« ForrigeFortsæt »
public if the means of introducing them to notice ivere not facilitated. Thus far, his plan is highly laudable: but his ardour for discovery has led him also to propose a very extensive scheme for the improvement of medicine, which would entirely change the face of the profession; and which will be variously estimated by our readers, according to their respective situations in it.
Dr. B. proposes, in the first place, that the medical officers of public hospitals should be required
• At fixed, perhaps monthly periods, to furnish an account of their respective departments, particularly noticing such phænomena as should appear to them instructive or singular. To these meetings, all the practitioners of the place and neighbourhoud, together with subscribers to the charity, should have free access. When the statement contained any thing uncommonly interesting, a commissionet or committee of verification should be appointed to examine the circumstances. In cases not admitting of delay, the attending physician or surgeon should call in one or more commissioners during the intervals of the sitting. It is of course that the facts thus acqnired should be subject to the remarks of the parties present, and that the more select should be given to the public in some commodious form,
If a scheme of this nature could be executed with accuracy and impartiality, it would undoubtedly produce very beneficial effects. Frequent reports of the remarkable occurrences in Jarge hospitals would furnish an inestimable repository of facts, for the student and the practitioner:- but the author's project appears to be too forcing. He wishes to have the flowers and the fruit together. We apprehend that a long series of cautious experiment must precede important deductions; and that opinions must be matured by observations, which cannot be commanded at stated periods. Neither would the mixed assembly, proposed by Dr. Beddoes, tend to elicit free communications of practice and cpinions, unless men could be liberated from the common imperfections of their nature. The hospital functionary, producing his reports at a meeting of rivals in practice,--of men who are enemies to him only because they happen to befriend another practitioner,--or of friends who may over-rate him,- Would feel himself subjected either to an exa amination of the most mortifying and disagreeable kind, or overwhelmed with injudicious admiration. It would be more eligible, in every view, to encourage the publication of facts in the first instance :-but nothing of this kind can be successfully performed, when it is enjoined as a task. It would perhaps answer every purpose, if the subscribers to public charities would undertake to print Reports, delivered to them by the medical attendants, at their own expence. They would then
be criticised, not by a partial audience, whether flattering of malevolent, but by the public; who, notwithstanding the complaints of some impatient writers, are tolerably shrewd in appreciating merit.
The second part of Dr. Beddoes's proposal is,
• That the physicians and surgeons of hospitals be changed, or partly changed, every year, or every second year: that, if the average number of reputable physicians and surgeons, residing in or near a place, be sufficient for two changes, those who go out first be not re-elected till at least two periods shall have clapsed; and that the exclusion be prolonged according to the probability of a proper succession.'
To this part of the plan we see many powerful objections. We conceive that, by making appointments of this kind too general, their importance would be lessened; and apathy would be produced, instead of emulation, in the medical ata tendants. Dr. Beddoes also seems to proceed on the erroneous supposition, that every man thus appointed will become a good observer of diseases, in the course of a short period. Must the man of solid experience and attentive observation be interrupted in his train of investigation, and deprived of the most copious source of his information, in order to make way for a novice in the science? We should expect, from such changes, nothing better than premature and rash exhibitions of practice, which the Doctor's monthly courts of criticism would find it very difficult to suppress. Whoever is acquainted with the management of hospital-business, in general, will be aware that those medical sessions, from which the Doctor expects so much good, would soon degenerate into scenes of party and cabal. There are men of real abilities, who do not sufficiently consider that mere change does not necessarily imply improvement. We believe that public infirmaries might be rendered more useful by proper regulations, but we should not rank Dr. Beddoes's proposal exactly under this term.
It is true that, when an appointment to an infirmary is contested, the more worthy candidate is sometimes rejected, even against the sense of the best-informed among the electors :but it is impossible to prevent occasional instances of injustice, in any human institution. Is it only in elections to infirmaries, that virtue and merit are improperly depressed ?--We are far from meaning to insinuate, that any exclusive rules should be permitted in such institutions. Every man of merit, and of regular education, has an undoubted claim to be employed in a public charity, where the number of patients renders his assistance desirable ; and the number of medical officers ought to be, in all cases, regulated by the quantity of business among
the sick poor :--but it would be unjust, and even cruel, to deprive the patients of the assistance of practitioners in whom they habitually confide, for the sole purpose of introducing strangers.
There are hospitals, we believe, in which the election of the medical officers is annual. A regulation of this kind would probably answer all the purposes intended by Dr. Beddoes, because it must operate as a perpetual stimulus to exertion : for, while the supporters of a public charity would not attempt to supersede an active and meritorious practitioner, they would hare it in their power to dismiss one who acted improperly, with little trouble, by omitting his name in the annua} vote.
We have entered at some length into these views of the active and benevolent Dr. Beddoes, because we think that the subject on which he has touched is of great and general importance; and because we are of opinion that the public have not hitherto derived a degree of information from the practice in infirmaries, adequate to the expence and trouble bestowed on them. We object to the particulars of Dr. B.'s plan, only because it does not seem likely to produce the requisite advantages. In the Edinburgh Infirmary, for example, where the plan of attendance by rotation has been so long tried in the surgical department, the number of excellent operators has certainly not been superior to that which has been produced by the London Hospitals, during the same period.-We come now to the collection of papers.
