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in France, in Prussia, and in Austria. The two last of these governments are units,-absolute monarchies; and can therefore enact what edicts they please, and enforce them throughout their entire kingdoms; which makes a wide difference between their condition and ours. But are the medical men of these countries so much superior to those of Great Britain? Who among all their physicians has done more for our science than Sydenham, Harvey and Jenner; of their surgeons, who more than Pott, Hunter, Cooper, and Brodie; among their chemists, who more than Cavendish, Davy and Dalton? We are aware that a few bright examples are not fair representatives of the whole; but how is it with the mass? Are the practitioners of Great Britain inferior in skill and capacity, as a general rule, to those of France and Germany? We think Dr. Stillé, with all his predilections on this subject, will not assert it. Great learning and the capacity for great usefulness do not mean one and the same thing, nor are they always associated in the same individual. A certain amount of learning is unquestionably essential for a physician;-as to how much, and on what subjects, apart from that of the science itself, much contrariety of opinion exists. Dr. Stillé would undoubtedly require, as a part of his preparatory education, that a student of medicine should be well versed in the Greek and Latin languages; and yet Dr. Rush, in an introductory lecture delivered several years after that quoted by Dr. Stillé, argued that the time employed in their acquisition is mis-spent, and ought to be devoted to other objects. A gentleman, who is himself a bright example of what learning can confer upon its possessor, is content to say that "the education of the youth who is intended for the medical profession should be essentially that adapted for the well educated gentleman," which is probably as near an approximation to the point as wel are likely to arrive at.
It is a misfortune that in all attempts at reform the errors proposed to be corrected and the advantages to be gained by the change, are equally exaggerated in the minds of those engaged in the enterprise. They too often see only what seems desirable: the practicable is overlooked, and they forget that alteration is not always improvement.
Whatever may be said of the system pursued in France,-in point of learning the members of the medical profession cannot be compared with those of Britain. Even in professional qualifications, with a few bright exceptions, they are behind our own countrymen. Too often, their views and attainments are limited to some specialty, which, in the estimation of the individual, comprises the whole circle of knowledge.
The lecture before us derives importance at the present moment, beyond what is ordinarily due to a well written essay by an estimable individual, from the spirit of reform which has gone abroad among the profession in this country, the promptings of which are to be manifested in the proceedings of the National Medical Convention to assemble in this city in May next. From the diverse objects contemplated by those who are to take a part in the proceedings of the Convention, and the discordant views entertained and already expressed on many points, it is difficult to form any idea of what will be the results of its deliberations. If all utopian schemes be discarded, and none but such as are practical adopted, good may result. For ourselves, we neither anticipate so much good, nor apprehend so much confusion and evil from its proceedings, as many of those who are arranged on opposite sides. None have laboured more earnestly than ourselves, in times past, to elevate the standard of medical education in the United States, nor does any one more sincerely desire it now. On this point our feelings have undergone no modification in the lapse of time and the change of circumstances; but our knowledge of the difficulties that lie in the way is increased, and with it our hopes and anticipations of great results are diminished.
The burden of complaint in the lecture before us, as well as in the mouths of all who are most earnest in the movements on this subject is, that the courses of instruction given in the colleges are not sufficiently numerous and complete, and that the standard of graduation is too low,-forgetting altogether that a very large number of the practitioners throughout the country attend no lectures at all, and a still larger number never graduate or submit to any examination whatever. Now if all could be induced to attend lectures and demonstrations, and undergo an
examination, no one can doubt that it would be the greatest of all reforms, as regards the interests of humanity, and the honour of our profession. The great and lamentable error of the existing state of things is, not that they who graduate are insuffi ciently instructed, but that so many engage in practice who have received little or no instruction at all. It is a serious question, whether any measures that would subject the student to a greater expenditure of time and money to obtain a degree, would not increase the number of uneducated practitioners, and in this way reduce rather than elevate the general standard of medical education in the country. If some means can be devised to require every man to submit to examination before entering into practice, it will do more to improve the respectability and usefulness of the profession, than any and all other means we have heard suggested for that purpose.
