Charles Sedgwick Minot, M.D

W. T. Porter
1915 Boston Medical and Surgical Journal  
Circumstances, which should have prevented the career of Charles Sedgwick Minot, contributed largely to its success-the usual paradox. He was born not merely a Bostonian, but a legendary Bostonian. All the crushing disadvantages of an assured position, binding traditions, and a competence, were his. The times themselves were not propitious. The range of thought was narrow. Boston was no longer distinctively a caravan route. Strange cargoes were less frequent. The China seas widened fewer
more » ... s. New people were coming in, floating on the tides of unearned increment. Hardy explorers from the fabled West discovered the North Shore. The old society, solicitous for a point of view justly regarded precious, took refuge in its trenches. The use of Christian names in conversation rose from a convenience to a shibboleth. The spirit of the times was aptly characterized by the President of Harvard University, when he called the Harvard Medical School of that period a dinner club. Those were provincial days in town and nation. Much may be said of the charm and indeed the real value of limited societies, but they are unfavorable to the development of original minds. On the other hand, once the inertia of position is overcome, the virtues of these particular defects are admirably sustaining. No doubt the Bostonian of literature was a creature never seen on land or sea, yet the Boston spirit was nevertheless a living force. There rests not the faintest doubt that a provincialism which pitched the note upon honesty of purpose, industry, and almost unexampled devotion to the public welfare, gave to the neophyte in science the indispensable weapons of his lifelong fight. In Minot 's hands they were never tarnished ; honesty, industry, and public spirit were undimmed to the end. These attributes, though sufficient for salvation in the ordinary walks of life, are but the tools of thought. The priceless gift is the power to see how known phenomena may be so combined as to reveal new truth. In the last analysis, the setting of fruitful problems is an incommunicable art. Yet those who possess originality of mind can be greatly helped by men whose genius lies in this direction, or by their disciples. Still more may they be aided toward the invention of methods and the development of critical power. The higher knowledge, impossible of record, is an oral tradition. Minot received this tradition from H. P. Bowditch, Ranvier, and especially from Ludwig. Of his debt to all three, he was ever conscious. Ludwig he regarded with true veneration. In this, Minot was not alone. The illustrious Heidenhain said at Breslau that the only physiologists who had really accomplished anything were Ludwig and Marey. Ludwig kindled fires in every civilized country. The world owes him a great debt, still unpaid. His extraordinary powers as a ferment were coupled with an engaging simplicity. Shortly before his death, in his seventy-second year, he said : ' ' The pity of it is, I shall have to leave off just when it becomes most interesting." Ludwig gave to Minot the secret of lifelong youth, the reward of those who continually voyage for discovery.
doi:10.1056/nejm191504011721301 fatcat:h2fmhds3hjdphmgg5yyqwafbxy