Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/355

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341
MEDICAL PROFESSION IN MODERN THOUGHT.

scurvy, and spotted fever, each of which then claimed regularly its yearly tribute of victims, are becoming almost diseases of the past, and one needs not a prophet's imagination to foresee a time when cholera, scarlatina, fever, phthisis perhaps, and other diseases, will be no more; when preventive medicine shall have reached such a degree of perfection that the occurrence of epidemic disease will be felt as a gross reproach to the community, and when there will be comparatively little for the practitioner to do in the treatment of particular disease. It is unfortunate truly, as it is sadly unseasonable, that just when we see before us this fairer prospect, and when an encouraging beginning of progress has been made under the auspices of Mr. Simon and his well-organized staff, he should have been driven from office and his office abolished. But one instance more of the difficulties with which progress has to contend from the selfish intrigues and obstructive apathy of mankind!

You may be disposed perhaps to smile at my outlook as fancifully bright, and befitting only the imaginative flights of an introductory lecture. From the beginning, it may be said, men have, through unrestrained indulgence of their passions, generated disease, and however pure their surroundings may be made, they will go on doing the same thing: were a clean sweep made of all disease from the face of the earth to-morrow, they would breed it afresh before to-morrow's morrow. No doubt, as they are constituted and trained at present, they would be apt to do so; but one may hope that the medical science of the future—and here I would carry your imaginations a little way with me—will have a great deal to say in the way of instruction respecting the highest concerns of man's nature, and the conduct of his life; that it will enter a domain which has hitherto been given up exclusively to the moral philosopher and the preacher. I don't propose or suppose that we shall ask these gentlemen to step down from their platform, saying to them something of this kind: "You have been preaching wisdom and goodness of conduct for some thousands of years, and you haven't made much of it. Certainly one result thus far is striking enough: that men are devoting their eagerest energies to making the most destructive guns, and are conferring their greatest honors and applause on those who use them with the most destructive effects. For months, until quite lately, the soil of Eastern Europe was deluged with blood, shed amid unspeakable atrocities, in an entirely needless war, which your statesmen, presumably the highest products of the culture of your epoch, could or would do nothing to check. Stand aside, then, and let us try our method." To speak so would be as foolish as it would be arrogant; but we may perhaps, without undue presumption, promise them that, if they will learn and use the results of our method, they will have a deeper and more stable foundation in the constitution of human nature for their teaching than they have now, and will add much to the effi-