LANDMARKS IN THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE.
What were good methods, and healing doses, and saving prescriptions
a generation ago are now condemned, and all the past is adjudged
to be empirical. - JOSEPH CHOATE.
The beginning of the practice of medicine is coeval with the dawn
of history. The term medicine is here used in its original and general
sense. There is, properly speaking, no Father of Medicine, but a
careful search among historic archives would probably reveal as
many real or mythical persons bearing that title as there have been
different schools or kinds of practice and as there are places in
which the practice of medicine can not be traced directly to some
other people. The brief outline of the history of medicine given
in this chapter, is presented from the view point of theory and
practice through the centuries, rather than its origin and progress
in different nations. A special attempt is made, of course all too
briefly, to show the relation existing between the divergent theories
of disease and the practice of the art of healing by those holding
the several theories.
Some account of the healing art is found in the literature of every
ancient people. In every case the practice was closely allied with
religion, and physicians were generally included in the sacerdotal
order. It is, therefore, not surprising that the same spirit should
manifest itself at the present time, and that the practice of healing
the sick should, by many, be relegated to the duly accredited or
self-constituted representatives of the Divine, or to spiritual
The serpent upon the staff was quite universally the symbol among
the ancients of the medical art. The serpent signified the principle
of occult life, and the staff or rod was the symbol of magic power.
The sacred writer said that "Moses made a serpent of brass,
and put it upon a pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had
bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."
(Numbers xxi, 9.) And the prophet Elisha said to Gehazi, "gird
up thy loins and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if
thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any man salute thee, answer
him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child."
(2 Kings iv, 29.) Thus by commingling the principles of occult life
and magic power, love of mysticism was satisfied, and reliance upon
a higher influence was shown. These are essential elements in all
religions and it is not at all surprising that they should manifest
themselves in the healing art during its infancy.
We learn from Egyptian history that authorized physicians belonged
to the sacerdotal order. They were required to follow certain courses
of treatment and were held responsible for the consequences if they
adopted different methods or remedies. Six of the "Books"
inscribed to the god Thoth or Hermes "were devoted to medicine
and surgery, and contained some one hundred and fifty prescriptions
and modes of treatment. One chapter of eight pages was devoted to
the optic nerve and diseases of the eyes." Their remedies were
drugs of both vegetable and mineral origin, and their prescriptions
were made out in precisely the same way as those of a modern doctor.
"Medicine is practiced among them upon a plan of specialties,
each physician treats a single disorder, and no more. Thus the whole
country swarms with medical practitioners; some undertaking to cure
diseases of the eye, others of the head, others again of the teeth,
others of the intestines, and some those complaints which are not
That the supernatural element was ever present was evident in the
fact that sentences and invocations were repeated by the physician
while preparing the medicine, and when about to administer it to
the patient. Their skill in bandaging and their knowledge of preservatives
are attested by the mummies to be seen in almost every museum of
ancient relics. "They inserted artificial teeth and plugged
cavities, operated successfully for cataract and performed lithotomy."
BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA.
Medical practice in Babylonia and Assyria was similar to that in
Egypt. Astrology, magic lore, and religious worship were closely
allied to medicine, and invocations and incantations were often
relied upon to banish disease. The following is a sample:
"Merciful one among the gods,
Generator who brought back the dead to life,
Silik-mulu-khi, the king of heaven and earth,
May the invalid be delivered from his disease,
Cure the plague, the fever, the ulcer."
If we may believe the following, it is evident that great reliance
was placed upon the efficacy of material means and that pharmacy
had become an art among the Assyrians:
"For the Eruptions and Humors which Afflict the Body
Fill a vase which has held drugs with water from an inexhaustible
Put it in a sheet of ______, a ________ reed, some date-sugar, some
urine, some bitter hydromel;
Add to it some _________;
Saturate it with pure water [and]
Pour upon it the water of the [sick] man,
Cut reeds in an elevated meadow ;
Beat some pure date-sugar with some pure honey;
Add some sweet oil which comes from the mountain;
Mix them together;
Rub [with this ointment] the body of the [sick man]."
In India surgery evidently attained a high degree of perfection.
Their medical literature contains directions for many operations
upon the internal organs that are generally considered of recent
origin. Drugs were used extensively. Over 500 were in common use;
must of them were prepared by steeping and decoction. But a decaying
nation is a hot-bed for a decaying science. The following quotation
from a modern Indian physician portrays the condition reached through
generations of intellectual stagnation:
"The nomenclature of diseases, with their classes arranged
according to the seat, origin, or nature, was transmitted through
successive generations of enfeebled and depressed intellects; and
practitioners of the art were compelled to ply it on the borrowed
and indirect testimony of legendary accounts of supposed and often
fanciful virtues of drugs and their combinations. Such unworthy
followers of Sushruta and Charaka being necessarily dwarfed in intellect
and warped in observing powers, were compelled to live largely on
the credulity of their patients, or by acting in a measure upon
their imagination and prejudices; alternately seeking to kindle
hope or to excite fear of loss of health, of death; they themselves,
in their turn, trusting to the mercy of chance, or to the fancied
contrivances of an erring imagination. This state of medical science
still prevails among the Hindus unhappily to a large extent."
Greece was the reputed home of the hero-god of the healing art,
Esculapius. The Asklepiads claimed to be the lineal descendants
of Esculapius. They professed to possess all religious and occult
learning; hence their methods of healing consisted in the use of
magical or mesmeric agencies as well as drugs and surgery. The poet
Pindar, who lived 700 or 800 years after Asculapius, says "Esculapius
cured ulcers, wounds, fevers, and pains of all who applied to him,
by enchantment, calming potions, incisions, and by external applications."
It has been the pride of many cultured people to trace all they
possess, especially in art, to Greece, forgetting that the Grecians,too,
were borrowers from more ancient and doubtless in some cases more
cultured people. So every religious sect takes delight in proving,
at least to its own satisfaction, that, if not strictly the original
church, it is most nearly in harmony with the form of worship and
government instituted by its founder. Each political party also
is wont to claim that it is the legitimate successor of all that
was best in some historic party that is held in reverence because
of the great deeds of its great men. So osteopaths might be pardoned
for assuming a like antiquity for their school of practice; indeed
they might claim to be the only real successors and followers of
Aculapius, the reputed father of medicine. A little ancient history,
or mythology that has attained almost the authenticity of history,
may be cited in proof of such a seemingly unwarranted claim.
The myths of ancient Greece ascribe the development of the art
of healing to a sage of Thessaly, Kheiron (Cherron) . He belonged
to the tribe of the Kentaurs (Centaurs), a mythic race prominent
in ancient fable, pictured with human forms above and equine forms
below. This Kheiron was the instructor of Jason the Argonaut; of
Herakles (Hercules), the giant in strength; of Asklepios (Esculapius),
the god of medicine; and of Akhillius (Achilles), the hero of Homer's
Iliad. Both Esculapius and Achilles were famous for their knowledge
and skill in healing. After Kheiron, his followers were known as
the Kheironidea, and the art which they practiced was called Kheirourgike.
