Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/349

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335
MEDICAL PROFESSION IN MODERN THOUGHT.

and functions of the body, which is to be his ultimate special work. Without the foundations of the prerequisite studies he will not be a thoroughly well-grounded and cultivated physician, who may be relied upon to perfect his knowledge by experience through life, although he may no doubt be a fair practitioner in the routine which he has been taught, or, if he devotes himself to surgery, skillful as a mere operator. A knowledge of the simpler and more general science is an essential prerequisite to the study of the more complex and special science. Physics lie beneath chemistry; in physics and in chemistry we search for those intimate operations of matter which lie at the foundation of physiology; and physiology in its turn is essential to the construction of the more complex science which is concerned with man in his social relations—that is, sociology. And I may observe, by-the-way, that psychology, which is an important study for the man who has to put right the disorders of the minds and bodies of his kind, demands not only a thorough knowledge of physiology, but observation, also, of man in his social relations. Each science rests upon the one below it, but reflecting the increasing complexity of Nature as we rise from the movements of masses to the movements of molecules of matter, and to the combinations and relations of atoms, from dead again to living matter, from the simplest forms of life to complex organisms, and from organisms to the social union of organisms, contains in ascending scale something more than the science below it—something which constitutes its autonomy as a science. Physiology being placed in this scale, as you perceive, between chemistry and sociology, is on that account a most instructive study at the present time, when chemistry has made great progress toward scientific exactitude, and when the cultivation of the new field of social science is just being entered upon; there is no science, in fact, which yields such rich promise of large discoveries in the immediate future, and no science the discoveries of which, when applied to human needs, will do so much to lessen physical suffering. Fortunate are you, then, in the training which prepares you for the study, and in the lot which at this particular era has fixed your work in the pursuit, of a science which promises so great an abundance of good fruit.

One warning I would stop a moment here to urge. While recognizing the subordination of the sciences, we ought not to overlook the fact that all the sciences are at bottom artificial divisions; that the world is not divided rigorously into those different domains which we call physics, chemistry, physiology, and the like; that we make the divisions for our convenience according to the complexity of the phenomena, not because we discover them in Nature. Nature is one and continuous, and takes not the least notice of the arbitrary divisions which we find it necessary to make. It would seem a very obvious distinction between plant and animal; and yet if we push our