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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/819

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THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND MEDICINE.

causes of disease by anatomy, but himself traveled wonderfully far upon the road. Bichat, discriminating the grosser constituents of the organs and parts of the body one from another, pointed out the direction which modern research must take; until, at length, histology, a science of yesterday, as it seems to many of us, has carried the work of Morgagni as far as the microscope can take us, and has extended the realm of pathological anatomy to the limits of the invisible world.

Thanks to the intimate alliance of morphology with medicine, the natural history of disease has, at the present day, attained a high degree of perfection. Accurate regional anatomy has rendered practicable the exploration of the most hidden parts of the organism, and the determination during life of morbid changes in them; anatomical and histological post-mortem investigations have supplied physicians with a clear basis upon which to rest the classification of diseases, and with unerring tests of the accuracy or inaccuracy of their diagnoses.

If men could be satisfied with pure knowledge, the extreme precision with which in these days a sufferer may be told what is happening, and what is likely to happen, even in the most recondite parts of his bodily frame, should be as satisfactory to the patient as it is to the scientific pathologist who gives him the information. But I am afraid it is not; and even the practicing physician, while nowise underestimating the regulative value of accurate diagnosis, must often lament that so much of his knowledge rather prevents him from doing wrong, than helps him to do right.

A scorner of physic once said that nature and disease may be compared to two men fighting, the doctor to a blind man with a club, who strikes into the mêlée, sometimes hitting the disease, and sometimes hitting nature. The matter is not mended if you suppose the blind man's hearing to be so acute that he can register every stage of the struggle and pretty clearly predict how it will end. He had better not meddle at all, until his eyes are opened—until he can see the exact position of the antagonists, and make sure of the effect of his blows. But that which it behooves the physician to see, not indeed with his bodily eye, but with clear intellectual vision, is a process, and the chain of causation involved in that process. Disease, as we have seen, is a perturbation of the normal activities of a living body; and it is, and must remain, unintelligible, so long as we are ignorant of the nature of these normal activities. In other words, there could be no real science of pathology until the science of physiology had reached a degree of perfection unattained, and indeed unattainable, until quite recent times.

So far as medicine is concerned, I am not sure that physiology, such as it was down to the time of Harvey, might as well not have existed. Nay, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that, within the memory of living men, justly renowned practitioners of medicine and surgery