently asserted, that there are instances, in which the contrary custom might be productive of fatal consequences. Now, without meaning to insinuate what is disrespectful towards any branch of the profession, let me ask, whether it is probable, that the apprentices of druggists or apothecaries, whether it is probable that druggists or apothecaries themselves, I may add, whether it is probable, that a large part of physicians and surgeons, who are engaged in the most extensive practice, but who are unacquainted with the improvements in modern science ; is it probable, I ask, that these persons will adopt either the Linnæan or the Lavoisierian nomenclature ? Can we reasonably expect, that chamomile will ever be stiled anthemis nobilis, or that red precipitate will ever be called oxidum hydrargyri rubrum per acidum nitricum, by any but professors in universities, or by young practitioners just emerging from the walls of a college? What they will be the consequence ?
Some individuals, particularly among those entering into the profession, will employ the new nomenclature, and it will probably be adoped by a considerable number of the scientific young men, who may henceforth complete their studies at the university of Edinburgh ; while the great majority of physicians and surgeons, either unable or unwilling to abandon their old habits, with the whole class of apothecaries and druggists, will continue to call chamomile, chamomile, and red precipitate, red precipitate. We shall thus have a constant clashing of the two systems ; when the different members of the profession meet in consultation, they will speak iwo languages ; the moderns will be as unintelligible to the ancients, as if they were conversing in German; and when a prescription, couched in the new terms, is sent to the apothecary's shop, either the young men will be obliged to decypher cach word by a reference to their Pharmacopeia, or what is perhaps more probable, they will content themselves with forming a conjecture upon the subject, and will mix together those ingredients, which seem the most nearly to represent the uncouth terms employed by the scientific physician.
· Another evil, of no small magnitude, which will result from the adoption of the new nomenclature in pharmacy, is the confusion that it will occasion in medical publications. Probably most authors will think it necessary to be at the pams of translating their terms into the language authorized by the college, but by so doing, they will sender their works ncarly unintelligible to the bulk of their bre. thren ; and the same difficulty will occur.to the younger practi. tioners, who having fully adopted the new system of names, will be
equally at a loss to understand the writings of their predecessors. In either case it will be impossible to read medical books without the assistance of a pharmacopeia, in which the hard words must be searched out, as in a lexicon, a circumstance which cannot always be accomplished, and which, at best, would be a burthensome and tedious operation. pp. 7-II.
Such are the sentiments and reasoning of Dr. Bostock with regard to the consequences which are likely to succeed a change in the nomenclature of the Pharmacopoeia ; and we acknowlege that, in our opinion, his apprehensions are by nó means groundless. We are not ignorant that the nomenclature, proposed by the college in their Pharmacopoeia published in 1792, has not yet been adopted by many of the older practitioners; and, if we be not misinformed, the alterations in the last editions are not very generally received, even in that part of the kingdom over which the jurisdiction of the college extends : a numerous body of practitioners entertaining sentiments similar to those of Dr. B., and being convinced that the necessity for change was not urgent:
The circumstances now stated plainly shew that the partial use of the new nomenclature must produce great confusion, even if the more serious evils apprehended by the author, from the diversity of language employed by the different persons concerned in the practice of medicine, could be certainly avoided. Here it may be said by the advocates for pharmaceutical reform, that all this is no fault of the college ; and that the universal adoption of the new language would coma pletely obviate the dangers and inconveniences which are thus dreaded. This would indeed be the most likely way of removing the difficulty ; but we fear that it is cutting rather than untying the knot. Let it be recollected that the fiat of the college is not all-powerful, but is rather to be regarded as a simple recommendation than a positive law. Can it, then, be expected that a new language in medicine will more readily meet with unanimous approbation, or even with a very general, reception from those who are engaged in the different departments of the art, (especially if the change be not imperiously required,) than a new phraseology would experience in being admitted into the intercourse and affairs of common life. It is obvious that, in both cases, changes of language must struggle with settled prejudices and confirmed habits ; and, if not absolutely necessary, nor possessing some peculiar advantages of perspicuity and brevity of expression to facilitate the communication of knowlege by speech or writing, they can only be introduced slowly and gradually into general use. From the hints now suggested, it will appear that we are disposed
to think with Dr. B., that the learned body, whose labours he endeavours to appreciate, has been premature in presenting to the world the last two editions of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia. The desire of change, indeed, rather than the certain hope of improvement, seems to have had the chief influence in most of the alterations proposed by the college.
The next point, to which Dr. B. directs his inquiries, is the extent of the changes in the nomenclature of the Pharmacopecia ; for on this, he properly observes, much of the force of his reasoning depends. In the first edition of the Pharmacopoeia under consideration, only 24 articles of the Materia Medica, out of 240, retained the name by which they were designated in the edition of 1792; and of the names of 285 articles classed with the preparations and compounds, only 62 have a place in the late edition. These are certainly sweeping changes. It is true that nine years had elapsed before they were projected ; and it was not till the end of a period of eleven years that they were finally executed and presented to the public : but the spirit of innovation being roused, the revolutionary rage of the college continues to operate ; and the work of reformation proceeds with such rapid strides, that in two years more, (from 1803 to 1805, when the last edition appeared,) not fewer than 200 alterations, including the changes in the titles of the preparations, with the additions and omissions, were made. From this statement, one of two things necessarily follows ; either the college has failed in establishing fixed principles for regulating the changes proposed ; or the fluctuating state of the sciences connected with medicine precludes the possibility of accomplishing the object of pharmaceutical reform, in a manner which promises to be in any degree useful. As Dr. Bostock elsewhere remarks, the task which the college has undertaken seems to exceed even the abilities of that learned body ; sa that in every view the attempt at reform has been premature.
Dr. B. urges another objection to the proposed changes, ou the ground that substances, of which the physical properties are well known but the chemical composition is yet undiscovered, cannot be accurately denominated or principles of nomenclature whatever. Cuprum Ammoniacum is adduced as an example. The preparation and properties of this substance are quite familiar : but the elements of its com, position, and the state of combination in which they exist, have not been ascertained. The college has denominated this substance “ Ammoniaretum Cupri;" on the presumption, we apprehend, that the new compound consists of ammonia and oxyd of copper : but we cannot avoid observing that nothing