Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/456

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likely to think that this is the first time in the world's history that the building of hospitals has been brought to such a climax of development, and that the houses for the ailing in the olden time were mere refuges, prone to become death traps and at most makeshifts for the solution of the problem of the care of the ailing poor. This is true for the hospitals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it is not true at all for the hospitals of the thirteenth and fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Miss Nutting and Miss Dock in their "History of Nursing"[1] have called attention to the fact that the lowest period in hospital development is during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Hospitals were little better than prisons, they had narrow windows, were ill provided with light and air and hygienic arrangements and in general were all that we should imagine old-time hospitals to be. The hospitals of the earlier time, however, had fine high ceilings, large windows, abundant light and air, excellent arrangements for the privacy of patients, and in general were as worthy of the architects of the earlier times as the municipal buildings, the cathedrals, the castles, the university buildings and every other form of construction that the late medieval centuries devoted themselves to.

The trouble with those who assume that there was no study of science and practically no attention to nature study in the Middle Ages is that they know nothing at all about the works of the men who wrote in the medieval period at first hand. They have accepted declarations with regard to the absolute dependence of the scholastics on authority, their almost divine worship of Aristotle, their utter readiness to accept authoritative assertions provided they came with the stamp of a mighty name, and then their complete lack of attention to observation and above all to experiment. Nothing could well be more ridiculous than this ignorant assumption of knowledge with regard to the great teachers at the medieval universities. Just as soon as there is definitie knowledge of what these great teachers wrote and taught, not only does the previous mood of blame for them for not paying much more attention to science and nature at once disappear, but it gives place to the heartiest admiration for the work of these great thinkers. It is easy to appreciate then, what Professor Saintsbury said in a recent volume on the thirteenth century.

And there have even been in these latter days some graceless ones who have asked whether the science of the nineteenth century after an equal interval will be of any more positive value—whether it will not have even less comparative interest than that which appertains to the scholasticism of the thirteenth.

Three men were the great teachers in the medieval universities at their prime. They have been read and studied with interest ever since. They wrote huge tomes, but men have pored over them in every genera-

  1. New York, Putnam, 1908.