Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

they were almost entirely free from the long list of complaints that are more or less due to the uncontrolled or uncontrollable imagination. Shortly after the Punic wars, but especially under the empire when luxurious habits due to the influx of wealth from the east had debilitated the naturally robust constitutions of the higher classes, nervous disorders, along with many others, were inevitable. Then quacks, charlatans, medicasters, soothsayers, magicians, astrologers and what not found a ready market for their wares. They played upon the credulity of the populace and preyed upon their purses because there was money in both the playing and the preying. No small portion of them probably were shrewd enough to disguise some real medical knowledge under a mass of hocus pocus in order to influence the imaginations of their patients. Well might Ovid say as others had said before himand since, too-mundus vult decipi (people like to be deluded). Physicians still give to their patients who insist on taking something' bread pills, colored water and other equally potent or impotent remedies. It would be manifestly unfair to charge a physician with dishonesty because he practices a harmless ruse upon a patient who can be helped in no other way so easily.

"Dismissing faith in the confused creeds of the heathen world, he reposed the greatest faith in the power of human wisdom. He did not know (perhaps no one in that age distinctly did) the limits which nature imposes on our discoveries. Seeing that the higher we mount in knowledge the more wonders we behold, he imagined that nature not only worked miracles in her ordinary course, but that she might, by the cabala of some master soul, be diverted from that course itself. Thus he pursued science across her appointed boundaries into the land of perplexity and shadow. From the truths of astronomy he wandered into astrological fallacy; from the secrets of chemistry he passed into the spectral labyrinth of magic; and he who could be skeptical as to the power of the gods was credulously superstitious as to the power of man." Such are the thoughts that Bulwer-Lytton, in the Last Days of Pompeii, puts into the mind of one of his characters, the Egyptian Arbaces. The reasoning by which such men justified the employment of their superior knowledge and insight to dupe the credulous was half philosophy, half knavery. If a man is the possessor of power unknown to the multitude except in its effects, why has he not the right to use it?-to use it first of all to enhance his authority and to draw from such authority the advantages that seem to him most desirable? We may well admit that a man of this stamp may have had an inward feeling akin to what we call conscience that would justify his attitude toward his fellows-yet he did not consider these Romans fellow men of his-but it was wholly of the intellect. Such a man is as much a philosopher as were the sophists of an earlier age, and, we may add, of our own day. They apprehend clearly certain superficial verities, but cease to inquire farther after they have discovered what

they think needful and sufficient for their own aggrandizement. Far different was the class of witches, one of whom is introduced in the same novel. Against these Horace frequently raises his voice, as do also others of the rationalizing Romans. They are ignorant, and, in most instances, as much the dupes of their own juggleries as their victims. Every man who goes through the world with his mind alert can see specimens without especially looking for them. It is doubtful whether any man has ever lived who had not at least a modicum of superstition in him. However much we may know and however far we may be able to pry into nature in some directions, there are others in which our vision is barred and the unknown is literally within arm's length. The mystery of life and death has always been so profound, as it still is, though in a different way, that we need not wonder at the strange aberrations which so many persons fell into, who were in most matters little likely to be carried away by delusions. Sleep, 'the twin brother of death,' has from time out of mind been regarded as an excursion into the realm of departed spirits. If, as many believe, our consciousness is never coextensive with our personality, there are yet many discoveries to be made not dreamt of in the philosophy of most of us. Our will as an integral part of ourselves is the resultant of so many forces and, with the majority, is so little under control of rational motives, that it often plays fantastic tricks, not before high heaven alone, but almost anywhere.

The will of each individual as modified, at least in action from moment to moment, is like a ball thrown into a grove. It strikes one tree, then another and another, and no one can predict with certainty where it will come to rest. This element of chance, of Tyche, in the affairs of men, this incalculable calculus of probabilities, pervades in a remarkable degree the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. It made many feel that, do what they would, they were doomed to be thwarted in their plans. It was only those who, like Socrates, Epictetus and a few others, maintained that the chief end of man is to be found in motives rather than in outward results, who were never thrown out of their philosophical poise by the strange vicissitudes of life.

