« AnteriorContinuar »
nection renders still more dangerous for young students, too easily seduced, as they are, by such comprehensive views.”
From Galen to the time of the Arabians, medicine appears to have revolved in the circle which the Greeks had formed round her. Yet Sextus Empiricus was a person of very considerable learning, and who had studied intimately the different systems of philosophy; and the works of Oribasius, Aëtius, and
Alexander Trallianus, are found in the collections of medical writers by Stephens and others. With the death of Paulus Ægineta in the 7th century, the Greek School of Medicine may be said to have ceased. About this time, hospitals were first founded, the small pox was described, and some improvements made in the art. The works of Hippocrates, Galen, and Aristotle, were translated ; but the subtle metaphysics of the Stagyrite, and the flowing harmony and majesty of Galen, delighted the imagination of the Arabians, far more than the severe simplicity, the chastened eloquence, the cautious inferences, and the prudent and rigid method which distinguished the observer of nature. The School of Salerno, however, in Italy, was honourably distinguished as the Civitas Hippocratica, and seemed to have the care of the sick and wounded Crusaders, whose route to and from the East long led them to that port: it flourished for some time, but at length was eclipsed in the thirteenth century by the rival schools in Bologna* and Paris, then rising into fame. About this period, while civilization was dawning over Europe, and awakening her torpid powers, the Jews were the great instruments of its progress ; not only were they the brokers, bankers, merchants, and carriers, but they became the physicians also. They migrated to Spain with the Moors, had schools at Toledo, Cordova, Granada ; and were entrusted with the care of the health of Charlemagne. Zedikias had the health as well as hair of Charles the Bald under his superintendence, and Francis the First 80 esteemed a Jewish doctor, that suspecting his, which Charles the Fifth had sent to him, to be a Christian, he dismissed him from his august presence, by kicking him down stairs. At length the priests prevailed over the Jews; and monks and friars, and lady-abbesses, and anathemas, drove out of business the forlorn children of Abraham. Celibacy was enjoined on all medical men: hence all hastened into the church ; in vain the bulls of the Lateran Council roared against them; they defied its thunders and determined to make the church the depository of all knowledge and gain they joined the profession of law to that of theology and medicine. This tripartite spoil they enjoyed for a considerable period, and drew their fees from body, soul, and substance. At length common
* Mondini, a Professor of in Bologna, was the first person who publicly dissected about A.D. 1315, and published anatomical plates of the human body;. but Vesalius was the first great anatomist. See Dr. Bostock, p. 151. Medical diplomas to candidates were first given at Salerno.
† Alkendi was styled the subtle philosopher, the learned physician, and the Greek astrologer, so various were his attainments. Of his practical knowledge we may guess, when we know that he regulated the doses of medicine, and explained their operation by musical harmony, and geometrical proportion ; a methodus operandi, which appears by Dr. Bostock's reference to have had some patrons in Edinburgh as late as 1731. The Arabian doctors appear to be either fanatics, astrologers, or magicians. Medicine rose to celebrity under Aviænna, and ended in Averroes. They first described small-pox, measles, and made some considerable additions to pharmacy, by adding many valuable drugs from India, and other parts of the East. The sudor Anglicanus, the hooping-congh, and sea-scurvy first appeared in the 14th and 15th century, see Bostock, p. 140, &c. The small-pox first appeared at the siege of Mecca, in the middle of the sixth century.
sense and insulted humanity asserted their forgotten rights: as soon as physicians were graciously allowed to marry, they got out of the church as fast as they had got in; the unnatural coalition ended, and a complete separation from the clergy commenced. We must pass over the new set of visionaries and charlatans,who now appeared, dark indeed in outward form, with the smoke and tarnish of the furnace, but most brightand brilliant within, with the hopes of boundless wealth, and a joyous immortality ;-we mean the Alchemists and their infatuated followers, and principally Paracelsus, the great prototype of mountebanks, who has been called the greatest fool of physicians, and the greatest physician of fools, and who burnt all the volumes of science he could obtain, crying out, ' Away with Greek, Latin, and Arabian, away with them.' The school of the Chemists, who were opposed to the Galenists, held the doctrine that the living body is subject to the same chemical laws as inanimate matter, and that all the phenomena of vitality may be explained by these laws. This lasted some time. More enlightened days, however, were at hand; the reign of Lorenzo and of his suceessors had been the means of diffusing intelligence and information over their own country and others. Medicine arose with the other arts. Fabricius of Aquapendante among the Italians, Ambrose Parè in France, and afterwards Linacre* in England-illustrious names even in modern days—both by their writings and their practice diffused the most important information, and ensured its continuance by the endowment of the most liberal and learned institutions. Linacre founded the College of Physicians in London, from which has arisen Sydenham, and Freind, and Arbuthnot, and a long list of illustrious names whose fame in later days has been supported by the splendid talents and solid learning of a Baker, a Heberden, and a Halford. There is little to remark on the progress of the Therapeutic art, till we arrive at the illustrious name of Stahl,t who has been called the greatest man that has appeared in the profession since the days of Hippocrates. The most profound and able writers speak of him as one of those extraordinary men whom nature seems to produce from time to time for the noble purpose of effecting the reformn of the sciences" he was endowed with that true sagacity which enables the mind to investigate thoroughly the objects of research ; and with that prudence which leads it to pause at every step, in order to consider them in all their different aspects; with that quickness of apprehension and comprehensiveness of understanding which embraces them in their combinations; and with that patience in observation which follows them through all their minute details. He was chiefly distinguished by the rare talent of tracing analogies and points of comparison between the most ordinary phenomena and those which appear most unaccountable ; by the aid of which it is frequently possible to discover the immediate cause of the latter, and thus to form the most sublime theories upon the most simple reasonings. Stahl undertook to accomplish in Medicine what he had before effected in Chemistry. He had been educated in the doctrines of Hippocrates, and none knew better than he did the improvements they were capable of deriving from the observations and philosophical views of the moderns. He perceived that the first thing to be done was to separate the general ideas, or principles of medical science, from all extraneous hypotheses; he had remarked that, as medicine employed itself upon a subject
* The name of Caius' should not be overlooked.
