A new subject, of great interest, here breaks in upon us; viz., the importance of the continued life of animals, through the process of resembling in some measure, by such perpetual succession, a species of immortality. To this end, an appropriate set of organs, differing in the sexes of all animals, is provided. In the details hereof, much ingenious speculation and anatomical research are conspicuous. So far as this last respects the dissection of the uterus, it would seem to be principally of that of animals; and hence, several wrong deductions as to the human uterus, appear to be drawn from facts that are strictly correct of the former. The wonderful character and the connexion of the uterus and mammæ are pointed out; the superiority of man, the concurrence of the seminal fluids of both sexes, the production of males or females, the order of the formation of the fœtal parts, the testes, and the surprising distribution of their vessels, all are taken up, and duly considered;—and continued in
The subject is continued, and is replete with interest, both to the speculative and practical anatomist. The nerves of the vertebræ and neck; of the thorax, and those of the lower extremities. The meningeal coverings of the dorsal medulla. Of the scapula and other parts, with their difference in man and animals or quadrupeds; of the humeral and other articulations, and ending with observations on the wonderful address of nature in all these.
Galen, adopting this system, has embodied it in a more compact and beautiful manner than had previously been known, and may therefore be considered as its true founder;—but since the doctrine is fundamentally false in itself, inasmuch as the four bodies, fire, air, earth, and water, are no longer regarded as elements, it may be properly asked why the subject is dwelt upon? Now, although it is true that the above four bodies are rejected as elementary in the present day, yet it is equally true that a very large number of elementary bodies have, through the agency of chemistry, been brought to our knowledge, of which many enter into the composition of the animal machine, and by their union constitute the organization of the animal kingdom in all its diversified forms; and by the changes ensuing in the forms, sizes, and proportion of these principles, so will there be a proportionate departure from a state of health. Hence, whatever would in former times afford evidence of truth as to the doctrines founded on the former affirmed four elements, by Hippocrates or Galen, it is obvious that the same will hold with respect to the present elements assumed by us, and strengthened through the aid of chemical analysis, an engine of research unknown to the ancients; and hence, their forcible explanations and illustrations are the more surprising. In order to demonstrate this, a concise outline of the system Galen adopted will not be misplaced, as exhibiting a display of talent and power of combination in its construction, never excelled, if indeed ever equalled! Certainly, other theories, ancient or modern, compared with his, have been ephemeral; all have sunk into the common tomb of wire-drawn hypotheses; few have survived even the architect of their existence, and some have died before their authors, without a sympathetic feeling for their wounded pride by contemporary practitioners! Now, it is true, that the same fate has attended Galen; but it must be remembered to his superior merit, that his doctrines maintained a proud and universal ascendency for more than twelve centuries;—will those of present notoriety reach even to the end of the present? we are constrained to doubt it. In truth, it may be affirmed, that nearly all, if not the whole, of past and present theories, at least in embryo, in the writings of the two great men whose views in medicine are thus succinctly noticed.
The duty of the physician thus instructed, is in the first place to preserve the parts in their natural healthy state, so as to subserve their destined use, and freely perform their functions. 2d. To reestablish them in their former state, when those functions are obstructed, or even to endeavour to reproduce when possible, parts that are defective. Now, without stating further what is advanced on these points, I think it must be admitted that this foundation of the Galenic system is good, and perfectly true. It is from this point that speculation begins, but it will not yield in ingenuity to any of the systems of the present day, either in lucidness or in a firm adaptation of all its parts. Archimedes exclaimed, “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth;” with equal justice might Galen say, “Admit my premises, and my superstructure is perfect.”
And first it seems to me, that in treating of this art, we ought chiefly to notice such things as all mankind will agree in, for the researches of the physician should be confined to diseases to which every one is liable. It is true, that as the majority are uninformed, they cannot of themselves know how their disorders commence, nor how they will end; what increases, nor what moderates their force. This is, however, readily acquired through the information derived from those acquainted with the subject, and this more easily, since nothing is remembered with more facility than that which is the result of self-experience. A physician who is unable to make himself understood by the most ignorant, or convince them as to the nature of their complaints, would be ignorant himself, and would not mend the matter by mere speculation. Medicine would never have been discovered, had not speculation come to its assistance. No one, indeed, would have troubled himself respecting it. What need could the sick have had of medicine, who lived exactly as those in health, had they never drawn a comparison between their own state, and of those who pursued a different regimen, and observed the superiority of the one to the other? It was by noticing an apparent injury or benefit, which led them to a discovery of our art. This arose from the sick discovering that they were injured by the use of food that was beneficial in health, just as we now find to be the case. We may even go further, and say, that the diet and food in health that is now employed, would not have been found out, if men had been content with that of animals, such as grass, hay, and the fruits and productions of the earth. All animals well fed, are healthy, without any other kind of nourishment. At first, mankind lived like the beasts; and food, as at present prepared, has only been introduced, because that which was first employed was too simple and indigestible, and was, as at present, the source of indisposition, violent pains, severe disease, and even of death. It is true, habit, then, rendered it less dangerous and more supportable, yet still it proved injurious. They whose stomach was enfeebled, soon perished, whilst such as were of a stronger constitution, resisted for a longer time. Just so we find it at present; some readily digest the strongest food, which to others is difficult in the extreme. Hence arose the necessity for seeking a diet adapted to their nature, and by degrees they were led to that we now employ. After having thrashed out and washed the grain, ground and sifted it, it was kneaded and made into bread and cakes, or boiled and roasted with other things. A mixture was formed by food of different strength, in order to accommodate it to the constitution, from the belief, that eating any thing too strong and indigestible would induce pain, disease, and even death, whilst that which was appropriate and readily digested, became the source of health and strength.