It is thought that the name Kheiron was derived from the word kheir,
which means the hand; and the word kheirourgike, from kheirourgos,
from kheir, the hand, and ergon, work. Our word surgery is derived
from this word kheirourgos. Therefore it is plain that surgery means
hand work, that is, manipulation, which in ancient Thessaly was
synonymous with the whole healing art as practiced at that time.
This is strictly in accord with the claim of Dr. Still and other
eminent osteopaths, that Osteopathy is surgery in its primitive
sense and in the rational acceptation of that term. On page 165
it is shown that the practice of medicine does not mean the giving
of drugs. Therefore we are justified in drawing the conclusion that
Osteopathy, as promulgated by its founder, Dr. Still, and as practiced
by all his consistent followers, is the practice of medicine in
which the most important and distinctive element is surgery. As
this was the primitive form of the practice of the healing art,
has always been a prominent method of procedure in treating the
ills and accidents of the human body, Osteopathy may justly claim
to be in direct line with not only the teaching and practice of
Esculapius and the school to which he belonged, but also of the
reputed father of that school, Kheiron himself.
Pliny declared that the healing art during the archaic period of
history was confined to the treatment of wounds. This seems to accord
with what we have said about the Kheironid.
All sacerdotal orders in ancient times were secret societies, and
the Esculapian fraternity exercised a like exclusiveness. Its knowledge
was transmitted from father to son by word of mouth, and teachers
required pupils to take an oath not to reveal their secrets to those
not belonging to the order. Their methods were therefore an admixture
of the method of the strict disciples of Kheiron and the mysteries
pertaining to religion. Thus the immediate followers of the reputed
father of medicine departed radically from the methods of Esculapius,
whose traditional sons the Asklepiads claimed to be, but even more
radically from the methods of his teacher Kheiron. Hence the practice
of medicine was degraded to the ranks of mysticism, occultism, and
uncertainty which have been its chief characteristics down to the
present time. From the changes that were made it is evident that
the physician in ancient times was prone to resort to all sorts
of adjuncts, just as many of them do at the present time, instead
of holding to fundamental and unassailable principles.
To Hippocratas (B. C. 460-377?) is given the credit of creating
a literature of medicine. He attained a high reputation as a practitioner
and introduced more rational procedures than most of his predecessors.
He taught that those in health should abstain entirely from all
kinds of medicine and discouraged the use of cathartics at all times.
A more rational life, free from excesses of all kinds, was the surest
passport to health. Cures were effected by calling nature to his
aid; not by interfering with her. "Nature is the first of physicians,"
was his maxim. He placed reliance upon cooling drinks in acute disorders,
and insisted upon total abstinence from food till after the patient
had passed the critical period. The extent, however, to which drugs
were used at that time is seen from his description of about 30
mineral, 300 vegetable, and 150 animal substances used as medicines.
He was also quite skillful in surgery and devised several kinds,
of apparatus for surgical operations. But the knowledge of anatomy
was very imperfect. Renouard, in his "History of Medicine,"
gives a terse statement of the conditions and shows the proneness
of the physicians of that time to resort to dogmatism, rather than
"With the exception of the skeleton, they possessed very limited
and imperfect notions of any organic apparatus. They confounded
under a common name, the nerves, ligaments, and tendons ; they did
not distinguish, or very imperfectly, the arteries and veins, and
the muscles, in their eyes, were inert masses designed solely to
cover the bones, and serve as an envelope or an ornament. They possessed,
in short, only gross and false ideas on the structure and functions
of the brain, heart, liver, lungs, digestive and generative apparatus
- for the reason that they had never been able, as well remarks
the author of the "History of Anatomy," to devote themselves
to regular dissection; but this did not prevent them from adducing
very decisive opinions on the organs and their functions which no
one could either verify or deny."
The condition of the people of Athens during the time of Pericles
(B. C. 495?-429) is tersely described by Plato:
"Numerous law-courts and dispensaries are necessary, because
insubordination and diseases have multiplied in the commonwealth.
Can you adduce any greater proof of bad and shameful training than
the fact of needing physicians and presiding magistrates and these,
too, not only for craftsmen of the lower classes, but also for those
who boast of having been well brought up? And to need the art of
medicine, not on account of wounds or some epidemic complaint, but
because of sloth and luxurious feeding being distended with rheum
and flatulence like lakes and obliging the scholarly Asklepiads
to invent new names for the diseases, such as dropsies and catarrhs
- do you not think this abominable?"
Aristotle (B. C. 384-322) compiled works containing practically
all the scientific knowledge of his age. Among them were fifty books
upon comparative anatomy and natural history, illustrated with anatomical
drawings. None of them, however, have reached us. His grandson,
Erasistratos, was the first writer that distinguished surgery from
medicine. He was probably the first among the Greeks to engage in
the dissection of the human body, his predecessors confining their
investigations to the dissection of the bodies of animals. It is
claimed that we are indebted to him for our first knowledge of the
brain and spinal cord, the lacteals, and even the circulation of
the blood. He was a bold surgeon and often opened the abdomen to
remove diseased parts or to apply remedies.
The study of anatomy received a new impetus under Herophilus, who
flourished about 280 B. C. it is said that he actually dissected
seven hundred human corpses, and even opened the bodies of living
criminals in order to study the phenomena of life and search for
its origin. He was the first to make post-mortem examinations for
the purpose of determining the cause of death; hence is recognized
as the founder of pathologic anatomy. He practiced blood-letting
and used drugs very extensively.
Ancient Rome was not a suitable place for the development of medicine.
The physician's calling was not held in repute among the patricians.
1t was considered ignoble to make a trade of caring for the sick
or to seek profit from the misfortunes of others. Pliny says the
people got along without physicians "for a period of more than
six hundred years - a people, too, which has never shown itself
slow to adopt all useful arts, and even welcomed the medical art
with avidity until, after a fair experience, there was found ample
reason to condemn it."
Stern old Cato (B. C. 234-149) was not only relentless in his hatred
of the Greeks, but feared the Greek physicians because of the possibilities
of danger through their ministrations. He said:
"The race of Greeks is very vicious; and, my son, believe
this as the voice of an oracle, that, with its literature, it will
spoil everything at Rome. It will be worse still if it sends us
its physicians. They have sworn among themselves to kill all other
nations with their medicines. They exercise their art for the sake
of gain, and seek to get our confidence in order to be able to poison
us the more easily. Remember, my son, that I charge you to have
nothing to do with physicians."
Cato was the author of a treatise upon "Family Medical Treatment,"
He was a firm believer in medicines chiefly of vegetable origin.
The following treatment for dislocations shows the tenacity with
which they held to charms and incantations:
"Take a green rush, four or five feet long, cut it in two
in the middle, and let two persons hold it on your thighs. Begin
to sing, and continue to do so until the two pieces are joined together
again. Wave a blade over them when the two pieces are joined and
touch one another, seize hold of them, and cut them across lengthwise.
