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writing becoming superficial,—the present mode of reading while we run or ride being decidedly opposed to earnest study.

There is another admonition about chemistry, which is still worthy of serious consideration. "It is not so sure as both chymists and Aristotelians are wont to think it, that every seemingly singular and distinct substance that is separated from a body by the help of fire, was pre-existing in it as a principle or element of it." It was then the fashion to find the so-called elements, salt, sulphur, and mercury, in all bodies. We have passed that stage, but it is still doubtful whether, in the chemical analysis of organic matter, the chemists do not make what they find.

Certain it is, and most remarkable, that Boyle, notwithstanding his vision of the wonders that his Art of Chemistry might effect, was utterly opposed to any possible application of its potent machinery to the solution of the great mysteries of medicine. The reason he thus gives:-"I consider the body of a living man, not as a rude heap of limbs and liquors"-not a retort full of chemical mixtures, as Sylvius did,—but "as an engine consisting of several parts, so set together that there is a strange and conspiring communication betwixt them, by virtue whereof a very weak and inconsiderable impression of adventitious matter upon some one part may be able to work on some other distant part, or, perhaps, on the whole engine, a change far exceeding what the same adventitious body could do upon a body not so contrived."2 He gives, as illustration, the powerful effects caused by the pressure of a finger on the trigger of a gun; for, as successive changes in the relation of the parts follow this slight disturbance, and result in a dangerous explosion, so, in the animal economy, where part is knit to part by a tissue of sympathy, a gentle impression on one part may give rise to a whole train of actions in the body, resulting in the most violent 1 Op. cit., Vol. I., p. 493. 2 Op. cit., Vol. II., p. 176.

perturbation of its organs and functions.

This makes

chemistry inapplicable. A chemical remedy can act only upon the substances presented to it; it cannot touch the springs of life and tune the discordant notes.

What, then, did Boyle look forward to for improving medicine? We shall first see how he tried to call the physicians off the wrong scent, and then how he led them on to where he believed they would find the direction for pursuing to a successful issue the true problem of how to cure.

"I cannot forbear to wish that divers learned physicians. were more concerned than they seem to be, to advance the curative part of their profession, without which, three, at least, of four others may prove, indeed, delightful and beneficial to the physician, but will be of very little use to the patient whose relief is yet the principal end of physic; whereunto the physiological, pathological, and semeiotical parts of that art ought to be referred. . . . . I had much rather that the physician of any friend of mine should keep his patient by powerful medicines from dying, than tell me punctually when he shall die, or show me in the opened carcass why it may be supposed he lived no longer." In another place, he quotes Celsus with great approval, to the effect "that it matters not what causeth the disease, but what removes it." In short, Boyle saw that the great error to which the scientific and learned physicians of all times were liable, was, to take greater pleasure in ascertaining the certainties of diseases, their genesis, propagation, mutual affinities, natural termination, and morbid alterations of the body, than in attempting to obtain the greatest possible command over the uncertainties on which the restoration of the sick and the relief of suffering depend. It is more to the taste of the man of science to be a political economist than a practical politician. Hence it is one of the general impediments to the progress of

1 Vol. II., p. 114.

medicine, that the curative branch rather repels than attracts minds of a highly scientific tendency, of whose active co-operation it stands in need, to register its facts and ascertain its laws.

A special hindrance to the advancement of medicine, is the system of prescribing many ingredients in one receipt. On this head, Boyle anticipates to a great extent what has since been written, and is almost as energetic as any of our more modern writers.

