Prof. Huxley on the Relation of Physical Science to Medical Education

1866 Boston Medical and Surgical Journal  
Professor Huxley said that he hardly clearly apprehended at first that a certain gravamen attached to the honor of presiding, in the shape of an address. After a brief introduction, he proceeded to speak of the relations of the physical sciences to medicine and medical education. He defined the object of the science of medichtc as being to ascertain the nature of the disability which a diseased person labors under, and the means by which that disability can bo removed; and, con-datively, the
more » ... of medicine as the skilful use of all those means by which we can ascertain what is the matter with the diseased man and their application to his cure. One great division of these means was derived from, or in its use dependent upon, the physical sciences. The microscope, the ophthalmoscope, the stethoscope, chemical tests, and the other great and familiar means of diagnosis, were all physical appliances. Further than that, every liberally educated medical man should surely know something about the nature of the bodies he is constantly employing. He should certainly, as a man of liberal education, know enough of botany and zoology to be on even terms with laymen, and give safe opinions and safe answers concerning the animal and vegetable substances which he uses constantly. He was quite prepared to admit, and indeed had always had a strong conviction, that there was something absolutely preposterous in the volume and bulk to which, for example, some of our treatises on materia medica extend, and the enormous quantity of absolutely irrelevant matter. He was not one who would take the student through the length and breadth of physical optics because there arc particular substances used in medicine which change the polarization of light or exhibit the phenomenon of fluorescence. This was the Scylla ; total ignorance was the Charybdis. But there was a more important aspect of the matter : the relation in which the science of medicine stands to physical science in gene-
doi:10.1056/nejm186607050742303 fatcat:qneru337svgatfakgnbainukkq