Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/118

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110
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS BOERHAAVE.[1]

By WILLIAM T. LUSK, M.D., LL. D.

OF the serious questions which need to be considered at the outset of a professional career there is none more vital than that of personal conduct. This is recognized by the provision for the medical man of a code of ethics, which shows him how the portion of the ten commandments which teaches one's duty toward one's neighbor, is applicable to his dealings with the public and with other medical men. It is useful to the class which need to be reminded that for uprightness a man should do no murder, should not steal, should not bear false witness, should not covet. But the sweetness and light which should govern our relations to others are not the product of written law. The real training comes from action with attendant victories and defeats. There is, however, a special inspiration to higher effort which is derived from the study of the lives of distinguished men. For this reason I have thought it might be profitable for you to follow with me on this occasion the career of the Dutch physician Hermann Boerhaave. In his day his fame was world-wide. A letter addressed to the "illustrious Boerhaave, physician in Europe," by a mandarin in China, in those days of limited communication, reached him without inquiry or delay. In the history of medicine he ranks as the peer of Hippocrates and Sydenham.

He was born in Voorhut, a small village, two miles distant from Leyden, on December 31, 1668. His father, James Boerhaave, was a poor minister with a large family. He had, as we learn from a few but very precious memoranda left by his famous, son, a good acquaintance with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and was well versed in historical studies. He was, in fact, a modest scholar, simple and unpretending, but with high ideals, and respected by all for his probity and honor. With special gratitude the son recalls the self-denying economy by which the father sought to provide the means of educating his nine living children.

James Boerhaave was twice married. Hagar, the mother of Hermann, died when he was five years old. She left seven children. From her Hermann inherited his taste for natural science. At the end of a year, James married a Mrs. Dubois, a minister's daughter. By her he had six children, but, owing to her obliging, impartial disposition, the old home sheltered an undivided family. In his memoranda Hermann commemorates the

  1. An address delivered before the graduating class of the Medical Department of Yale University, June 26, 1894.