Make a bandage herewith on the broken or dislocated limb, and it
will heal. Sing, however, over the dislocation daily."
Human nature was much the same in the time of Pliny (A. D. 23-79)
as now. The practice of writing prescriptions in an unknown tongue
or in characters unintelligible to the laity is very old, and Pliny
probably gave the true reason for such practices when he said:
"People lose confidence in what is intelligible to them. Even
the few Romans who studied medicine thought it necessary to write
their prescriptions in Greek, because if they should attempt to
treat the disease in any other language, they would certainly lose
all credit, even with the ignorant who did not know a word of Greek."
Physicians were held in much greater repute in the Roman Empire.
There was a much greater division of labor in the practice than
ever before. The work of the physician became distinct from that
of the surgeon; and many became specialists, confining their attention
to the eye, ear, teeth, diseases of women and children, etc. Wilder
characterized the profession in later Roman history in the following
"Avarice, according to Pliny, was the leading characteristic
of the Roman practitioners of medicine. So great were their gains
that artisans, such as boot-makers, carpenters, butchers, tanners,
and even grave-diggers entered the profession, while other callings
were adopted by physicians who had not been able to obtain a foothold,
Galen describes them as charlatans, boorish in manners and contemptible
for their ignorance. The greater part of them, he declared, were
unable to read, except with great difficulty. He satirically recommends
that they should be very careful when discoursing with their patients
not to make grammatical blunders; and he did not hesitate to assert
that rival physicians, when at the bedside of sick persons, so far
forgot themselves that they would abuse each other, thrust out their
tongues, and even come to blows. Yet they were, as Galen himself
experienced, obstinately tenacious of their regularity and standing
as medical men. The more unfit they were in morals and other qualifications
the more arrogant were they in this respect. The archiatri held
a sort of predominance over the commonalty of physicians, and there
were medical societies or guilds that assumed the authority to examine
candidates desirous to engage in the practice of medicine. All the
same, ignorance was in the foreground, and with the support of their
guild in case of prosecution, the laws to punish ignorant or unscrupulous
practitioners were incompetent."
Galen (130-200?), who was the one great medical light in Roman
history, is known to every educated doctor. The following quotation
from Wilder gives an idea of the scope of his knowledge and practice:
"He regarded the knowledge of the structure of the human body
as the foundation of the healing art. In his works, almost every
bone and process of bone, every twig of nerve, every ramification
of blood-vessel, every viscus, muscle, and gland known to modern
anatomists, is described with great minuteness. He appears to have
followed Herophilus, and he has been severely criticised by Vesalius,
but was as warmly defended by Eustachius. He pointed out clearly
the distinction between the cerebral and spinal nerves, as well
as the distribution into nerves of motion and nerves of sensation.
He also defined the functions of the arteries and veins, and explained
endosmosis and exosmosis as the 'attractive' and 'expulsive' faculties.
In operative surgery, he confined himself principally to the methods
of the Alexandrian school. He gives us an account, however, of an
operation which he performed, cutting open the breast-bone of a
patient so as to lay bare the heart, in order to give vent to a
collection of fluid in the thoracic cavity. He appears, however,
to have conformed at Rome to the prejudice against surgical practice;
and in his capacity of archiatros, he kept a dispensary and drug
shop in the Via Sacra, to which patients resorted.
"He gave much attention to Materia Medica and Pharmacy, but
his medicinal articles from the vegetable kingdom were far less
in number than those named by Dioskorides, although he enumerates
more animal and mineral remedies. He was very full in his accounts
of disease, but not comprehensive. He considered stagnation and
putridity as causing every morbid change in the fluids of the body.
All fevers were attributed to this source, except the kind called
ephemera. Unfortunately, the theory gave rise, at a more modern
period, to a mode of treatment most injurious. Instead of air, water,
and a cooling regimen, the curtains were drawn in the room of the
sufferers, fires were kept up, and the food and medicine were of
the most heating kind. It required the most zealous protest of the
later schools to produce a change to more rational measures."
Practically no progress was made in medicine during the middle
ages. Paracelsus (1490-1541) was the first great light in what may
be called modern medicine. He was an independent thinker and investigator.
He had little respect for the practice of his age, but high ideals
for the physician himself, as will be seen from his words, as quoted
"Popular medicine knows next to nothing about any diseases
that are not caused by mechanical means, and the science of curing
internal diseases consists almost entirely in the removal of causes
that have produced some mechanical obstruction in the body. But
the number of diseases that originate from unknown causes is far
greater than those that come from mechanical causes; and for such
our physicians know no cure, because not knowing such causes they
can not remove them. All that they can prudently do is to observe
the patient and make their guesses about his condition; and the
patient has good cause to rejoice if the medicines administered
to him do him no serious harm and do not prevent his recovery.
"The best of our popular physicians are the ones who do the
least harm. But, unfortunately, some poison their patients with
mercury, and others purge or bleed them to death. There are some
who have learned so much that their learning has driven out all
their common sense, and there are others who care a great deal more
for their own profit than for the health of their patients. A disease
does not change to accommodate itself to the knowledge of the physician,
but the physician should understand the causes of the disease. A
physician should be the servant of nature, and not her enemy; he
should be able to guide and direct her in her struggle for life,
and not throw, by his unreasonable interference, fresh obstacles
in the way of recovery.
"He who can cure disease is a physician. To cure diseases
is an art which cannot be acquired by the mere reading of books,
but which must be learned by experience. Neither emperors nor popes,
neither colleges nor high schools can create physicians. They can
confer privileges and cause a person who is not a physician to appear
as if he were one, but they can not cause him to be what he is not;
they can give him permission to kill, but they can not enable him
to cure the sick.
"One of the most necessary requirements for a physician is
perfect purity and singleness of purpose. He should be free of ambition,
vanity, envy, unchastity, pomposity, and self-conceit, because these
vices are the outcome of ignorance and are incompatible with the
light of divine wisdom which should illuminate the mind of the true
"I threw myself with fervent enthusiasm on the teachers; but
when I saw that little resulted from their practice except killing,
death, laming and distorting; that the greatest number of complaints
were deemed by them incurable, and that they scarcely ever administered
anything but syrups, laxatives, etc., with everlasting clysters,
I determined to abandon such a miserable art, and to seek truth
by some other way."
William Harvey (1578-1657) is generally accredited with the discovery
of the circulation of blood; but others are entitled to a share
in this honor. Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603), of Italy, claimed to
have made the discovery in 1569, and proof of his claim is not wanting.
