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Formation of Academies of Science-Borelli-Medical Mechanics-Introduction of Cinchona Bark-Its effect upon the General Mortality-Writings against it -Cromwell's last Illness-Richard Talbot-Sydenham-His Birth-place-His Military and Medical Career-His Writings-His relation to Hippocrates-His Imitation of Nature-Treatment of Pleurisy-Rheumatism and Blood-lettingWe must discover Specifics-Selection of a Remedy-Herald of Homœopathy -His strange Prescriptions-The English Hippocrates.
It would seem natural to pass at once from Boyle's eloquent and ingenious defence of Specifics, to an account of the introduction of the use of Cinchona Bark in the cure of ague; and of the principles and opinions in regard to the practice of his profession, which characterized Sydenham, the great English physician of his period. But the history of every branch of humanity, besides advancing in one direction from its origin to its end, throws out lateral offshoots, of too great importance to be neglected. The offshoot of the era
1 From the copy of the bust prefixed to his works.
which occupies our attention at present, is known by the name of mathematical or mechanical medicine.
After the liberation of the European intellect by the religious controversies, great discoveries, and daring thinkers (such as Bacon and Descartes) of the sixteenth century, there was a simultaneous effort in various countries to form a new order of association for the cultivation of physical science. It is very interesting to observe how leading minds tend to anticipate events, and construct plans which, impracticable for the moment, realize themselves in the fulfilment of time, and justify the wisdom of their authors, although their temporary failure brought down the ridicule of more short-sighted contemporaries. Thus, in Italy, in 1603, there was founded the first Academy of Science, called Accademia di Lincei. Among the many celebrated men who belonged to this academy was Galileo, whose famous work, "Il Saggiatore," it had the honour of publishing. But this first attempt was premature; it roused the jealousy of Rome, and the academy had to be dissolved. In the year 1657, another Institution of a similar character arose at Florence. It took the name of the Accademia del Cimento, or Academy of Experiments. The members of this were the disciples of Galileo, and men of great renown, of whom Borelli was one of the chief. Some years previously, in 1652, Leopold's Academy of Natural Sciences had been established at Vienna. In 1663, our own Royal Society was founded, under the presidency of Sir C. Wren, assisted by Robert Boyle, with the patronage of the restored House of Stuart. In England, as in Italy, there had been a germination suppressed by the civil war, and it was not till peace was confirmed that science was honoured and proclaimed. In 1666, the French Royal Academy of Sciences was established at Paris, by the minister Colbert; an Institution which has, perhaps, done more than any of its sisters to accomplish its
1 Popular Encyclopædia, Art. Academy, Sprengel, Boyle, &c., &c.
design. Thus, within nine years, we have four similar Institutions for the advancement of science, springing up, for the first time, and with resulting success, in Italy, France, and England. Such a common result betokens the same causes, namely, increased human inquisitiveness, and general freedom of inquiry on all subjects, material as well as spiritual.
No question was more suited to engage the attention of an "Academy of Experiments" whose greatest ornaments were physicians, than the application of the newly-discovered laws of mechanical philosophy to the motions of the animal frame. What are the limbs but solid rods, to which contractile ropes are fastened at various points, for the purpose of moving them in certain directions? Here is a problem of levers, weights, and pulleys; and there is no reason why the formulæ of an inanimate machine should not apply to a living fabric. And what is the heart but a pump, continually receiving and discharging a supply of fluid, provided with valves just such as a human contrivance for the same object would have?