The practical scheme of improvement in medical education. proposed by Dr. Stillé, at least as a beginning, notwithstanding his somewhat enthusiastic reasoning on the subject, is far from being so unfeasible as many we hear proposed. It is as follows "I will venture to state what reforms appear to me most desirable, and, at the present time, most feasible. And first, the prolongation of the lecture term from four to six months, without greatly increasing the number of lectures beyond that already delivered, in order to give the student time to think, read and attend the hospitals. Subsequently the entire term of study might be prolonged from two to three winters; an attendance, is now required on two courses only of subjects named in the existing curriculum, and the student restricted during the first year to the lectures on anatomy, chemistry, physiology, and materia medica. In the second or third year, the instruction might include several departments not now studied, such as general pathology, morbid anatomy, medical jurisprudence and hygiene, of which one course might for the present suffice."
We have no doubt whatever that this is quite as much as, and probably more than, can be effected; but will the advocates of reform be content to stop here? Will not many of those who have recently engaged in the cause with hot haste, be like the boy with the filberts,-grasp more than is compatible with success? We greatly fear so.
Contributions to the Natural History of the Alligator, (Crocidilus Mississippiensis) with a Microscopic Addendum. By BENNET DOWLER, M. D.
The New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal of November, 1846 contains an article under this head, which has been reprinted and constitutes a pamphlet of thirty pages, abounding in curious and interesting matter.
We have several times had occasion to notice the labours of Dr. Dowler, and to speak of the strikingly original and pains-taking character of his researches. The present essay, although on a widely different subject from those heretofore noticed, manifests the same independent and investigating spirit, and from the statements it contains in relation to the anatomical structure and habits of the alligator, so different from the history of the animal given by naturalists, must be regarded with much attention by all who feel interested in this branch of natural science. Contrary to what has been asserted, Dr. D. maintains that the alligator is identical with the crocodile; and that the varieties found on the Nile, the Ganges, the Mississippi, &c., exhibit only the modifications caused by climate.
Speaking of the Alligator, he observes: "The upper jaw is wider than the under, which it overlaps. The latter has forty teeth, none of which are grinders, as asserted by Professor Owen -none are cutting or incisor teeth, as they are described by Goldsmith. The teeth of the upper jaw are similar in number and structure." "The form and situation of the dental organs, together with the osteological configuration of the jaws, render grinding operations quite impossible. The animals found in the stomachs of alligators, show that their prey is killed by penetrating bayonet-like wounds, and swallowed without mastication. The crushing and prehensory power of the jaws and teeth is as remarkable as it is unquestionable.
"Herodotus, Pliny, Aristotle, and many more modern savans, including certain French academicians, assert that the upper jaw moves independently of the head, though both are known to constitute a continuous mass of bone, without any flexible articulation. I have for hours forced the jaws assunder by levers, elevating the upper jaw, and with it the head. The cranium, and the superior
maxillary bone constitute a continuous pyramidal mass of osseous matter, the base of which is the skull, and the apex the muzzle."
The author gives a very full and graphic account of the various organs of the animal's body, in which he often differs widely from former historians; and likewise an interesting account of its habits, in which he certainly represents it in a much more amiable light than we have been accustomed to view it.
Hand-Book of Human Anatomy, general, special, and topographical. Translated from the original German of Dr. Alfred Von Behr, and adapted to the use of the English Student. By JOHN BIRKETT, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and Demonstrator of Anatomy at Guy's Hospital. Demi 8vo. pp. 487. Lindsay and Blakiston, Philadelphia, 1847.
This is a reprint of a recent London publication, and time enough has not yet elapsed since it assumed the English dress to determine the rank it is to hold among the treatises on the same subject now before the profession. As anatomists and experimental physiologists, our German brethren have no superiors at the present day. They possess, besides genius, a patient and plodding industry that accomplishes wonders in matters of detail, and consequently it is to them that we are indebted for a large amount of our present advanced knowledge of miscroscopical Anatomy. The present work, although excessively condensed, contains many evidences of the traits we have mentioned. It was not originally published as an isolated volume, but is one of a series entitled "The Pocket Encyclopædia of the Medical Sciences," by Dr. Von Behr, and Dr. Minding, and now in course of publication at Erlangen. We cannot say that it is calculated to supersede the more extended treatises on the various subjects it comprises, but as a remembrancer for the physician, and guide to the student while prosecuting his studies in practical anatomy, it appears to us to be exceedingly well adapted.
The American publishers have done credit to the work and to themselves, by the superior manner in which it is brought out. Too often an author is insulted and his book degraded by the beggarly dress in which it is sent forth by the publishers-a charge, we are happy to say, rarely applicable of late years to Philadelphians.