Professor Ceradini, of Genoa, says of Cesalpino that he "discovered
the physiological and continued passage of the blood from the arteries
to the veins across the capillary anastomosis in all parts of the
body, and defined by circulation the perpetual motion of the blood
from the veins to the right heart, from this to the lung, from the
lung to the left heart, and from the left heart to the arteries;
producing in 1593 the experimental proof of this circulation, in
the fact that the veins, when tied in any part of the body, swell
between their original capillaries and the ligature, and when cut,
let out first the black venous blood, and then the red arterial
Harvey's investigations seem to have been conducted independently
of Cesalpino's, and he is probably entitled to the weed of honor
given him. Like other advanced thinkers he had to suffer the calumny
of ignorance and prejudice, and everything was done that could be
done by his profession to discredit his work and make him an object
of derision. Wilder says of him:
"In 1619, having perfected his demonstrations, he made known
his discovery of the general mechanism of the circulation. The storm
which he encountered was fierce and threatening. Medical men are
generally conservative and constitutionally averse to innovations
which cast their notions and methods into the shade. Hume, the historian,
remarked accordingly, the significant fact that no physician in
Europe who had reached forty years of age ever to the end of his
life adopted Harvey's doctrine of the circulation of the blood.
It ran the gauntlet of the schools, was severely attacked on every
side, and the promulgator himself personally denounced for obtruding
it upon the public attention. When a scientific fact cannot be successfully
met, dishonest adversaries usually vent their spite upon the person
who brought it to view. Then the pretense is made that the discovery
or invention is of no value, involving it and its discoverer in
a common odium. This failing, the next expedient is to assert that
it really is not new, that some one of their own number has discovered
it, or at least introduced it, so that the merit is claimed as all
Sydenham (1624-1689), "the English Hippokrates," was
the next great light in medical science. He had a profound contempt
for the book learning of his time. His attempt to reform medical
practice by giving less drastic potions, had much to do with shaking
the belief of many in the efficacy of drugs. John Locke, the great
philosopher, said of him:
"You can not imagine how far a little observation carefully
made by a man not tied up to the four humors [like the Galenists],
or to sal, sulphur, or mercury [like the alchemists and followers
of Paracelsus] - or to acid and alcali, which has of late prevailed
[with the disciples of Willis) - will carry a man in the curing
of diseases, though very stubborn and dangerous; and that with very
little and common things, and almost no medicine at all."
Sydenham's radicalism led him into the egregious error of bleeding
in fevers and inflammations more than any of his predecessors. Others
followed his example, and the lancet became a more certain means
of death than the diseases for which it was considered a remedy.
He instituted a radical change in the treatment of smallpox. Cool
air and mild remedies took the place of the stimulating regimen
then in vogue, and the inexcusable custom of inoculation. His success
was so great that he said of small-pox:
"As it is palpable to all the world, how fatal that disease
(smallpox) proves to many of all ages, so it is most clear to me,
from all the observations that I can possibly make, that if no mischief
be done, either by physician or nurse, it is the most slight and
safe of all other diseases."
Prior to the sixteenth century small-pox was known but little beyond
the confines of Asia. It then appeared as an epidemic in France,
and the next century in England. The greatest outbreak followed
the great plague in. 1667. Inoculation with small-pox virus, that
is the artificial production of the disease, had been practiced
in Turkey for a long time. Wilder says of its introduction into
"Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, having accompanied her husband,
when ambassador to Turkey in 1716, became acquainted with the practice
of inoculation. She afterward persuaded Dr. Maitland to introduce
it into England. But it was observed that the patients were about
as liable as ever to contract small-pox; and several persons, among
whom was the youngest son of King George III, died with the disease
thus produced. Dr. Bromfield, a surgeon of the Court, and Dr. Langton,
of Salisbury, attacked the practice in pamphlets. All this, however,
did not convince practitioners. As is generally the case, a radical
change of sentiment requires a new generation of men. Nevertheless,
many non-medical men became very distrustful."
Vaccination was a very natural outgrowth of inoculation. A peculiar
disease was observed among the milkers which resembled small-pox
so closely that it was conjectured that it might be a preventive
of that loathsome disease. A man by the name of Jesty first inoculated
his children with the purulent material from a diseased mulch cow
in 1774. Edward Jenner pushed the idea, notwithstanding the fact
that many cases were presented in which milkers so infected had
afterwards contracted small-pox. Then as now there were two opposing
opinions as to the efficacy of the procedure. The pro-vaccinists
gained in number and influence, till in the beginning of the twentieth
century vaccination is quite generally enforced. Yet the anti-vaccinists
are so strong, especially in the presentation of facts, that compulsory
vaccination is nowhere popular. Both sides present statistics to
prove their contentions. The old saying, "figures don’t
lie," is true and the other that "the manipulators of
figures often do," is also true. Rely upon statistics to prove
either side of the question and conviction must follow. The whole
discussion reminds one of the saying of the wag: "There are
lies, lies, and statistics." That much evil has been done by
vaccination can be proven; that any good has been accomplished by
the practice is yet an open question.
Concerning the condition of medical science one hundred years ago,
Bichat, the great French physician, said:
"Materia medica, an assemblage of incoherent opinions, is
perhaps, of all the physiological sciences, that which most exhibits
the contradictions of the human mind. In fact, it is not a science
for a methodic spirit; it is a shapeless assemblage of inexact ideas,
of observations often puerile, of imaginary remedies strangely conceived
and fastidiously arranged. It is said that the practice of medicine
is repulsive. I will go further; no reasonable man can follow it,
if he studies its principles as are forth in our materia medica."
While surgery has been practiced from time immemorial, as a science
and an art, it is of recent origin. Here and there throughout history,
we find instances of operations, striking for their boldness, and
remarkable for their results. John Hunter (1728-1793) is the reputed
founder of modern surgery. He made a profession of what had hitherto
been a craft. Prior to his time barbers performed most surgical
operations, even the extracting of teeth. Hence the striped pole
of the barber's sign, the emble of his former practice. Wilder says:
"In both London and Edinburgh the Company of Barbers and Surgeons
had long been in existence as one corporation. Under Henry VIII,
the two professions, as both were considered, were united in one
corporation; the barbers being restricted to blood-letting and the
extracting of teeth, and the surgeons prohibited from 'barbery or
shaving.' In 1745, the two callings were separated by act of Parliament,
and surgery then was ready to attain a higher eminence in the United
Enough has been said to show the trend of medicine through the
centuries. Theories had been advanced only to be declared irrational.
Practices had been sanctioned for a time, only to be declared Useless.
Methods that had long since sunk into oblivion had been resurrected,
only to fall into disrepute again. Diseases had multiplied and their
virulence intensified. The substantial progress that had been made
in a knowledge of anatomy and its allied science counted for naught
in the application of scientific knowledge to the treatment of diseases,
except occasionally in surgical cases. Hygiene even had lost the
place it held in ancient times as an influence favorable to health.
All the time mysticism was upon the throne, science upon the scaffold.
He who dared to cross the boundaries of tradition into the field
of independent thought and action was condemned, persecuted, ostracized.
It was with the rise of the spirit of independence in America, that
the shackles that had fettered thought in the old world for centuries
were partially thrown off.
