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Annual Address to the Michigan State Medical Society for the year 1858, by N. D. STEBBINS, M. D., on his Retirement from the Office of President.
The finale of my term of office imposes upon me a duty which I shall attempt with much diffidence to fulfill-that of formally addressing the embodiment of the Medical Faculty of the State of Michigan, embracing, as it does, the talent and learning of the Medical Faculty of our State University. To do justice to the subject which naturally falls within the scope of a discourse on an occasion like this, requires a better disciplined mind for such duties than I can pretend to claim. The subject which I have chosen, is, "Medicine an Inductive Science, and Hippocrates the Father of Inductive Science."
"Medicine," says the Father of Medicine, (so called by Celsus,) "is of all arts the most noble." Its aims are to relieve physical and moral suffering, arising from almost every variety of causation. The field or domain of its labors extends to every human being; its researches are carried into every department of knowledge which is conducive to the health and happiness of man.
In whatever avenue the student of medicine may pursue his researches, it will be found to be of a progressive character. Every step in his course has the evidence of experience and observation for 57-VOL. V. NO. IX.
its basis, and every such step thus planted places medicine among the fixed sciences on inductive principles. Physiology, pathology, materia medica and chemistry are eminently of this character.
Medicine has never laid any claim to perfection; its votaries have ever been modest in their pretensions. Perfection in any one of the many paths which are all necessary to be traveled over for the purpose of being competent to treat successfully the ills of man, finds its limits only in wisdom, knowledge and prescience, equal to those of the Supreme Being. A Heathen poet says:
"Th' entire of things, then, bounds can never know,
Else parts possest of farthest and extreme."
"Ask thy own reason. It will prove at once
Th' entire of nature never can have bounds."
(Jno. Mason Good's Translation of Lucretius.)
It is more than probable that it was this view of the subject which led Dr. Thos. Dick to believe that the study of anatomy and physiology would be a part of the employment of celestial beings, as may be found in his work on the future state.
Although we may never expect to reach the infinite perfection of medical science, still an open scene is before us; new objects are presented to the mind in our progress, full of interest, to be observed with care and made subservient to the relief of human suffering.
The science of medicine, although in a state of imperfection and by many thrown outside of the fixed sciences, stands on the same basis with the other professions, the truth of which is acknowledged by their members. As for example in theology, a late writer (in a work entitled "Key to the Bible," p. 8,) quotes from Prof. Moses Stewart the following: "The hope may be rationally indulged that at some future day hermeneutics will be a science as definite and as well discriminated, as most other sciences which have been long taught as complete." Then again on p. 319, he says: "The want of logical method is what we deplore. It is against a fragmentary and mere rudimental system that we protest," &c. The confession made by this late writer (the Rev. Mr. Dobie) and Prof. Stewart, in view of the present state of theological science, clearly indicates its incompleteness.
The legal profession we find by consulting the Encyclopedia Americana, have as little reason to boast of the perfection of their science. The writer in the work referred to says, that there have arisen four different schools in the science of law, each differing from the others in the settlement of fundamental principles in jurisprudence,
and it appears that works on common law are unsatisfactory in their testimony and reasoning for the settlement of every question coming up for the decision of courts of justice. The writer says: "What is to be done in the common law when there are conflicting decisions on some point, or converging series of opposite doctrines approaching towards a conflict?" In view of the present state of things in legal science the writer says: "While man remains as he is, his powers and capacities and acts must be forever imperfect." Examples of this imperfection might be multiplied; I content myself with citing that of the Supreme Court of this State, which in 1853 was equally divided as to the constitutionality of the Maine Law; and also that of the U. S. Supreme Court in the celebrated Dred Scott decision, where Common Law with the aid of the Statute Law failed to unite the bench of judges in their decision of a most vitally important question. Numerous other cases may be found on record of the same import-recorded, as Lord Bacon says, "in the wisdom of lawyers, who are careful to report new cases and decisions for the direction of future judgments."
The past history of medicine shows a gradual development from the first dawn of its existence as a science. This fact we may learn by consulting Lord Bacon who says: "First logic doth not pretend to invent sciences, or the axioms of sciences, but passeth it over with a cuique in sua arte credendum." And Celsus acknowledgeth it, gravely speaking of the empirical and dogmatical sects of physicians, "that medicines and cures were first found out, and thereafter the reasons and causes were discoursed; and not the causes first found out, and by light from them the medicines and cures discovered."
During the medieval age it was beclouded by a long night-by the mists of superstition, religious intolerance and ignorance. The few learned and the scholastics, adopted the logical definitions and distinctions, or the syllogistic form of demonstration of Aristotle -a philosophy which had been incorporated into the works of Galen, being the only works which were consulted by the practitioners of that age, with few exceptions, and these mostly among the Arabians. And the philosophy of Pythagoras was said to be "a key to the pretended occult sciences, the reign of which extended down even as far as the close of the eighteenth century."
A happy era dawned upon medicine when the Turks invaded Europe (May 29th, 1453,) and sacked the city of Constantinople. The monks fled at this time to Rome, carrying with them the wor <s of Hippocrates which had lain slumbering in convents and hid fiɔm
the profession of medicine during these dark ages in the history of our world, which led Lord Bacon to give (Advancement of Learning, A. D. 1561) as a reason why medicine had failed to advance as a science, as follows: "The first is the discontinuance of the ancient and serious diligence of Hippocrates, which used to set down a narrative of the special cases of his patients, and how they proceeded, and how they were judged by recovery or death. This continuance of medicinal history I find deficient."
The bringing to light of the works of Hippocrates at the time of the revival of letters, gave a new impulse to the science of medicine. Such was the merit of his works, that it was made the duty of physicians to understand the Greek language for the purpose of consulting them. Says Dr. J. Watts (Improvement of the Mind): "Physicians should be skilled in the Greek as well as Latin, because their great master Hippocrates wrote in that tongue, and his writings are still of good value and use." (A. D. 1748.) The frequent quotations which are made by the authors on medicine during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from the works of Hippocrates, are sufficient to warrant the assertion that medicine received from his works an inductive course of thought and action which has continued to the present time, and that in many respects it may claim a place among the fixed sciences. And we may add that the best contributors to natural history are found in the medical profession at the present day.
In the examination of the evidence to prove that Hippocrates is the Father of Inductive Science, we shall quote largely from his works, as translated by Francis Adams, M. D., for the Sydenham Society of London, said to be as literal as can be made. And in addition a free use will be made of the works of Lord Francis Bacon, who is the reputed Father of Inductive Philosophy. We will quote from section 73 and 117 of his Organon, for a better understanding of his method of reasoning and his opinion of the comparative merits of the Grecian philosophers:
"Now from the systems of the Greeks and their subordinate divisions in particular branches of the sciences during so long a period, scarcely one single experiment can be culled that has a tendency to elevate or assist mankind, and can fairly be set down to the speculations and doctrines of their philosophy. Celsus (who wrote during the Augustan age) candidly and wisely confesses as much, when he observes that experiments were first discovered in medicine, and that men afterwards built their philosophical systems upon them, and searched for and assigned causes, instead of the inverse method of