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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/519

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515
MEDICAL BE SEARCH.

MEDICAL RESEARCH: ITS PLACE IN THE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL.[1]
By THEOBALD SMITH, A.M., M.D.

GEORGE FABIAN PROFESSOR OF COMPARATIVE PATHOLOGY IN THE HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL.

IF there be one word which is heard most frequently in the most intelligent circles interested in professional education to-day, it is the word research. In our own country in recent years medicine has fallen under its sway, and on all sides efforts are being made to meet its demands by the erection and equipment of costly laboratories within whose walls research may be carried on in a continuous and orderly manner.

Granted that the governing bodies of our great universities have familiarized themselves with the significance of this word and are giving it out, some only with the lips, others with a thorough conviction that to it must be accorded a permanent place in our higher institutions, the problem of how to deal with such a costly, and in many ways unattractive, offspring, how to correlate it with the teaching function, how to cultivate it side by side with the routine methods of instruction, will occupy a prominent place for years to come.

Research signifies effort directed toward the discovery of laws and principles through the systematic collection of new, and the better correlation of existing, data. It also means effort directed toward the more efficient and economical application of discoveries to the welfare of man, in other words, the utilization of latent and hitherto wasted energy. The aims of research are not culture, not miscellaneous information, not a mood of leisure meditation upon the origin of things, but mainly utility and service to mankind.

The chief influence at work in lifting medicine from a mere teaching to a research level is the same as that at work throughout the world of science and in fact in all intellectual fields. If we examine it more closely we find it akin to the breaking away from authority and dogmatism in religious affairs and from autocracy in the government of nations. Its foundations rest far down in the great liberalizing wave of the nineteenth century. We no longer believe that each step in advance is the ultimate one, but only one in a series toward ultimate truth, and this fact makes us realize that we must keep on marching.


  1. Address before the Harvard Medical Alumni Association of New York City, November 26, 1904.