Perhaps some of the selfish traits of the early practitioners were
the heritage of the old world, which have not become extinct in
the new world, after the lapse of two and a half centuries. The
"regulars" have always been active against other systems.
The surgeons in New Amsterdam, now New York, looked after their
own interests in 1662 just as they do now. It should be remembered
that surgeons were barbers, and barbers surgeons, in those days,
and those belonging to the clan wanted a monopoly of both businesses.
The Dutch Records for February 2, 1652, contained the following:
"On the petition of the chirurgeons of New Amsterdam that
none but they alone be allowed to shave, the director and council
understand that shaving alone doth not appertain exclusively to
chirurgery, but is an appendix thereunto; that no man can be prevented
operating on himself, nor to do another the friendly act, provided
it be through courtesy, and not for gain, which is hereby forbidden."
Inoculation found a fruitful field in America. Dr. F. R. Packard,
in "The History of Medicine in the United States," says:
"To the Rev. Dr. Cotton Mather, of Boston, is to be ascribed
the first suggestion in this country of the use of inoculation to
combat the ravages of small-pox.
"But the persecution which befell Mather and Boylston and
those who supported inoculation is almost incredible. Almost every
medical man of the city joined in reprobating the practice and vilifying
the personal character of those who had introduced it. The clergy
and the newspapers took up the hue-and-cry, and finally the legislature
and the courts took a hand in the effort to suppress a measure of
such incalculable value to the community. A fast and furious pamphlet
war was precipitated, and the current literature teemed with articles
for and against the practice. Many pious, respectable personages
were of the opinion that should any one of his patients die the
doctor should be hung for murder."
Why "a measure of such incalculable value to the community"
should have fallen into disuse now for more than a century may seem
strange to the reader. But that aggregation of "pious, respectable
personages," "the select-men of the town of Boston,"
and doubtless many others, were evidently opposed to the practice,
and not without reason, if we may believe the following from Hutchinson's
"History of Massachusetts."
"At a meeting by Public Authority in the Town-house of Boston
before his Majesty's Justices of the Peace and the Select-Men; the
Practitioners of Physick and Surgery being called before them concerning
Inoculation, agreed to the following conclusions:
"A resolve upon a Debate held by the Physicians of Boston
concerning Inoculating the Small Pox, on the twenty-first day of
July 1721. It appears by numerous Instances, That it has proved
the Death of many Persons soon after the Operation, and brought
Distempers upon many others, which have in the end proved fatal
to them. That the natural tendency of infusing such malignant Filth
in the Mass of Blood, is to corrupt and putrefy it, and if there
be not a sufficient Discharge of the Malignity by the Place of Incision
or elsewhere, it lays a Foundation for many dangerous Diseases.
"That the Operation tends to spread and continue the Infection
in a Place longer than it might otherwise be.
"That the continuing the Operation among us is likely to prove
of most dangerous Consequence.
"By the Select-Men of the Town of Boston, July 22nd."
Benjamin Franklin became an earnest advocate of inoculation, and
was willing to practice his preaching. He speaks of losing a son
in 1736, in the following language:
"A fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox taken in the
common way. I long regretted him, and still regret that I had not
given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents
who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never
forgive themselves if a child died under it, my example showing
that the regret may be the same either way, and therefore that the
safer should be chosen."
The practice of inoculation evidently became quite a fad, probably
equal to that of removing the appendix now in some localities. Those
commercially inclined took advantage of the credulity of the people
then, just as they do now. Boston was in the front rank, "following
the fashion" in inoculation as she is now in operating for
appendicitis. Hannah Winthrop said in 1776:
"The reigning subject is the Small Pox. Boston has given up
its Fears of an invasion & is busily employed in Communicating
the Infection. Straw Beds & Cribs are daily Carted into the
Town, That ever prevailing Passion of following the Fashion is as
predominant at this time as ever. Men, Women and Children eagerly
crowding to inoculate is I think as modish as running away from
the Troops of a barbarous George was the last year."
Vaccination was the natural successor of inoculation in America.
Whether it is less or more successful than inoculation is an open
question. Philadelphia has had her troubles, off and on, from that
day to this. The New York Medical Journal and Philadelphia Medical
Journal for April 2, 1904, reports sixty-five cases of smallpox,
with fifteen deaths, over twenty-three per cent, for the two weeks
ending March 26, and makes the following comment:
"The small-pox epidemic in Philadelphia, which has been receding
for several weeks, has been the cause of some unfortunate errors
in diagnosis, as well as in the handling of the cases by attending
physicians. Last week a man died from small-pox, which, it is said,
was reported as Bright's disease. In this instance it became necessary
to search for many people who attended the funeral, in order that
they might be vaccinated. Unfortunately, many errors are made in
mistaking subcutaneous hemorrhages occurring in the hemorrhagic
variety of small-pox for other diseases. On one occasion a man infected
with small-pox walked directly into the office of the board of health."
The people of that day became an easy prey to a much more innocent
fad than inoculation. Perkins' tractors seem to have made a success
comparable with that of the electric belt and other harmless devices
of the present day. The Medical Book News, March, 1905, says:
"It was just a century ago that the great Perkinsian Institution,
or Metallic-Tractors Hospital, for the benefit of the poor, was
established in London. Dr. Elisha Perkins, of Plainfield, Conn.,
had died a few years previously, but his son carried the new gospel
to poor and rich alike, especially to those 'rich in dollars but
poor in sense.' England received the miraculous tractors with enthusiasm.
'Eight professors in four different universities, 21 regular physicians,
19 surgeons, and 30 clergymen were among those who testified publicly
to the efficacy of the treatment. Twelve physicians connected with
the Royal Hospital at Copenhagen, embodied their observations on
cases treated with tractors in a bulky octavo volume, and naught
disparaging to Perkinsism did that work contain. Poetry was written,
even, about the boon conferred on mankind by the invention of tractors."'
Dr. Benjamin Rusk (1746-1813), "the Hippocrates of America,"
"the American Galen," "The American Sydenham,"
"the father of medicine in America," signer of the Declaration
of Independence, true patriot that he was, read the signs of the
times. He was familiar with the rise of and the opposition to the
"Brunonian System" in Europe, and clearly saw that the
dominant practice was not in harmony with the liberality and freedom
demanded by the colonists. He knew, no doubt, of the attempts to
regulate the practice of medicine in the colonies. His knowledge
of the history of medicine and of the practices of his time must
have shown him that wisdom was not the exclusive possession of the
medical profession. Remembering these, it is not surprising that
he should say:
"The Constitution of this Republic should make specific provision
for medical freedom as well as for religious freedom. To restrict
the practice of the art of healing to one class of physicians and
deny to others equal privileges constitutes the Bastiles of our
science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. They are vestiges
of monarchy and have no place in a republic.
"I am insensibly led to make an apology, for the instability
of the theories and practice of Physic. Those physicians generally
become the most eminent in their profession who soonest emancipate
themselves from the tyranny of the schools of physic. What mischiefs
have we done under the belief of false facts and false theories?
