But it is time to return to the direct line of my argument. From what has gone before, it should appear at what an excellent place of advantage the order of studies for the medical profession is adapted to place you; how wisely it is arranged to train the mind for sound reflection upon those most complex phenomena of Nature with which the medical man has to deal—the phenomena of life in health and in disease; and how sadly wrong in theory and mischievous in practice he is likely to be who neglects to lay well the foundations of his mental training. If no practical result were to follow a medical education, if it were not pursued, as it is, for the purposes of the medical art, I believe that one who aspired to fit himself best to understand the world in which he lives, and the men with whom he has to do, could not do better than go through it; for it would be an excellent foundation on which to build afterward. The study of man cannot be undertaken with any satisfaction, or carried out with any completeness, except through a previous study of the nature of which he is the present culmination; it is certainly not possible to enter the chamber of the mind without passing through the antechamber of the body; and we cannot understand the body unless we understand a good deal of the processes and laws of Nature which lie beneath biology. So far, then, Mr. Lowe appears to be right when he regrets, as he is in the habit of doing, that he was taught so much classical knowledge and no science when he was educated, and contrasts the disadvantages under which he labored with the advantages which each student at a middle-class school now enjoys. Newspaper critics think that he is making jokes or firing off paradoxes, and would seemingly rather have Mr. Lowe as he is than Mr. Lowe as he might or would have been; but I am disposed to think that Mr. Lowe's insight has enabled him to see what his critics quite fail to see—that the statesman who has to deal with the relations of men to one another in the world would be better qualified for his work if he had a good fundamental knowledge of the laws of man's nature and constitution, and of the laws of the world in which he lives. The scientific statesman—when we get him—will hardly deem it his highest achievement to shrink scared from the grasp of a principle, or his supreme privilege and merit to wait patiently to catch the fitful gusts of an ignorant public opinion.
The application of the principle which I have been enforcing, of learning to know man through Nature, the thorough knowledge of his environment, and of those of his relations to it which constitute his life, must clearly be the foundation of a scientific medicine. Here, as elsewhere, prevision for the purposes of action is our aim; we observe and infer in order to foresee, and, foreseeing, to modify and direct; we conquer by obeying, gaining a knowledge of the phenomena of living beings in order to make ourselves masters of them, just as by a knowledge of physics and chemistry we gain a mastery over the phenomena of physical Nature. It is impossible to treat a sick person,