governed by particular laws, the study of no other object in nature is capable of disclosing, at least directly, those laws; and that the application of the doctrines which have been most firmly established in other branches of science, to that which has in view the knowledge and slow regulation of the animal economy, necessarily becomes the source of the most pernicious errors,” We cannot enter into the merits or defects of the Stahlian system, which has been treated of in Dr. Bostock's work. Cabanis says that Stahl accomplished in medicine, at least in some respects, what Bacon had merely pointed out, and that the reforms which have been already effected, and those which may hereafter be accomplished, in the same spirit, must be ascribed in a great measure to this extraordinary man.' With the name of Stabl should be associated that of Van Helmont, a man of
very inferior talents, but who was gifted by nature with a glowing imagination, and who rushed into the seductive pursuits of alchemy, bringing from the furnace and the crucible a mind inflamed with the loftiest and wildest projects, and most visionary hopes. Yet flashes of true light are seen breaking through the fumes of his superstitious labours ; as it is said of him, that, in pursuing the path of error, he made fortunate discoveries, and that in the language of quackery, he announced the sublimest truths. The fame of Hofman chiefly rests on the distinct manner in which he refers to the nervous system, and the influence of its operations on the phenomena of life. He advanced our knowledge of the laws of animal economy, and his physiological speculations are looked to with respect; his system of solidism, more or less modified, may be said to have given birth to the principles taught in Edinburgh and Montpelier. The humoral pathology was attacked by Baglivi, who placed the chief cause of disease in the altered condition of the solids, and, by drawing attention to the muscular and nervous system, corrected errors which had lasted from the days of Hippocrates. We are now fast descending to modern times, and must be brief. When Sydenham appeared as a physician, the art was still confined to its scholastic forms, and still subservient to erroneous systems and crude theories. Sydenham brought it back to the path of experience and observation. The friend of Locke, for such he was, followed the footsteps of Nature, and interpreted her voice by the principles of philosophy, which he had learned from his illustrious master. His Treatise on the Gout is regarded as a masterpiece of description ; and his ideas on the treatment of epidemic diseases, in which he followed the sketch of Hippocrates, showed one who investigated with sagacity, and guided his researches with method and judgment. In its leading and primary purpose---its practical application, Sydenham may be called the restorer of medical science. The next great discovery was one, gleams of which were seen above the horizon from time to time by a few keen-sighted and thoughtful observers, but which had never been decidedly acknowledged.* The circulation of the blood, which has immortalized the name of Harvey, had been obscurely hinted at by Servetus, more clearly guessed by Varolius and Columbus, and described with accuracy, and detailed in its important parts by Cæsalpinus, but the complete demonstration of which was reserved for our countryman. This splendid discovery of Harvey gave a new impulse to the medical world ; and as philosophy was still in its infancy, very wild
* The discovery of the absorbent system, by Apelli and Bartholine, should also be mentioned. See Bostock, p. 155.