The first and second communication contain ' Experimental Essays on Heat, Light, and on the Combustions of Light; with a new Theory of Respiration, and Observations on the Chemistry of Life. By Humphry Davy.' -' Experimental Essay on the Gene ration of Phosoxygen (Oxygen gas), and on the Causes of the Colours of Org nic Bodies.' By the same.
This writer endeavours to prove that the cause of the phænomena of light and heat is not matter, according to the prevailing doctrine, but that it is a repulsive motion excited in the particles of bodies. It would lead us so far beyond our limits, io give a minute account of the experiments and reasonings contained in this long paper, that we can only osier to our Teaders a general view of it.
In the first experiment, no light was produced by the colle sion of fint with steel, first tried in vacuo, afterward in a re, ceiver filled with carbonic acid ; though the particles struck off from the steel appeared, in the microscope, to have undergone fusion. From these facts, Mr. Davy concludes that light is not a modification of heat.-This experiment will certainly require explanation, before the inference. drawn. by the author
. can be admitted; for it was previously known that the car bonic acid gas extinguishes flame. · From the second experiment, in which two planes of ice were converted into water, by being kept in friction against each other, Mr. Davy concludes that frietion does not increase the temperature of bodies by diminishing their capacity for heat.
The third experiment, which is contrived with great ingenuity, is intended to prove that, in a case in which heat was produced by friction, it could not be derived from the sur. rounding bodies; and consequently could not depend on the passage of a material fluid from one substance to another. Ob. serving that expansion is always produced in solid bodies by friction, he infers that a certain motion or vibration is heat, or the repulsive power.In light, he supposes that the repulo sive motion predominates so much over the attraction of the particles, that the corpuscules indefinitely separate with the greatest velocity, and appear to be very little acted on by attraction or gravitation. This state may be called repulsive projection.'-Such of our readers as wish to examine the proofs of this doctrine, with accuracy, must consult the original essay. To us the experiments do not convey demonstration : they are of so delicate a nature, and express such very slight alterations of temperature, that a few trials of them would furnish no satisfactory evidence ; and, even admitting their accuracy, they rather create difficulties, than furnish explanations: for, as Mr. Davy asserts the materiality of light, (p. 39,) he still adds an un-analysed fluid to the list of chemical subjects.
He has entered into a copious view of the consequences of this discovery, some of which are rather prematurely introduced. We are told, (p. 141,) for example, that the nervous fluid has been supposed to be the electric aura by a number of philosophers; and he adds, we have before supposed the electric Auid to be condensed light. Thus we have another cogent reason for supposing that the nervous spirit is light, ia an etherial gaseous form.'
Mr. Davy supposes oxygenous gas to be a compound of oxygen and light, instead of caloric, according to the common doctrine. This composition he calls by the new name of Phosoxygen. His theory of respiration is that no decomposition of oxygenous gas takes place in the lungs, but that the compound of light and oxygen, or phosoxygen, unites with the venous blood, and occasions the phænomena of animal heat, by exciting or increasing the repulsive motion in the particles of the blood.' To confirm this opinion, he produces a number of experiments, to which we refer our readers.
The operations of life are all deduced from this thcory, as corpuscular changes, dependent on light, which the improvements in chemisty may be expected to unveil completely; and the colours of bodies are also supposed to depend on the action of light. This is by no means a new idea : but it is supported by tlie author with great ingenuity, in the language of his para ticular theory
Mr. Davy's opinions will probably attract considerable attention among philosophical readers ;' and even those who may dissent from his conclusions will pay him the tribute of respect, which is due to early knowlege and acuteness.
We have seldom seen a fairer promise of excellence than in these papers.
Specimen of an Arrangement of Bodies, according to their Printiples. By the Editor.
Dr. Beddoes proposes to divide bodies into four classes, consisting of light, oxygen, philoxygena, and misoxygena. He informs us that he had rejected the matter of heat, or caloric, from his chemical system, before he was acquainted with either Count Rúmford's experiments, or those of Mr. Davy. That part of the table which relates to light is formed from the facts contained in the preceding essay. The relation which substances bear to light and oxygen appears to Dr. B. the best general principle for chemical arrangement, though he seems aware that it will be found rather too artificial in some in. stances. • The phänomena in which light and oxygen are concerned, especially as the actions of life promise to be comprehensible under them, will probably long constitute the most curious and important part of chemistry.' (P. 217.)
We find some curious conjectures, in this paper, on the composition of bodies which have not yet been analysed. The decomposition of metals is pointed out particularly, as a possible and most important discovery; and the Doctor seems to intimate that even living matter may be in some degree analysed. He adds, with his usual energy, that till advances are made iñ chemical physiology, medical science must continue à chimera.
This is certainly said without due consideration. Are all the facts knowri concerning metals, for example, to be disregarded, because they have not yet been analysed? If our knowlege in physiology be limited, we certainly are acquainted with too many useful facts to denominate the result visionary.
Cases of Gonorrhea treated with Muriet of Quicksilver. By Mr. Addington.
Mr. A. was induced to try this medicine at the request of elre patient himself, after a virulent gonorrhea had abstinately REV. SEPT. 1799.