The organ of vision is here considered, its parts described, and an hypothesis on the subject of vision, quite as likely to be correct as those now advanced; at least, as well sustained, and certainly not less interesting, when regarded as the speculation of nearly twenty centuries past.
The first book is taken up with considering the nature of an element. It is regarded as being scarcely cognizable to the senses, in consequence of its minuteness, but rather, appreciable by reason. Inquiry is made as to the number of elements, if one, or more; and attempts are made to prove that is insufficient. This, although the belief of many, is refuted by reasons deduced from various considerations, as well as from the discrepancy of those who maintained the opinion; and the conclusion is drawn, that the idea is ridiculous, whether maintained by philosophers or physicians, that there is but a single element, either of man, or of the universe; for even they who most warmly contend for this opinion, can come to no agreement as to what this element is; and the author criticises them accordingly; more particularly Melissus. As chiefly speculative, this book, as well as the second on the same subject, is perhaps, of little absolute importance, further, than as they afford us the first views of philosophers and of medical men, on several particulars; from which, as a foundation, various hypotheses sprang up, and fructified, or decayed, in due proportion to the ingenuity of their respective proprietors. As a matter of curiosity, more than of real importance, it however is deserving of a full translation.
Galen begins by stating his reasons for writing on the subject of anatomy. He informs us that he had previously written on it, at the period of his return from Greece to Rome, in the beginning of the reign of Antoninus, and who was then ruling. He states why he resumed the subject; one reason he assigns, was the intreaty of Flavius Boethus, a particular friend, and a great lover of anatomy, (anatomicæ speculationis amore flagrat, quam mortalium qui vixerunt unquam, ullus alius, &c.,) to whom he gave the copy in his possession on his departure from Rome, together with some other works. This copy he could not recover, on the demise of Boethus; and it would seem that he lost another, by a destructive fire at Rome. Being now again urgently intreated by his friends, he was compelled to resume his pen;—and herein, we see a full display of the benefit of printing! Had Galen not written this third copy, we should now have been utterly unable to appreciate the anatomical merits of this wonderful man! He offers another reason, viz., that the work would be greatly improved, from various circumstances. He makes reference to anatomical books by Hippocrates and Erasistratus, besides commentaries on some, on living dissections (præter illos de vivis resecandis, item de mortuis, &c.,)—and informs us that he had composed a large work (ingens volumen) on the use of particular parts, in seventeen books, which he sent to Boethus; and notices three commentaries of his own, on the motion of the thorax and lungs, composed by him in his youth. He appears to have met with difficulties on the death of his friend, which, with other circumstances, impelled him to the steps he pursued. He adds, that he had shown Boethus many dissections, at which were always present Eudemus the peripatetic, and Alexander of Damascus, now (says he) holding at Athens, the public profession of that sect;—and hence, continues he, in order to oblige Boethus, I was at length induced to compose these principles of anatomy.
Galen commences by assigning his reasons for writing the book, and strongly exhorts to the pursuit of useful arts, declaiming at the same time against the ignorance of the age and of its increase. He points out the arts as being of a fourfold character: 1. Contemplative; 2. Practical, or Active; 3. Effective, poetically; that is, in creating that which had no previous existence, or in correcting that which did exist. Of this description he affirms medicine to be. Lastly; 4. Acquisitive, or Accumulative, as in the various arts of hunting, fishing, &c. He then proceeds to a more particular consideration of medicine as a factitious art, and explains how it is so; its parts, and actions;—states the essence of each part to consist in its conformation, magnitude, number, sympathy, and use, with much other speculative, yet interesting matter, diversified with that of a medical character. He then remarks on the nature of remedies, their discovery; the mode of attainment of the nature of diseases, and of the part affected, especially if internal; speaks of their causes, symptoms, variety, prognosis, and divination, &c; of the selection of remedies, prevention of disease, and of convalescence.
This book gives an interesting account, and one, probably, more accurate than is elsewhere to be found, of the different sects in medicine. From this, every writer on the subject, from the days of Galen to the present period, seems deeply to have quaffed, either directly, or as copyists, without any, or but trifling acknowledgment. No one, whilst reading the lofty pretensions and explanations of hypotheses assumed to be of modern origin; or in hearing the same detailed in learned lucubrations, ex cathedra, would suppose that the subject had ever, previously, received the slightest elucidation! Happily for these conceited and oracular exponents, Galen preceded them by ten or more centuries; and from his extensive hives, those drones have stolen the honey, if any is to be found in their asserted claims. It is but just to pay our homage in return, and rendering to Cæsar the things that are his, confess his superiority with a “detur dignissimo.”