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not aware of the limits which are placed alike to our knowledge of our art and its application. It is more to be wondered at that physicians should themselves further this error, by thinking proper to surround themselves with a halo of power which they do not possess, renouncing that to which their art truly entitles them, and may, in future, do so in a yet higher degree, as shall be presently shown. Nobody thinks of blaming or deriding a natural philosopher or meteorologist because he has not the power of averting tempests and storms, or of converting bad into fine weather; nor does he ever propose to deceive himself or others by the assumption of such an attribute of Divinity. Yet in our department of science deceptions, at least selfdeceptions, of this kind are not rare, although we have also to deal with processes and events which, equally with those of the natural philosopher or meteorologist, take place and proceed according to their fixed, unchangeable laws; and whatever the physician is capable of changing, modifying, and effecting in his peculiar province, he can only accomplish through his knowledge of these laws, and through his respect for their operations.
Again : “It is the most experienced physicians (best able to form a judgment in the matter) who have always been the first to perceive that when disease, more especially if its character be virulent, is once generated, medical skill can afford little help of a positive nature, even by the use of those measures upon which we have been accustomed to place the greatest reliance. J. Primerosius* has said in his preface, 'Rectè scripsit Hippocrates, medicinam omnium artium esse præstantissimam' -~'verum addit : propter ignorantiam eorum qui eam exercent, et eorum qui temerè de illis judicant, reliquis artibus inferiorem videri.'
And essentially the same thought is expressed in the complaint of Reveillé Parise :t 'La médecine est la plus noble des professions, et le plus triste des métiers.' Fortunately, however, medicine is not so utterly destitute of expedients as our fears would lead us to imagine, only we must not looks for them in our medicinechests, but rather in Nature herself, and in her laws.'
If these cautions be needful in Germany and France, how much more in England and Wales ! If the moral obliquity of vision engendered by longexisting corruptions and divisions, in this kingdom especially, has so perverted, distorted, and degraded the physician's office, the more we combine to remove such evils, the more certain are we to efface our hybrid state in the sight of the whole civilised world. It is beyond doubt that giant strides are being made in all the sciences more or less connected with our profession, there are daily increasing
** •De vulgi erroribus in Med.,' lib. iv. Amsterdam, 1640.
Gazette Méd. de Paris.'
demands for sounder and more extended preliminary education, so essential to support the superstructure; these are all well, are indispensably necessary; but unless with them be combined the highest tone of moral excellence, the strictest regard for honour and integrity in deed and purpose, they are of comparatively little worth to the profession or to the public.
Some may demand, where is the use of medicine, or of him who practises the art, if thus you doubt its effects and depreciate its value ?
To such we would emphatically reply, it is the abuse, and not the use, that we condemn. What more essential to the health and life of man than food and drink? Yet what more potent and frequent cause of disease and death than the intemperate use of either? Who shall dare, in various complaints—simple or eruptive fevers for instance—refuse our aid, where, though little or
medicine may be required, much watching, much care is needed, lest inflammatory or other morbid affections supervene, and irremediably drag their victim to the grave! Who, in the more fearful organic affections of the vital organs, with dropsy and all their secondary ills impending, shall not fly to him well-skilled to aim at and destroy, in root and branch, such foes—to avert, if not prevent, the fatal issue? What man shall see or feel symptoms, whereof none but a careful, skilled physician may define the cause—whether organic
disease or functional disturbance, so like, and yet so different-without the dread responsibility of knowing, if he refuse such aid, it may be he, or one dearer to him than life itself, may perish in an hour, become the victim of a long disease, or pass a weary lengthened life the wreck of health and happiness ! Who would set sail to cross the Atlantic without a chart or compass ? Who dare to weather a storm athwart the Downs without a skilful pilot, because one had done so, and escaped the hundred dangers that environed him ?
Our duty is to stem the torrent of disease that sweeps this mighty nation, whether in individuals, families, or communities, by any or by all the means experience has acquired, or reason dictated—dietetics, pharmaceutics, chirurgics-watch for its ingress, its progress, and its egress-prevent the one, accelerate the other, and control the whole, so as to arrest expiring health and life-defeat disease and death.
Were we in our duties (as Owen has well described those tiny guardians of organic life, “nature's invisible police”*)—humble but wakeful,
*“And now you may be disposed to ask, to what end is this discourse on the anatomy of beings too minute for ordinary vision, and of whose very existence we should be ignorant unless it were revealed to us by a powerful microscope ? What part in nature can such apparently insignificant animalcules play, that can in any way interest us in their organization, or repay us for the pains of acquiring a knowledge of it? I shall endeavour briefly to answer these ques
active and efficient for our purpose, to turn the stream of sickness into health ; then might we claim to ourselves the eulogy of great minds, the esteem and the regard of all.
Why is it that with the immense increase of knowledge, there is no advance in unity, in systematic and well-ordered progress, and in all the fruits of “peace, goodwill towards men ?” The balance has been lost; intellectual has assumed the priority of moral culture; the INTERESTS of classes, sections, and individuals have superseded the safety of the public--the honour of the profession.
One conjoined effort would doubtless suffice to raise anew the standard of morality, which all must admit is time-worn and tarnished by the feuds and tions. The Polygastric Infusoria, notwithstanding their extreme minuteness, take a great share in important offices of the economy of nature on which our own well-being more or less immediately depends. Consider their incredible numbers, their universal distribution, their insatiable voracity, and that it is the particles of decaying vegetable and animal bodies which they are appointed to devour and assimilate.
Surely we must in some degree be indebted to those ever-active invisible scavengers for the salubrity of our atmosphere. Nor is this all; they perform a still more important office, in preventing the gradual diminution of the present amount of organized matter upon the earth. For when this matter is dissolved in water, in that state of comminution and decay which immediately precedes its final decomposition into the elementary gases, and its consequent return from the organic to the inorganic world, these wakeful members of nature's invisible police are everywhere ready to arrest the fugitive organized particles, and turn them back into the ascending stream of animal life.”—Owen on 'Invertebrata,' first edition, p. 26.