delighted with the ingenuity of systems; and he frequently betrays, or rather exhibits, in his conversation a disposition to imitate what he admires : he shows a propensity like his masters, to establish an hypothesis, or raise a system on a few facts hastily observed or suspected. This disposition should be gently checked by slight good-humoured raillery, by pushing his false reasoning, and the consequences of his hasty conclusions, to the extreme of absurdity, where the folly may become visible to his own eyes. This, however, must be done with judgment, lest it check the spirit of invention, a spirit which is often extravagant in its first efforts.

The desire to simplify knowledge by reducing all effects to a few general principles is another of the causes, which has been justly pointed out as dangerous to science, especially to medical science, because it tends to satisfy men with a few axioms precipitately formed, and it precludes that patient experimental investigation, which can alone lead to true conclusions. This should be suggested to the young student, and should be illustrated by examples taken both from ancient and modern times ; these will come home immediately to his business ; those will reach his understanding, because none of his passions or prejudices will, under this management, oppose the force of truth. As an instance of the absurdities, into which the love of system leads men of the greatest talents, may be cited the ancient Platonic doctrine of fevers. Plato having once established by the authority of assertion, that the first form of the elementary particles of matter was triangular, that from the different size and position of these triangles, earth, air, fire, and water were produced ; his followers could not do less in honour of their master than extend and apply this doctrine in medical philosophy; and accordingly they concluded, that the various kinds of fevers must arise from the predominance of one or other of these sets of triangles. If fire exceeded, ardent fevers were produced ; if air, quotidianintermittents ; if water, tertian ; if earth, quartan. Modes of cure corresponding to these absurd theories were laid down and practised. Nothing in that exquisite satire, “ the Loves of the Triangles,can be more fanciful, or more fairly open to ridicule. Any thing equally preposterous in modern systems of medicine it might be difficult to point out for the instruction or amusement of the young theorist: but even sińce experimental philosophy has been professedly followed, some curious deviations may be remarked. A morbid acrimony of the blood', it has been asserted, is the cause of various dis. eases; the nature of this acrimony has been specified ; the manner in which it is produced by occasional circumstances has been explained ; indications of its presence, remedies, and preventives have been prescribed ; and at length it has been discovered, that no sufficient evidence of the existence of this morbid aerimony has been adduced. The humoural pathology, and afterwards the nervous system, was to account for every appearance of disease ; while in following either hypothesis its partisans quite forgot, that they were ignorant of the nature of the humours or the nerves. These are some of the absurdities, into which a zeal for system and simplifi

See Gregory

cation betrays ingenious men; and these should be pointed out as warnings to the medical student.

Similar impatience of the slow progress of experiment, and similar eagerness to establish principles, instead of registering observations, has induced men frequently to assert and believe, that some newly discovered medicine is a specific for whole classes of diseases. At one time the world was to be cured of all maladies by tar-water :-“ If it will kill me,” says Gray, in a letter to Dr. Wharton, which seems to have been written at a time when this specific was in the height of its fashion, “ send a man and a horse to me express, for I am “ drinking it like a fish.” Quick successions of these universal remedies rise and fall in the medical world ; and a double injury is often done to science by the precipitation with which they are followed, and with which they are abandoned. Mankind seem to revenge themselves by the subsequent intemperance of their scorn for the folly of their previous credulity. Hence it often happens, that remedies useful in some cases have been thrown aside because they have not proved efficacious in varieties of diseases. Examples of both these errours, and of their alternate action, might be readily pointed out by any judicious preceptor, and the student might be guarded against them by good-humoured raillery, as well as by sober reasoning.

As to the erroneous or insufficient modes of teaching medicine in public colleges, it may perhaps be thought by some, that these should not be pointed out to young pupils, lest re

spect towards tutors should thus be diminished, and lest admiration and enthusiasm for the art should be lowered by revealing its imperfections. But these are weak suggestions. The interests of a liberal profession, of science, and of humanity, are to be considered in preference to such narrowminded, cowardly policy. The truth should be known; should be told to youth by their parents, friends, and preceptors, instead of being concealed for any future purpose. Pious frauds in education never succeed, or by their success, even for their own purposes, ruin the understanding and strength of mind of those on whom they are practised. To make a young man fond of his profession, do not excite his admiration of it by exaggerated pictures of false representations ! Show it to him such as it is ; for such as it is, he soon must see it, unless you blindfold him for life. Dr. Gregory, in a plain and manly manner, which does him and his profession honour, states, that of all the useful and practical arts medicine has made the slowest progress. From the days of Lord Verulam to the present time, it has been the continual complaint of sensible and well informed people, that in teaching medicine there seems to be a compact of errour between the teachers and the students: that professors, instead of pointing out where science is deficient or uncertain, where they speak from theory and where from experiment, instead of directing their pupil's attention to those parts of a system which require future investigation, endeavour to represent the whole as equally certain and equally perfect. They are often intent upon showing their own learning, or concealing their ignorance, instead of instructing their auditors. The routine of tuition established in colleges in some degree obliges professors to pursue the course

[ocr errors]

of their predecessors; and their natural indolence and love of authoritative superiority perhaps increase the attachment to ancient forms and dogmas. Let them act candidly, and they will not lower their real authority.

Sudden innovations in long established institutions are dangerous. It is better to let the progress of improvement, and the voice of public opinion, gradually operate necessary emendations. Some men of acute observation have lately asserted, that regular education cramps the faculties, and prevents the exercise of the inventive powers. In support of this assertion, they produce the examples of Franklin and Priestley, who were chiefly self-educated ": but a few, even of such striking examples as these, are not sufficient to justify so bold a conclusion. Excited by circumstances, some individuals may, by uncommon exertions of intellect and perseverance, have overcome the obstacles, which impede the progress of all who attempt to pursue science by new paths, instead of taking advantage of the experience of their predecessors. Self-taught persons, as has been already observed", frequently have deficiencies of knowledge, defects of under

* The following passage from a letter of Dr. Priestley's to the present celebrated professor Davy, proves, that he taught himself chemistry at a late period of his life :

“ As old an experimenter as I am, I was near forty years of age before I « made any experiments on the subject of air; and then without, in a manner, “ any previous knowledge of chemistry : this I picked up as I could, and as I

“ found occasion for it, from books. I was also without apparatus, and la"" boured under many disadvantages; but my unexpected success induced the “ friends of science to assist me, and then I wanted for nothing."

* Chapter I.

« 前へ次へ »