It is a far cry from the Greeks to the Saracens, though farther in time than in space. Here we find philosophy, or rather metaphysics, and medicine more intimately associated than at any other time or among any other people. Every one of the ten or twelve men who became prominent in Arabian philosophy was a physician. In fact the Arabs treated philosophy as a branch of astronomy and the healing art. The latter served a practical purpose, as did also the former in so far as it was dealt with as astrology. Arab philosophy was, however, something very different from the science that bore the same name among the Greeks. They studied philosophy, or rather they philosophized, as a man would study navigation on a ship lying at anchor. Albeit they were in this respect at no greater disadvantage than the schoolmen. The one party was chiefly concerned to make any discoveries they might light upon harmonize with the Koran and Aristotle; the other with the Bible and Aristotle, with a little spice from Ptolemy thrown in. Al-kindi, the philosopher par excellence of the Arabs, flourished in the tenth century. He wrote on almost every imaginable subject from arithmetic to astronomy, though under the former he discusses the unity of God; his arithmetic was therefore something totally different from that which forms the schoolboy's triangle with readin' and 'ritin'. So far as is at present known all his works are lost, except those on medicine and astrology. Roger Bacon ranks him in some respects close to Ptolemy. Al-farabi was a contemporary of the preceding and is generally regarded as the earliest of the Arabian philosophers. However, medical science and even surgery could make little progress where the knowledge of human anatomy was so inadequate. The Koran denounces as unclean every person who touches a dead body, and an article of Mohammedan faith forbids dissection. We should remember, nevertheless, that the founder of anatomy, Vesalius, was sentenced to death by the Inquisition as a magician, and only pardoned on condition that he make a pilgrimage of penance to Jerusalem. This journey cost him his life. And it is probable that he would not have got off even on these relatively hard terms had he not enjoyed the favor of Philip II of Spain, who esteemed him highly for his medical skill. We have the name of one Arab physician, Abdallatif of Bagdad, who was well aware that anatomy could not be learned from books, strange as it may seem that historians have thought it worth while to place to any man's credit a truth so easily apprehended. The same authority avers that Moslem doctors studied that branch of anatomy known as osteology by examining the bones of the dead found in cemeteries. Averroes of Cordova fills a large place in the history of Moorish philosophy in Spain about the middle of the twelfth century. But in medical renown he ranks far below Avicenna of Bokhara, who flourished about a century and a half earlier. He was teacher of both philosophy and medicine in Ispahan. His medical works seem to have been the chief guide in this branch in Europe for almost five centuries; their sway was not broken until the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is strong and yet painful testimony to the inherent stupidity of mankind, physicians not excepted, that the doctrines of Avicenna are little more than what is found in Galen somewhat modified by Aristotle; and, as we have seen, Galen represents no great advance upon Hippocrates. Alas for the human race that it has always been so much easier to memorize than to think and to investigate! The medical science and practice of the Arabs was confined chiefly to surgery and the empirical treatment of internal diseases. There was no lack of victims in view of the constant wars in which the califs were engaged, and no lack of opportunity for the study of disease in its various forms in the hospitals which some of them founded in various parts of their domains.

(TO BE CONTINUED.)

MEDICAL NEWS.

THE NATIONAL MEDICAL ELECTION. Doctor Joseph D. BRYANT, of New York City, was elected president of the American Medical Association at its recent meeting in Boston. Other officers chosen on this occasion are as follows: First vicepresident, Doctor Herbert L. Burrell, of Boston; second vicepresident, Doctor Andrew C. Smith, of Portland; third vicepresident, Doctor David S. Fairchild, of Des Moines; fourth vicepresident, Doctor William S. Foster, of Pittsburgh; general secretary, Doctor George H. Simmons, of Chicago; treasurer, Doctor Frank Billings, of Chicago; trustees, Doctor Malcolm L. Harris, of Chicago, Doctor William H. Welch, of Baltimore, and Doctor Miles F. Porter, of Fort Wayne.

