« ZurückWeiter »
especially. Those of Woodville of England, and of Roques of France, were well adapted to the objects had in view by their authors; whilst those of Barton and Bigelow, on the vegetable materia medica of the United States, were admirable, and are still worthy of all commendation; but they are no longer attainable ; and moreover, many excellent and energetic articles from the vegetable kingdom have been added to the lists of the Materia Medica since these works were issued.
It is well, then, that individuals who-all must admit-are fully competent to the task and the occasion-Arcades amboshould have directed their talents and acquirements to the botanical history of those articles of the Materia Medica, which, here and elsewhere, are properly esteemed amongst the most valuable agents employed by the practitioner.
We may, by the way, express our surprise, that amongst the various and often conflicting sentiments to which the Medical Convention recently held in this city gave occasion, nothing-S0 far as we know—was said by authority as to the importance, to the professional student, of his attaining some knowledge of botany or natural history, either during his office attendance or at an after period. The published sentiments of some of the reformers must have, indeed, been materially modified and mollified, when we find no remarks from them as to the necessity for the candidate for graduation to pass through a curriculum of study equal or approaching to that required in many of the European schools; and which he could not pass through unless such a curriculum were determined upon, and attention to it rigorously enforced.
We confess we should have greatly preferred to see some recommendation to the practitioner, that he should teach, or cause to be taught, to his office student the elements, at least, of botanical and zoological knowledge, rather than that it should have been urged upon him to take care that a candidate for bis office instruction should know as much Latin as would enable him to translate or write a prescription. We cannot help regarding it as a solemn farce to pronounce to the world, that the writing of a prescription, in the mode in which it is done universally in this country, implies any knowledge of Latin whatever, seeing that all who understand technical terms and the proper symbols can accomplish this without difficulty. Let us take any extempo. raneous prescription by way of elucidation. We write the following at random :
R. Infus. Gentian. comp. f.3 vj.
Tinct. Gentian. comp. f.3iij.
M. Let him take a fourth part four times a day. To write such a prescription, we say, requires no knowledge of Latin. The technical titles of the officinal preparations are given in the United States Pharmacopæia; and the abridgement of those titles assuredly demands no Latin. The symbols, too, are understood with equal facility, and with equal nescience of that learned language. It would be somewhat otherwise were the directions to be written in Latin. Then, instead of the Eng. lish, given above, we should have
“Sumat partem quartam quater in die," and for this a certain acquaintance with the Latin would be necessary. This, however, is never done in this country, and consequently, we repeat, the writing of a prescription in our ordinary mode requires rather a knowledge of technical terms than of Latin; and hence every apothecary's boy soon learns all that is required of the professional student by the Convention, whether his attention at school have been directed to the humanities or not. We think that respectable body ought to have required-as we stated in a former number that the youth intended for the medical profession, should have the intellectual and moral training that befits the well-educated gentleman," and all will be prepared to admit, that the Greek and Latin languages form a necessary part of such training. Were it universal or common we should not meet with such a quotation as the following in a recent number of a respectable medical journal :-Romæ scribo et Ære romano"-we give it literally-which “meaneth when literally interpreteà”-_“I write at Rome and in Roman brass," whereas the author wished to say, that he wrote in the “Roman air or atmosphere," (aere.) But we must not dwell upon this subject, especially as we do not yet possess a published report of the proceedings of the Convention, and may therefore unintentionally do it injustice.
As regards the utility of natural history and botany, and the
importance of their forming a part of medical education prior to attendance on lectures," we borrow and adopt the following observations from a recent author:* " It is not"-he says“in its relation to materia medica, that the study of natural history ought to be esteemed most important. As physiology investigates the nature and functions of all living bodies, it is, necessarily, intimately associated with natural history. It is, indeed, indebted to this branch of physics more perhaps than to any other. A comparative view of the various gradations amongst organized beings has taught us to appreciate the nature of the several functions that characterize vitality; and has demonstrated, that in proportion as the structure is more complete the functions are more numerous and perfect. Repeated observations, and multiplied experiments on various tribes of animated nature, have elucidated many doubtful and obscure phenomena in the econoiny of man; and a continuation of this method of research promises to place physiology on the firm basis of rational experience; and to enable us to reason-where only we can reason with safety—by a deduction from facts. The more numerous these facts, and the more satisfactory their arrangement, the more extensive and the more secure will be the foundation they afford for physiological conclusions.