We have assisted in multiplying diseases; we have done more, we
have increased their mortality.
"Conferring exclusive privileges upon bodies of physicians,
and forbidding men of equal talents and knowledge from practicing
medicine within certain districts of cities and countries are inquisitions
- however sanctioned by ancient charters and names - serving as
the Bastiles of our profession."
Dr. Rush's independence and progressiveness brought upon him the
anathemas of his profession. His knowledge gained during the yellow
fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1762, and his experience during
its greater visitation in 1793, helped to bring him into prominence.
He seemed to be very successful in treating the disease, and studied
its nature very carefully. Some idea of the opposition to his views
and methods may be obtained from the following utterances by Dr.
Rush in 1794.
"A charge of insanity, which had been made against me the
year before, was now revived, and propagated with so much confidence,
that one of my patients who had believed it, expressed her surprise
at perceiving no deviation from my ordinary manner in a sick room."
Dr. Packard says of the epidemic of 1794:
"The Board of Health took an active part in the opposition
to Dr. Rush. They refused to publish the epidemic nature of the
disease, or to take any steps towards reopening Bush Hill Hospital.
The Committee invited all the physicians of the city, except Drs.
Rush, Physick, and Dewees, to appear before them at the City Hall.
Those who attended united in declaring that there was no reason
to apprehend an outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia.
"The physicians of the city became divided into two groups,
those who followed the method of treatment of yellow fever pursued
by Benjamin Rush, and those who were adherents of William Gurrie.
Rush held that the disease was of domestic origin. Currie held that
it was imported from Southern ports. Rush believed in a course of
mercurial and copious bleeding; the followers of Currie disapproved
of bleeding as having a tendency to weaken the patient."
It seems that Dr. Rush fell into the common error of extolling
the merits of waters simply because they were disagreeable. He wrote
a treatise on "Experiments and Observations on the Mineral
Waters of Philadelphia, Abington, and Bristol, Pennsylvania,"
which was read before the American Philosophical Society, June 18,
1773. A recent writer, Hildeburn, says:
"The waters of Abington and Bath, near Bristol, were much
resorted to till near the middle of the present century. The fame
of the supposed 'Philadelphia Mineral Water,' on the disagreeable
taste and fetid smell of which Dr. Rush has much to say, was short
lived. The true causes of these qualities being discovered to arise
not from mineral sources, but from one which put an immediate stop
to the use of the water, and made its advocates and their disciples
a subject of ridicule."
Dr. Rush was naturally a reformer. But he never realized the fact
that reform does not take place from within. Some mighty force from
without must be hurled against the citadel of custom, of prejudice,
of pride. Dr. Rush tried to reform his profession by changing its
practices and especially insisting upon cleanliness as the most
important factor in preventive medicine. He said Philadelphia was
filthy; his colleagues said it was not. He said yellow fever would
visit the city if it was not cleaned up; the profession said he
was crazy, - that the only danger from yellow fever was by the importation
of those afflicted with the disease. He said yellow fever existed
there as an epidemic; the profession said it did not, and only when
the people were dying by hundreds, finally reaching more than one
thousand, did they admit that he was telling the truth.
But Dr. Rush could not depart radically from the methods of his
school of practice. He poured in mercury and drew out blood. But
he wanted to do otherwise. Later he even held audience with that
despised Dr. Samuel Thomson, bade him God-speed, and gave him real
Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence, saw
the evils of medical practice, sounded a clear note of warning,
and expressed a hope realized a century later by the development
of Osteopathy in the first state framed from the territory which
he purchased from France. He said:
"Disciples of Hoffman, Boerhaave, Stahl, Cullen, and Brown,
succeed each other like the shifting figures of the magic lantern;
and their fancies, like the dresses of the annual doll-babies from
Paris, becoming, from their novelty, the vogue of the day and yielding
to the next novelty their ephemeral favors.
"I believe we can safely affirm that the inexperienced and
presumptuous herd of medical tyros let loose upon the world destroys
more lives than all the Robin Hoods, Cartouches, and Macheaths do
in a century.
"I hope and believe that it is from this side of the Atlantic
that Europe, which has taught us so many useful things will be led
into sound principles in this branch of science, the most important
of all, to which we commit the care of health and life."
While surgery has been practiced ever since the dawn of history,
it was not till the nineteenth century that operations within the
deepest cavities of the body became general and, it may be added,
popular. Dr. Ephriam McDowwell, of Danville, Ky., removed the ovaries
of a lady in 1809, and the patient lived till 1834. He afterwards
performed the same operation upon thirteen patients, eight of whom
survived. The discovery that germs are often responsible for the
unfavorable conditions following severe operations, and the adoption
of aseptic methods, that is, as nearly as practicable, absolute
cleanliness, have made it possible to make such proceedings much
less dangerous than at first. The discovery of artificial anesthesia
was also a great stimulus to surgery by removing the pain and many
of the horrors of severe operations. These two great and beneficent
discoveries, antisepsis and anesthesia, may be responsible for the
fact that medical practice has run largely into surgery, and surgery
often has become little less than butchery. In fact, at the beginning
of the twentieth century, surgery had become a fad with many and
now some insist upon an operation at the earliest possible moment
in many cases which can be treated with almost absolute success
without any of the risks or the bad after-effects of surgery. What
satisfactory Excuse a scientist can make for much of the indiscriminate
cutting, curetting, and cauterizing so common, as in enlarged tonsils,
real or imaginary appendicitis, many female troubles, etc., remains
to be seen. While osteopaths believe in surgery, Osteopathy is a
living practical protest against about nine-tenths of the surgical
work which has been considered necessary by some of, the other systems.
The early botanic physicians of America seem to have obtained the
first knowledge of their practice from the Indians. Much of the
knowledge given by Rafinesque, Barton, Elisha Smith, and others
who wrote about medicinal plants, was obtained from the natives.
Not coming through the regular channels of medical learning, of
course, the new ideas presented were vigorously opposed. New remedies
were first rejected, then tolerated, and finally adopted. Wilder
speaks as follows of the change that has taken place as a result
of the innovations introduced by the early botanists.
"Very many of them have been adopted and palmed off upon the
public as 'new remedies,' by writers and others who were by no means
friendly to that school of practice; the precaution being taken
at the same time, however, to avoid any rendering of credit due,
or even an honest mention, of the sources from which the medicines
had been learned and going so far sometimes as to name some individual
of their own partisan complexion as having introduced them to the
Dr. Wooster Beach, the reputed father of the Eclectic system, attempted
to introduce the reformed practice of medicine through the regular
profession. He soon saw that a reform in the practice of medicine,
like all great progressive movements, must come through the enlightenment
of the common people. He said:
"An art founded on observation can never arrive at any high
degree of development while it is confined to a few who make a trade
of it. The only hope of a reformation and revolution in medicine,
under Divine Providence, is the dissemination of our principles
through the mass of the community."
