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PRINTED FOR RICHIARD PHILLIPS, No. 6, BRIDGE-STRERT,
BY I. HEMSTED, GREAT NEW STREET, FETTER LANE.
Printed for R. PHILLIPS, by W. Thorne, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, London.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE Progress of MEDICINE
IN THE YEAR 1809. By Mr. Royston.
« Rien n'est Beau, que le Vrai."- VOLTAIRE, « The pleasures of sudden wonders are soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose on the stability of truth."- JOHNSON.
THOUGH often enchanted by the corruscations that flash from the fire of imagination, or subdued by the logical subtleties of scholastic disquisition, we have especially. to lament that the exercise of the mental principle has so seldom been governed by an adherence to truth. The progress of science has too commonly been marked by a delusive colouring given to facts; by the ingenuity of hypothesis retarding discovery, and by the influence of theory repressing the advances to knowledge. The art of medi. cine, possibly, more than any other, has suffered by a disposition to turn opinions into principles; and with principles thus manufactured, to erect labored fabrics, and dig. nify the elaborate visions with the denomination of system. The late ingenious and lamented Dr. Currie of Liverpool, who was himself an instance how far an acquaintance with Nature might be carried by cautious induction, observed, that “ the great obstruction which men have in all ages 'experienced in the pursuit of knowledge, has arisen from the promptitude in the human mind to decide in regard to causes. To the weak and the ignorant, presumption is as natural as doubt is intolerable, and with such, belief is al. most always a creation of the imagination. Nor do these observations apply to weakness and ignorance only: to retain the inind unprejudiced and undecided, in the investis ; (No. 137.)
gation of striking and interesting phænomena, till, by the painful steps of induction, their hidden cause "is revealed, is an effort of the most difficult kind, and requires the rarest and highest powers of the understanding. The records of every part of science bear ample testimony to this truth, particularly the records of medicine. The most éminent physicians in every period of the world, impatient of observing and delineating, have been eager to explain, and even to systematize; and the science of life owes its corruptions more to the misapplication of learning, than even to the dreains of superstition." * The fall of the systems of Galen and Boerhaave was not effected by the mutability of fashions: their component principles wanted the foundation of truth. Hypothesis, however ingenious, is not formed to last ; ascertained facts alone are durable. The present age is, perhaps, more perfectly sensible of this, than any preceding. If the period for systematizing has not entirely passed away, there is a greater desire to collect facts, than has been manifesto ed at any former time: 'and it frequently occurs, that the plain narrative obtains an attention that once was given only to the subtle theorist, and the fabricator of plausible hypotheses. While it is, however, matter of gratulation, that Brown and Darwin have no successors in the science of system-building; we cannot look with indifference, nor without apprehension, on the spirit that impels to the multiplication of books. The art, perhaps, peculiar to mo. dern times, of manufacturing literary wares, is extending with incredible rapidity into every branch of human knowledge. Books are easily formed out of books; and the scissars is the magical instrument that promulgates science and philosophy. When the plagiarism is not thus direct, and the pen has actually been employed, a Rippant fourish of style, splendor of paper, neatness of type, and elegance of decoration, render superfluous the labors of. investigation and the toil of research. Medical literature has not escaped from this delusion of the age. When we look on the fearful multitude of medical quartos, octavos, and duodecimos, that have issued from the British press in the present year, can it be doubted to what extent ihis modern art has been exercised ? Even the labor of describing ihis multitude, becomes a subject of alarming contemplation. Upwards of seventy new works, and thirty new editions, on the subject of medicine, have in this period been published in London. Of this number, how many have enlightened the science of medicine, how many have added
improvement to the practice, or have more clearly explained what was yet imperfectly known; the writt, whose aim is not taken from the masked battery of anonyinous criticism, would be imprudently bold to declare. Without daring to alarm this medical hive of the genus irritabile, by ind.vidual applications, it may be truly asserted, that improvement in the science of medicine has not kept pace with the extension of its literature.
In traversing the circle of medical science, various branches of the art will appear to have different degrees of value. A judicious employment of the practical part, or that, the direct object of which is the cure of disease, it must be adınitted, is of the most importance. But the power of properly employing this part, cannot be acquired but by a patient attention to preliminary and auxiliary studies. Of these we have been accustomed to consider Anatomy and Physiology as of primary efficacy. No cause has arisen that should induce a change in this opinion; but it is to be regretted, that the present year affords so few materials. Gall and Spurzheim Recherches sur le systéme nervaux en general, et sur celui du cerveau en particuliere. Watts's anatomico-chirurgical views of the nose, larynx and fauces; with Pettigrew's views of the basis of the brain and cranium, are the principal separate anatomical productions of 1809. Whai has been produced on the continent, beside the work of Gall and Spurzheim, the precarious and scanty intelligence, which by stealth only arrives, does not enable us to state.
Few of our readers but will recollect the popular reputation of Dr. Gall, and the controversies thai have existed upon his novel and visionary system respecting the exterinal appearances of the cranium, as indicatory of the propensities, powers, and capacities of human intellect. The wild enthusiasm that appeared to direct the opinions of this philosophizing anatomist, convinced us that his hypothesis was framed of fragile materials, and that a scanty period would terminate its progress. This opinion was not founded, however, on any direct publication of Gall, on : the subject of what he quaintly called Craniology ; but rather on the statements of his pupils and partizans: for, in this case, as often before has occurred, the policy of the leader of the sect, taught him either to disdain, or to fear committing himself, otherwise than in his public lectures.
But subsequent to this, Dr. Gall has submitted his asserted discoveries on the anatomy of the brain, to the physical class of the French National Institute, in a mea Bg