Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/773

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STRUCTURE, ACTION, AND THOUGHT.

them to paper and thus gaining good marks in competitive examinations without considering in the least whether these statements are true, or whether the facts, so called, are likely to help him at all in his future life. The period during which I regularly attended the meetings of this society was a transitional one, because the number of examinations, competitive and professional, was then beginning to increase. I trust it is not true, but I have heard that since my time the examination incubus has been weighing even more heavily upon men than it did then, and has been interfering to some extent with the activity of the discussions in this society. Yet even if it were true it can hardly be wondered at, for it seems to me that we are living at a period which is not only one of the utmost activity, one of the most startling progress, and one of the keenest excitement for all engaged in research, but at the same time it is one of the utmost difficulty for all those who are engaged in the study of medicine, surgery, and the allied sciences. For the number of facts is not only enormously great, but is daily increasing at a rate which threatens to make it almost impossible for any ordinary memory to retain them all. Yet the darkest hour is that before the dawn, and I believe that shortly medical study will become very much easier. The great difficulty that the student has in remembering facts is that they are isolated and not co-ordinated together. In a book on memory which I once read the writer summed up his whole science in one sentence: "Observe, reflect, link thought with thought, and think of the impressions." This is easy to say but not so easy to do, and it is the difficulty of linking thought with thought that makes the tax upon the memory of the medical student so exceedingly great.

Now it seems to me that one of the objects which this society should set before itself should be not only that of training its members in the art of speaking and writing, of sifting facts and criticising statements, but of linking together and co-ordinating the data which they are called upon to recollect. When the science of astronomy was younger and the earth was supposed to be the center of the universe, the motions of the planets were known with sufficient certainty to calculate eclipses, but they could only be brought into conformity with their supposed relationship to the earth as the center by the most cumbrous system of hypotheses, and by ideas of cycles and epicycles which must have burdened the astronomer's memory to the last degree. So soon, however, as the sun and not the earth was recognized to be the center of our system the whole of the observed facts were seen to be in complete harmony, and the relationship, comparatively speaking, as simple as A B C. In our own time we have seen somewhat similar occurrences in regard to the relationship of animals and