The introduction of anything radically new in medicine, or the
casting of a doubt upon the recognized procedures of the dominant
school, has always been accompanied by an outburst of opposition.
A weak cause seeks, whenever possible, the aid of the state to
bolster up its doubtful merit or its waning prestige. The rapidly
increasing following of "irregular" physicians in America
in the early part of the nineteenth century aroused the vigorous
opposition of the "regulars." From Maine to Georgia, bills
were introduced into the legislatures making the practice of medicine
a misdemeanor, except by physicians of the dominant school. Pennsylvania
was saved from that disgrace by the exercise of the veto power by
her governor, and western states generally refused to deliver their
bodies to a profession steeped in traditions and actuated by prejudices.
The condition in America was not unlike that in England, when William
Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of blood, wrote:
"After the space of so many hundred years' experience, not
one single medicine has been detected that has the least force directly
to prevent, resist, and expel a continued fever. Should any, by
a more sedulous observation, pretend to make the least step toward
the discovery of any such remedies, their hatred and envy would
swell against him as a legion of devils against virtue. The whole
society will dart their malice against him with all the calumnies
imaginable, without sticking at anything that would destroy him
root and branch. For he who professes to be a reformer of the art
of Physic must resolve to run the hazard of the martyrdom of his
life, and estate."
Samuel Thomson is one of the most interesting characters in medical
history. His opportunities for an education were limited, but he
displayed a passion early in life for learning the names and medicinal
properties of plants. On account of his defective education he was
not allowed to study with Dr. Fuller, a botanic physician. Like
other reformers, he had convictions and an unflinching tenacity
of purpose. Sickness in his growing family made it necessary for
him to employ physicians. He soon saw that the prevailing medical
treatment aggravated the sufferings of the victims. This forced
him to undertake the care of members of his family himself, and
he found that they recovered more quickly than under "regular"
Thomson was only a farmer, but his success in practice soon attracted
the attention of his neighbors, and he was often called to minister
to them also. His fame extended, and he was soon looked upon as
the founder of a new system. He did not claim originality for all
his procedures, but he surely did possess the talent to elaborate
what be found at hand and what he discovered into a new system.
Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, of Harvard Medical School, compared him
with the great English surgeon in the following words:
"Had John hunter, whom I well knew, been born and bred where
Samuel Thomson was, he would have been just such another man; and
had Samuel Thomson been thrown into the same society and associations
as John Hunter, he would, in my opinion, have been his equal, with
probably a wider range of thought; but both are men of talent and
originality of thought."
Dr. E. M. Hale, of Hahnemann Medical College, Chicago, said of
"This man, although uneducated, had in him the elements of
a great reformer; and had he had the literary advantage of some
of his allopathic persecutors, would have done more for the advance
of medical science than most any other man of his day. Dr. Hollenback
declares that he was 'one of the greatest and best of medical benefactors,
whose crude system of practice broke the mysterious chains which
had bound the people of America and Europe for about two centuries.'
Certain it is that Thomson was the first to publicly attack Allopathy
in America; and his attack may be said to be the first that shattered
the foundations of that school, and made way for such scientific
reforms as Homeopathy. In every state of the Union the 'Botanic'
practice of medicine preceded the Homeopathic, and broke down those
legal barriers that Allopathy had placed around her."
Knowing the spirit of intolerance existing then, it is not surprising
that Thomson was outlawed. He was threatened with assassination,
accused of murder, arrested, imprisoned; but the prosecution failed
to make out a case. Dr. Waterhouse, quoted above, speaks as follows:
"Samuel Thomson, like most reformers, has endured in our county
of Essex as much severe persecution as ever was perpetrated in it;
which is saying a great deal, when we call in mind the days of the
delusion of witchcraft. Though capitally indicted for murder by
using lobelia, he was discharged without a trial, after something
like a reprimand of the Solicitor-General by the Court."
Thomson himself said:
"The doctors were enraged at me for no other reason than because
I had cured persons whom they had given up to die. Persecution raged
against me - all the presses in the country were closed against
me - priests, doctors, lawyers, and legislators were combined against
me - ex-post facto laws were put in operation prosecutions commenced
- false witnesses arose - bigotry, prejudice, and superstition like
Salem witchcraft, waved their magic wand."
Much abuse was heaped upon Dr. Thomson for procuring patents for
his medicines. Here is his justification of his conduct in this
"In obtaining a patent it was my principal object to get the
protection of the Government against the machinations of my enemies,
more than to take the advantage of a monopoly. In all cases where
a person possesses desirable information from his own experience
or ingenuity, there can be no reason why he should not have a right
to sell it to another, as well as any other property."
The question of an education for a physician during the first half
of the nineteenth century was one often discussed. Dr. Samuel Thomson,
himself an illiterate man, did not believe in high educational requirements.
Even his sons were at odds with their father for years upon this
subject. The better-educated followers of Thomson saw the necessity
of keeping up with the educational procession. Dr. Benjamin Colby,
in The Thomsonian Recorder, said:
"The importance of Thomsonians having a general knowledge
of anatomy, physiology, pathology, surgery, and midwifery,"
he declared, "to be deeply felt by every one who entered the
practice; he cannot obtain the confidence of the community without
Dr. Thomson considered such a departure from his ways and methods
as an apostasy and a reverting back to the old school of practice.
Yet several botanico-medical colleges were established, especially
in the west and south, and their educational requirements were probably
not inferior to those of the "regulars." The United States
Commission of Education, as late as 1884, said that in most of the
medical colleges "no examination for entrance, nor any evidence
of the possession of a respectable disciplinary education is called
Proscriptive medical legislation was the order of the day. A law
was actually proposed in New Hampshire which would prohibit Samuel
Thomson by name from treating the sick. Dr. E. J. Mattocks, of Troy,
N. Y., depicted the situation in the following forcible language:
"Collect all the facts you may and still you will be unable
to give but the tithe of the malicious prosecutions, and in some
cases, the imprisonment, these early pioneers had to suffer in consequence
of their faith and practice. Such men as Wooster Beach, Elisha Smith,
S. W. Frisbee, Abiel Gardner, H. M. Sweet, John Wesley Johnson,
and a host of others, could their voices be heard, would confirm
Dr. Thomas Lapham, mentioned above, said:
"In any state where any law has existed, or does now exist,
regulating medical practice, it has never originated with the people
but with a class of men who subsist on the miseries of the people.
Fines, prisons, dungeons, chains and death are accounted better
security to their standin than all the combined skill and wisdom
of all the ancient schools of medicine."
Many old school doctors were more favorable to the reform treatment.
Dr. Geo. McClellan, father of the late General Geo. B. McClellan,
and grandfather of the present mayor of Greater New York, favored
the new practice for the same reason that some M. D.'s now favor
Osteopathy. He said:
"We must adopt the Thomsonian medical agents, or lose our
practice. I have used steam, cayenne, and lobelia, and found them
useful to remove disease."