Borelli' was not satisfied with giving the most perfect mathematical demonstration of the action of the muscles upon the bones he pushed his inquiries into the causes of the swelling of the body, of the muscles, and the contraction of their length. This he attributed to an injection of nerve force from the brain, conducted by the nerves, which he represented as tubes. This theory he applied to the origin of fever. Rejecting the chemical hypothesis, he pointed to the fact, that a fit of rage will excite a violent action of the heart, and hasten the circulation of the blood, so as to produce a febrile paroxysm, adding that there is no need to assume any derangement in the constitution of the blood to account for the symptoms. From this he deduced the important inference, that, as fever did not depend upon anything deleterious in the blood, no
1 Borelli, De Motu Animalium. Neapoli, 1734.
good could come of evacuations, either by the bowels or skin, and that fevers could be cured directly by the use of Cinchona bark, strengthening the tone of the solid parts. One of the most renowned men of this school was Sanctorius, who was born in 1561, and died in 1636.' He was the first to discover the insensible perspiration, and to investigate with scientific accuracy the loss sustained by the body through the skin. The attention excited to this organ, as one of the great emunctories, naturally led to the employment of sudorifics more extensively than at any former period.
Another great man of that time was Lorenz Bellini' (born, 1643; died, 1704). He was a pupil of Borelli's, and attempted to explain the phenomena of fever by a reference to the laws of hydraulics. He showed how a change in the rate of delivery would derange the capillary circulation, and occasion those perturbations of the system which the chemist attributed to fermentation.
The mechanical philosophers deserve a very different tribute from that due to the chemists. Medical chemistry of those days consisted of loose experimentation, and, if possible, looser reasoning. Acids in the general were talked of, and assumed as well as counter-agents which they called alkalies. These were ordered about, in and out of the body, in the most arbitrary fashion. But these great Italians, Borelli, Sanctorius, Lorenz Bellini, and others, not only were men of great talent, but pursued their investigation into the mechanics of the animal structure by the most rigidly scientific methods; and the results they obtained remain good to the present day. And although it was the fashion at a later period for medical pretenders to employ the
1 Sanctorius, translated by John Irving. London, 1712.
"I must, in short, confess that these Aphorisms of Sanctorius, with those of Hippocrates, are writings of greater merit than any other in the whole art of Physic; and even if we compare the
merits of the two together, the preference will, perhaps, be readily given to Sanctorius."- Boerhaave's Lectures, Vol. III., p. 309.
2 Lorenz Bellini, Opuscula. Lugd., 1690.
jargon of mathematics as a cloak for their ignorance, and there were some who expected extravagant results from the transference of mathematical reasoning to the practical art of medicine;' yet, on the whole, the labours of this school were highly beneficial, and acted like a balance-wheel upon the irregular and violent movements of the age; and although they cannot be said to have directly favoured the reception of the first great specific medicine, yet undoubtedly they prepared the way for a more impartial consideration of its merits, than it would have received either at the hands of the Galenists or of the Chemists. Nor must we forget that Robert Boyle, the great advocate for specifics, would have naturally allied himself to men like Borelli, had it not happened that the rank of the Englishman precluded him from entering the medical profession. Had he done so, he would have united in his person, not only two orders of social rank, but two rival schools of medicine. As it was, it pleased Providence to confound the wise by allowing the weak and foolish to be the channel of one of the greatest blessings conferred upon humanity. To speak of the introduction of Cinchona in such high terms may appear extravagant. are now more familiar with its abuse than its use, and we do not stand in such apprehension of fever and ague as our forefathers did. But let us look at the bills of mortality in England, before and after bark came into use.
1 Vide Donzellini. De Usu Mathematum. 8vo. London, 1707. Not that he committed the error referred to in the text, but he refutes it as then existing. His little work is in the form of a dialogue, and written with much spirit. Although a natural philosopher himself, he makes one of his speakers say, "What new precepts
have the mathematics added to the art? what new remedy suggested? what improvement in the cure of the sick?" To which he must reply, None.
The use of natural philosophy is confined almost exclusively to anatomy and physiology, and has no more to do with the practice of medicine than mathematics has with religion. And here we may remark, that the use of academies seems to be limited to advancing positive sciences - anatomy, chemistry, &c.; and that their attempts to promote the art of medicine have generally proved rather injurious than advantageous to its development.