"It seems a great impediment to the further discovery of the virtues of simples, to confound so many of them in compositions; for in a mixture of a great number of ingredients, it is hard to know what is the operation of each or any of them, that I fear there will scarce, in a long time, be any progress made in the discovery of the virtues of simple drugs, till they either be oftener employed singly, or be but few of them employed in one remedy. Again he returns to the charge :-"I fear that when a multitude of simples are heaped together into one compound medicine, though there may result a new crisis, yet it is very hard for the physicians to know beforehand what that will be; and it may sometimes prove rather hurtful than good, or at least by the coalition the virtues of the chief ingredients may be rather impaired than improved. Though I had not the respect I have for Mathiolus and other famous. doctors that devised the compositions, whereinto ingredients are thrown by scores if not by hundreds, yet, however, I would not reject an effectual remedy, because I thought it proved so rather by chance, than by any skill in the contriver; and I think a wise man may use a remedy that none but a fool would have devised." Such are Boyle's opinions on the use of compound medicines: it was not by them that the art of healing was to be improved. Nor was it by reverting to "the wisdom of the ancients," as Sprengel 1 Vol. II., p. 124.

suggests; or by worshipping the "vis medicatrix naturæ," as our modern school inculcate. His words on this head are very striking. "Though, in a right sense, it be true that the physician is nature's minister, and is to comply with her, who aims always at the best; yet if we take this in the sense those expressions are vulgarly used in, I may elsewhere acquaint you with my exceptions at them; and in the meantime I confess to you that I know not whether they have not done harm, and hindered the advancement of physic, fascinating the minds of men, and keeping them from those effectual courses whereby they may potently alter the engine of the body; and, by rectifying the motion and texture of its parts, both consistent and fluid, may bring nature to their bent, and accustom her to such convenient courses of the blood and other juices, and such fit times and ways of evacuating (what is noxious or superfluous) as may prevent or cure stubborn diseases more happily than the vulgar Methodists are wont to do."


Boyle does not leave us in any doubt as to the helm by which the vessel is to be steered. Far from denying the power of nature, he was one of the greatest investigators of her hidden forces; but, once discovered, they are to be used, not obeyed; not submitted to as eternal laws to which we owe subjection, but employed under the direction of reason for the benefit of the human race. And what are these forces which are to regenerate the art of healing, and restore it to its pristine dignity as exercised by the Messenger of good-will to man? They are-Specifics.

By the term specific, Boyle distinctly states that he does not mean a nostrum or panacea, which is to cure all diseases, or any disease whatever, infallibly, and as by magic; all he means is, a remedy which most commonly relieves the patient, lessening the disease by reason of some unknown property or peculiar virtue. One great stumbling-block in

1 Op. cit., Vol. II., p. 186.

the recognition of specifics he thus tries to remove. Finding at every turn that the main thing which does prevail with learned physicians to reject specifics, is, that they cannot clearly conceive the distinct manner of the specific's working, and think it utterly improbable that such a medicine, which must pass through digestions in the body, and be whirled about by the mass of the blood to all the parts, should, neglecting the rest, show itself friendly to the brain, for instance, or the kidneys, or fall upon this or that juice or humour, rather than any other. But to this objection, which I have proposed as plausible as I can make it, I shall at present but briefly offer these two things.

"First, I would demand of these objectors a clear and satisfactory, or, at least, an intelligible explication of the manner of working of divers other medicaments that do not pass for specifics. Why the glass of antimony, though it acquire no pungent, or so much as manifest taste, whereby to vilicate the palate, is both vomitive and cathartic? For I confess, that to me even many of the vulgar operations of common drugs seem not to have been hitherto intelligibly explained by physicians, who have yet, for aught I have observed, to seek for an account of the manner of how diuretics, sudorifics, &c., perform their operations." Again, "The same objection that is urged to prove that a specific cannot befriend the kidneys, for example, or throat, rather than any other parts of the body, lies against the noxiousness of poisons to this or that determinate part; yet experience manifests that some poisons do respect some particular parts of the body, without equally (or at all sensibly) offending the rest; and we see that cantharides, in a certain dose, are noxious to the kidneys and bladder, and quicksilver to the throat and glandules thereabouts, stramonium to the brain, and opium to the animal spirits and genus nervosum.' Had the

1 Vol. II., p. 191.



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