and untenable theories were constantly issuing from the brains of its professors. Some thought the fluids of the human body were acids and alkalies ; others explained the functions of the organs on mathematical theories; others on hydraulic principles; and other speculations on life were formed on the mechanical laws of motion. Fortunately for the advance of science, at this time appeared the learned, profound, and illustrious Boerhaave, a man destined to effect a real revolution in it. The youth of Boerhaave had been employed in the cultivation of the mathematical and physical sciences, by which his mind had gained strength and comprehensiveness, and he had acquired a habit of rigorous discussion and patient research. Then it was, that, to earn a livelihood, he commenced his medical career. He had perused the writers of all sects, and of all ages; he had analysed, illustrated, and commented on their works ; all their opinions were familiar to him, and he had modified, arranged, and combined them in that luminous order for which he was distinguished. He then gave to the world his Institutions of Medicine, and his Aphorisms; two of the most concise, and at the same time comprehensive works which science has produced, and which for variety of matter and extent of views have been compared to those of the illustrious Bacon. His defects seem to consistin a want of acute and practical discernment of disease, arising perhaps from the late period of life in which he commenced the study of medicine, and from a reliance on his chemical knowledge, which in common with others was so imperfect and erroneous. It is said that in the late period of his life he attached less importance to systems, and approached nearer to the opinions of Hippocrates. The defect of Boerhaave's system appears to consist in his regarding the solids too much as mechanical agents, without taking into account the properties which separate them from inanimate bodies ; but he was a learned writer, a sagacious observer, a wise and correct practitioner; and his illustrious pupits, Gaubius and Van Swieten, at once formed their own, and sustained their master's reputation by the talents they displayed, and the high honours they acquired. Of the great Haller we are obliged to speak with a conciseness ill suited to a survey of his splendid talents, and almost boundless erudítion. His patient research and acute investigation were rewarded with the establishment of the theory of irritation and sensibility, as properties attached to the nervous and muscular system. His principles were derived from experiment, and his Elements of Philosophy are considered to have introduced a new æra in medical science. For a minute account of this illustrious philosopher, we refer with pleasure to Dr. Bostock's work.* The service which Haller rendered to Physiology was performed by Cullen to the practice of Medicine, through his extensive research and patient observation. His great merit is shown in the sagacity and diligence with which he described and distinguished the phenomena of disease ; he was equally cautious in theory, as decisive in practice. His general principles are deduced from materials collected by his own observations, and not on the eclectic system of Boerhaave, of connecting the different theories into one consistent whole. It is said that his Physiology and Chemistry are not correct, and that he did not distinguish between the powers of the muscles and nerves, so well described by Haller ; but his pathology is respected, and the foundation of his system, formed on the 'Vis
* Medicatris Naturæ,'* or the regulating powers of life, is philosophical and just. While the fame of Cullen was still in its bloom, and his school possessed some of the most illustrious and intelligent followers, there arose one among them who had sate at the feet of Gamaliel,' but who, from some accidental pique or caprice, turned against the doctrines of his master; and though originally bred as an ecclesiastic, astonished the world of science by the daring boldness of the theory he advanced, that was at once to supersede all others, and form as it were a safe and brilliant beacon to guide the practitioner in the cure of all disease. This person was the well known founder of the Brunonian system, which acquired at first, from the plausibility of its doctrines, a most astonishing popularity. The general principles (says Dr. Bostock) of the theory are few and simple. Broun assumed that the living body possesses a specific power or property called excitability; that every thing which affects the body, acts upon this power as an excitement or stimulant; that the effect of this excitement in its natural state, is to produce the healthy condition of the functions, when excessive it causes exhaustion, termed direct debility; when defective, it produces an accumulation of excitement termed indirect debility. All morbid action is conceived to depend on one or other of these states, and diseases are accordingly arranged in two great corresponding classes, of sthenic or asthenic; while the treatment is solely directed to the general means for increasing or diminishing the excitement, without any regard to specific symptoms, or any consideration but that of degree, or any measure but that of quantity.' Dr. Bostock very judiciously observes, that, however plausible and alluring such doctrines as these
may be (for the ice-palaces of theories are far more brilliant and imposing than the plain and solid masonry of practice), they could not be for a moment entertained by any one who had studied the phænomena of disease, or was acquainted with the intricate and complicated relations of the functions and actions of the living system ; it shared the lot therefore of all systems built on so unstable a basis. While the 'Elementa Medicina were still in repute, another medical theorist, of different talents and acquirements indeed, but of no inferior reputation, drew the attention of the world to his ingenious discussion on the Laws of Life. The Zoonomia, for such is the work to which we allude, of Darwin, came before the world in all the brilliancy of scientific splendour, and with all the imposing grandeur of a finished and elaborate system. It showed a mind furnished with a great variety of acquirement, endued if not with powerful, yet with talents of a superior class ; inventive, ingenious, and fruitful in its resources ; curious in experimental research, familiar with medical practice,
; and more than usually conversant with elegant and refinedliterature. Darwin was enabled,' says Dr. Bostock, 'to give to his system an imposing aspect of induction and generalization. His speculations, though highly refined, profess to be founded upon facts; and his arrangement and classification, although complicated, seems consistent in all its parts. No theory which had been offered to the public, was more highly elaborated, and appeared to be more firmly supported by experience and observation, while
every adventitious aid was given to it, from the cultivated taste and extensive information of the writer. Yet the Zoonomia made little im
* The Vis Medicatrix of Cullen, differs from the Archaus of Van Helmont, and the Anima of Stahl, as it is supposed not to be a thing added to the body, but one power necessary to its constitution. Gent. Mag. Vol. IV.