« PreviousContinue »
fection, does not cease to make progress; for, if the axioms cannot vary, yet new applications of them are continually being made.
The age in which we live is most emphatically and truly an age of improvement. When we look at the world, as it is in the present day, and contrast it with its previous history, we shall have the most perfect demonstration that the onward progress in the arts and sciences, as well as the more immediately useful inventions in mechanics has been vastly greater since the commencement of the nineteenth century, than during a much longer space of time at any other previous period in the history of man. The perfection that has been given to the steam engine and its various applications, which, in its turn, is in a fair way to be eclipsed by the discoveries in electro-galvanism, has wrought most miraculous changes on our planet. It has, in a measure, superseded manual labor, and has so approximated distant regions, and opposite climates, that time and space are nearly annihilated. Stepping a little into the last century, we shall find that political revolutions, such as the world never before witnessed, caused by the growth and diffusion of liberal sentiments and information, have changed the aspect of states and nations, and disseminated light and knowledge where they had not before oxisted. In fact, all the changes and improvements of the present day are owing to the diffusion of knowledge. They are but the legiti
mate effects of a powerful cause- -a lever which moves the world.
The preceding remarks are applicable, in every respect, to the medical art. In the early ages of the world, before science had unveiled to man the secrets of many of nature's operations, he could have had little knowledge of his own organization. Of his physical constitution, the functions of his different organs, and the causes of his maladies, as well as the maladies themselves, he must have been completely ignorant; and, being so, he must also have been extremely ignorant of the art of medicine. How astonishing is the difference betwixt the ignorance of those dark times and the present advanced state of that art. How widely separated the point from which we started, and that at which we have arrived. Such is the feeling excited in our mind when we look back to the early history of the medical art, and compare it with its present condition. Whilst struck, however, with admiration at the immense progress which has been made in modern times, we must not forget what is due to the patient labors of the early physicians, to whose rescarches, during many centuries, we are indebted for a rich accumulation of facts and observations. Nor ought we to forget how much more laborious and difficult are the first steps in science, than those that follow them; nay, how utterly impossible the latter without the former. In all arts, rude inventions become the fruitful sources of more perfect works; and in medicine particularly, many of the
discoveries by which the present age is illustrated, have been derived from, or suggested by, the labors of the first fathers of the art. Far, therefore, from desiring to undervalue the importance of the medical authors who have preceded Hahnemann, we offer them the tribute of our gratitude and admiration, and gladly avail ourselves of their assistance in making other steps in the progress of the scienco towards perfection.
In our present task, it is impossible to review the history of medicine in all its details, and to follow it step by step in its advance; but, in order that the importance of the improvement which Hahnemann has introduced may, in its turn, be understood and appreciated, it is necessary to tako a brief view of the present state of medical sci
The unwearied labors of anatomists, from the age of Hippocrates down to the present time, have successfully thown light on the human organization. We will not assert that anatomy may not still make much progress in minute details, and especially in the nervous system; but we may safely say, as a science it now holds an exalted rank; and that, by means of it we have become intimately acquainted with the human structure.
PHYSIOLOGY, or the study of the functions of the human body, in a state of health, is indeed much less advanced; still, physiologists, confirming the discoveries of oach other, by labors performed without coneert or communication, have ascertained the use of each organ, the influ
ence of each upon the other, and upon the whole organization. It is from them that we know, for instance, that the digestive organs elaborate the aliments, and that we are acquainted with the forms which these assume by the process of digestion, as well as the means by which the chyle is thrown into the circulation, and made to repair the constant waste to which the body is subject. It is to them that we are indebted for our knowledge of the circulation of the blood. It is from them, also, that we are learning the functions of the nervous system.
In addition to an exact knowledge of the organs, and of the functions they perform in a healthy condition, the physician also must know the changes which impair their action when under the influence of disease. The researches necessary to acquire this knowledge have been steadily pursued, and we owe, in a great measure, to the labors of the last two centuries, an entirely new branch of the medical science; one which has already advanced far towards perfection, and to which the name of morbid anatomy, or pathological anatomy has been given. Such are the anthropological sciences, which may be deemed the basis of medicine.
Practical medicine consists, chiefly, of three others: 1.. PATHOLOGY,-which considers diseases.
2. MATERIA MEDICA, or the means of curing them. 3. THERAPEUTICS-the art of employing the latter. PATHOLOGY, or the study of diseases, has, since the time of Hippocrates,, attained a precision truly admirable.
Not only have medical men observed, with increasing accuracy, all the phenomena which constitute disease, but they have attained to such a degree of skill that they can determine precisely the seat of organic derangement. Thus, by means of auscultation and percussion, the alterations in the organs of the chest can be exactly ascertained. By the aid of the stethoscope, indeed, skilful physicians can detect, with certainty, not merely the situation, but even the nature of organic disorder.
The investigation of the occasional causes of disease is not the least remarkable among the improvements which have been introduced, and etiology is now, in many points, one of the most advanced branches of the science. Even the materia medica, that part of the study of physic which relates to the properties of medicaments, presents a great number of precious facts. The physical and chemical properties of bodies have been thoroughly considered, and their odor, their emetic, drastic, or sudorific qualities, clearly described; nevertheless, before the researches of Hahnemann, this division of the art was the least matured of any; and it could hardly be otherwise; for, until he applied the only true principle to the discovery of the properties of medicines, that of studying their effects upon the healthy subject, all enquiries and researches were necessarily imperfect.
THERAPEUTICS is one of the most important branches of medical science, for it is by its means that the physician attains his object, which is to cure. Although,