“Botany might seem to be of much more service to the phy. sician than zoology, inasmuch as so many of our remedies are derived from the vegetable kingdom. At one time, indeed, nothing but "galenicals,' as they were termed, were employed, and these were mainly of vegetable origin, We can imagine the importance of an acquaintance with the botanical characters of different vegetables, should destiny cast the physician on some unknown shore, where the sole sustenance may have to be derived from the vegetable kingdom, and where hundreds, perhaps, may have to be guided to a knowledge of the innoxious and the noxious by his decision. It might happen, too, that the physician
may be so situated as to be unable to procure those indigenous productions, which are usually selected so carefully by the professed herbalist as to render it less necessary that they should be culled by him. In such cases his botanical knowledge would be called into play. Still, these are rare emergencies, on
• Dr. Dunglison, Medical Student, p. 165.
account of the facility with which articles of merchandise can be transported everywhere; and, as the preparation of medicinal productions constitutes a distinct calling, the physician is generally in the habit of depending upon the apothecary-who gets them from the herbalist--for his supplies. It is of more practical importance that the physician should know the genuineness of every article that comes to him—a knowledge which observation-rather than botany-gives him. Still, like every branch of the tree of knowledge, physiology and the natural sciences in general have a tendency to expand the mind, and to react upon trains of thought, with which they do not, at first, appear to be intimately associated. In but few of the medical schools of this continent is botany or natural history made a distinct branch of medical education. The period of the year at which medical instruction is chiefly conveyed is unfavorable to botanical exercises; but the seasons of Spring, Summer and Autumn, are well adapted,—especially the first, when all nature smiles; and
. From the meadow to the wither'd hill,
In full luxuriance, to the sighing gales.” “ At these seasons, the student cannot do better-should his opportunities, whilst in the office of his preceptor, permit—than make himself acquainted practically with botany—both by study and observation in the fields; and should he be unable to become a good zoologist,--so far as regards a knowledge of the generic and specific characters of animals,--he can, at least, acquire a knowledge of the philosophy of zoology'-one of the most interesting of the applications of natural science, and one that throws important light on the functions of the human body. It embraces, indeed, the physiology of animals, every topic of which elucidates that of man."
The work of Dr. Griffith contains a large amount of instructive matter, and is, in all respects, such a production as might have been expected from one so well acquainted with his subject, and who was for many years a popular teacher on materia medica and other departments of medical science in Virginia and Maryland, and, as a matter of consequence, well aware of the kind of information that ought to be imparted on a congenerous subject. The objects which he was desirous of accomplishing in the work before us, are thus expressed in the preface:
“The work now offered to the profession is intended as a companion to the more practical treatises, and also to convey such information on the systematic classification, characters and history of medical plants as has been necessarily omitted in the publications alluded to. In the execution of the plan, the author has experienced some difficulty in determining the limits of the work. To notice all the plants which have at different times been employed in medicine, or have had remedial properties assigned to them, would have been impossible in the compass of a single volume, and merely to describe those recognized in the Pharinacopæia would have militated against the object of the work. It was thought that the end would be best attained by dwelling at some length on the most important articles of the Vegetable Materia Medica, or on such as are involved in some obscurity as regards their botanical characters and history, and by noticing the others in a brief manner. In doing this, they have been arranged according to the natural orders, and it will be seen that the technical descriptions have been drawn up in strict accordance with the present improved state of botanical knowledge. These descriptions are selected from the best authorities; in some cases without alterations, but in others altered, corrected or condensed, so as to present as great a uniformity of phraseology as possible. As the work is, from its very nature, a compilation, the only originality that can be claimed by the author is in the selection and arrangement of his materials.”
And is not this the very "originality” that is above all things desirable in such an undertaking; and is not an author deserving of infinitely more honour, who faithfully depicts and interprets science as it is than if he strained after originality,—with the necessary result of describing science as it is not,-and attempted to introduce novelties, which, after myriads—we may say-of excellent observers had bent their minds to the task, must have been noticed by them if the novelty were truth? The “ear is pained, the heart is sick” with the notoriety-fame, perhapsattained by a naturalist for having first depicted a new species or variety, for which he perhaps deserved but little more credit than he who discriminates amongst a crowd, by his sensible pro