COMMENCEMENT SEASON CLINIC. CLINIC week is always an important feature of commencement season at the Detroit College of Medicine, but the event this year is pronounced more consequential than ever before, as many as three hundred witnessing some of the clinics, and five hundred being conservatively estimated as the total attendance. In addition to the regular teaching force of the college, clinics were conducted by Doctor George Dock, of Ann Arbor, on diseases of the heart; Doctor Edward G. Tuttle, of New York, on rectal diseases; Doctor Bart E. MacKenzie, of Toronto, on orthopedic surgery; and Doctor Howard A. Kelly, of Baltimore, on operative gynecology. The advent of the scientific and social features of the occasion was marked by a symposium on "Criminal Abortion” before the Wayne County Medical Society, the participants being Doctor Howard W. Longyear, of Detroit, who discussed the question from the medical standpoint; Attorney Charles Lightner, of Detroit, who considered the legal aspect of the question; and Reverend Father Command, of Trenton, who defined the attitude of the Church toward the murderous practice.

THE PENINSULAR GATHERING OF PHYSICIANS.

The forty-first annual meeting of the Michigan State Medical Society was held at Jackson, May 23, 24, and 25.

The program embraced the titles of over fifty papers, besides three orations and two addresses, the latter being delivered by Doctor John B. Murphy, of Chicago, and President David Inglis, of Detroit. “Education” was the subject of the presidential discourse, and the views enunciated contemplate not only better means of educating the physician but better means of educating the public as well. The trend of ideas is especially reflected in the suggestion that county societies disseminate informaSoc

tion among the laity regarding the prophylaxis of venereal diseases ; that a committee on medical education be appointed from the State

to cooperate with the Council of the American Medical Association; that amalgamation of medical schools affords the greatest efficiency in properly training medical students, and hence the desirability in Michigan of merging the State University medical school and the Detroit College of Medicine. The quality of the papers was equal to the average of previous meetings, while the symposiums in the sections afforded exceedingly delightful variation. The Society recommended the combination of medical colleges; addition to the faculties of medical colleges of a chair on Professional Ethics; investigation of contract practice for fraternal orders and for poor commissioners; refusal to accept reduction of fees for life insurance examinations; and modification of existing laws to enable more efficient dealing with tuberculous cattle. It was decided to return to a two-days' session and to omit the orations. A vote of thanks was tendered Doctor Leartus Connor for services rendered in reorganizing the State Society, and a committee was appointed to select a testimonial for Doctor Andrew P. Biddle in recognition of his services as secretary. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President, Doctor Charles B. Stockwell, of Port Huron; first vicepresident, Doctor William Fuller, of Grand Rapids; second vicepresident, Doctor Edward T. Abrams, of Dollar Bay; third vicepresident, Doctor Delbert Robinson, of Jackson ; fourth vicepresident, Doctor Allison R. Stealy, of Charlotte. The following were elected chairmen of sections: Medicine-Doctor Joseph B. Whinery, of Grand Rapids; Surgery-Doctor Louis A. Roller, of Grand Rapids; Gynecology-Doctor Walter H. Sawyer, of Hillsdale. The next meeting will be held at Saginaw.

LIFE INSURANCE EXAMINATION FEES. The question of compensation for life insurance examinations was considered at the recent Jackson meeting of the Michigan State Medical Society, and the concensus of opinion was expressed in the following preamble and resolutions:

Whereas, Many of the Life Insurance Companies have notified their medical examiners of a reduction of the examining fee from $5.00 to $3.00, and

Whereas, We, as physicians, realizing the responsibility incident to proper examination of the individual, believe such reduction to be unjust, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Delegates, in session assembled, does hereby declare such reduction to be unjust, and respectfully requests that no physician legally authorized to practice medicine in Michigan, accept such reduction of fees.

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Delegates that hereafter in such examinations for life insurance, the minimum fee shall be $5.00.

« ForrigeFortsæt »