Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/366

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By Professor BENJAMIN MOORE, M.A., D.Sc, F.R.S.


THE history of medical science presents to the curious student a remarkable development commencing in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and one worthy of special study, both on account of the light that it sheds on the present position and the illumination it affords for future progress.

If any text-book of medicine or treatise on any branch of medical science written before 1850 be taken up at random its pages will reveal that it differs but little from one written a full century earlier. If such a volume be compared with one written thirty-five years later, it will be found that the whole outlook and aspect of medicine have changed within a generation.

Erroneous introspective dreams as to the nature of diseases as "idiopathic" as the many strange maladies which their authors are so fond of describing have been replaced by fast-proven facts and medicine has passed from an occult craft into an exact science based upon experimental inquiry and logical deduction from observation.

What caused this rapid spring of growth after the long latent period of centuries, and are we now reaching the end of the new era in medicine, or do fresh discoveries still await the patient experimentalist with a trained imagination who knows both how to dream and how to test his dreams?

It is but a crude comparison that represents the earlier age as one of empiricism and imagination, and the later period as one of induction and experiment. Empiricism has always been of high value in science, it will ever remain so, and some of the richest discoveries in science have arisen empirically.

Imagination also is as essential to the highest scientific work to-day as it was a century ago, and throughout all time the work of the genius is characterized in all spheres of human endeavor by the breadth and flight of the imagination which it shows. The great scientist, whether he be a mathematician, a physicist, a chemist, or a physiologist, requires imagination to pierce forward into the unknown, just as truly as does the great poet or artist. Also, the inspired work of poet or painter must be concordant with a system of facts or conventions, and not outrage

  1. Address of the president to the Physiological Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Australia, 1914.