In 1841 there were twenty-six states in the union. All but five
or six of them had enacted laws which tended to restrict the freedom
of the people in choosing their own physicians and the liberty of
others to engage in a peaceable and beneficial pursuit. But the
current of opinion had already turned in the other direction, so
that sixteen states had repealed the obnoxious laws. The battle
continued with unabated fury in New York. One proposed bill went
so far that it "provided that no person should receive a license
to practice medicine till he had served as clerk to a physician
for seven years; and no physician should receive the medical degree
till he had been three years in practice or had spent six months
in a hospital. That bill was laid upon the table." Horatio
Seymour and Horace Greeley, both later candidates for President
of the United States, did valiant service for liberty in the contest,
and lived to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The will of the people
prevailed and the unjust medical law was wiped from the statute
books in May, 1844.
The brute force and mob rule engendered by slavery in the latter
part of the first half of the nineteenth century is paralleled by
the same elements used against reform medicine. The medical college
at Worthington, Ohio, was one of the victims, and Dr. Morrow, the
president, was prosecuted. The prejudices of the lawless were aroused
and instigated by the physicians of that locality, they pillaged
the college buildings and placed the town at the mercy of a drunken
rabble in the spring of 1840.
There was practically no cessation of the warfare against those
who did not subscribe to the tenets of the "regulars"
during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Then came Osteopathy,
which intensified the hatred of the old schools and which has had
to contest every inch of ground, as shown in Chapter IV.
Several attempts have been made by the regulars" to establish
what might be termed a national system of medicine. In 1890, a bill
was introduced in the United States Senate which would have given
the "regulars" a monopoly of the practice of medicine
in the District of Columbia. It was all done so quietly that its
friends had a hearing before the opposition knew what was being
done. The Eclectic Medical Society heard of the movement and appointed
a committee, of which Dr. T. A. Bland was chairman, to oppose it.
The chairman of the committee to which the bill was referred, said
it would be a waste of time to hear the opposition, "for we
are going to pass the bill." He finally consented to give a
hearing, after which he said, "you can go hone and, rest easy,
gentlemen, for this bill will not pass this year."
Another attempt was made in 1891, but it failed in the committee.
In 1892, a bill was presented providing for three medical boards,
an allopathic, a homeopathic, and an eclectic. The eclectics opposed
it; yet it passed the Senate, but failed to pass the House. The
next year a bill was introduced which proposed a board of seven
doctors, four "regulars," two homeopaths, and one eclectic.
It was smothered in the committee by a unanimous vote, Dr. Bland,
in opposing the bill, said:
"I oppose all such bills on the ground that they are paternalistic,
monopolistic, and despotic. They are in the form of class legislation,
being designed to give special privileges to some physicians, and
denying to others equal privileges.
"If this government were paternalistic in form, and the people
were ruled by a monarch, the proposed legislation would be in line
with such a government. But our ancestors rebelled against that
sort of government, threw off the yoke of King George, and founded
a republic, a government of the people, for the people, and by the
Attempts have been made since, in one form or another, to create
a medical monopoly in the capital of our country; but they have
failed. Yet there is no abatement of the effort on the part of the
"regulars" to control all medical and health interests
of the United States. There exists now a Committee on Legislation
appointed by the American Medical Association, whose duty it is
to urge upon Congress the necessity of enacting laws for the purpose
of securing legislation which, judging from past experience in the
nation and in the states, would be inimical to the welfare of all
but "regular" physicians and restrictive upon the rights
of the people. Dr. C. A. L. Reed presented the following at the
meeting of the American Medical Association, at New Orleans, in
"It shall be the duty of the committee to represent before
Congress and elsewhere the wishes of this Association regarding
any proposed legislation, that in any respect bears on the promotion
and preservation of the public health, or on the material or moral
welfare of the medical profession. This committee shall invite to
a conference at Washington, D. C., once in each year, or oftener
if need be, the auxiliary committee herein created, at which shall
be considered questions of national and state legislation, with
the view of uniting all of the influences of the entire profession
throughout the country in support of all proper legislation, and
of securing uniformity in the same, so far as may be possible and
expedient. The Committee on National Legislation shall have power
to act ad interim, and its necessary expenses shall be paid by this
The following year was one of unusual activity as will be seen
by the following from the report of the Association at Atlantic
City, in June, 1904:
Dr. C. A. L. Reed, of Cincinnati, Ohio, reported that the committee
had arranged to have a correspondent in every county in the United
States. They had received the hearty co-operation of almost all
the state societies, and now had 1,940 such correspondents, and
had issued commissions urging them to use all means, both personal
and political, to secure such legislation as the association should
desire. An urgent appeal was made to have all physicians exert their
influence to have physicians nominated and elected to congress,
as the lack of such representation was a most serious obstacle in
the endeavors of the association in behalf of the public welfare
and of the profession."
SCHOOLS OF MEDICINE.
The "regular" school of practice is the oldest and largest.
It is often spoken of as the Allopathic School, which appellation
is resented by advocates of that system. Gould says:
"According to Hahnemann, the inventor of the term, that method
of the treatment of disease consisting in the use of medicines the
action of which upon the body in health produces morbid phenomena
different from those of the disease treated. Opposed to homeopathy.
It need hardly be said that modern scientific medicine is based
upon no such theory, or definition, as that supplied by homeopathy
… Regular Physician, one of the school of scientific medicine
who adheres to no clique, sect, 'pathy,' or 'ism."'
How the "regulars" can claim to be a "school of
scientific medicine" is not clear, in view of the many and
constant changes in their theories and methods of practice. Most
that is said above by way either of praise or blame, probably belongs
more to this system than to those mentioned below, The other schools
have been a protest against the extremes to which this has gone
and the revolting methods quite generally used.
The greatest change in the practice of the healing art prior to
the introduction of Osteopathy was due to the rise of Homeopathy.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) was the father of the system. His dictum
"similia similibus curantur" (similars are cured by similars)
is the fundamental principle in its practice. Hence remedies are
selected, which, if given in sufficient quantities to a well person,
will produce symptoms similar to those of the person to whom the
medicine is to be given. The idea was not altogether new, but Hahnemann
deserves the credit of establishing a school of practice based upon
that principle. He also proclaimed the theory of attenuation, by
means of which the quantity of a drug would be reduced while its
potency would remain. By trituration, succussion, and dilution,
he claimed, "the spiritual power which lies hid in the inner
nature of medicines" was brought into operation.
The Thomsonian School in this country, so named from Dr. Samuel
Thomson, its founder, was the natural successor to the "Brunonian,"
in Europe. His remedies, the virtues of which were learned largely
from the Indians and from the crude practices of the early settlers,
were generally vegetable rather than mineral. He encouraged the
organization of friendly botanic societies and issued a call for
a United State Thomsonian Convention of delegates from such societies
to meet at Columbus, Ohio, December 17, 1832. Annual meetings were
held till 1838, when dissension rent the association asunder.
One division, under the leadership of Dr. Alva Curtis, dropped
the name Thomsonian, and has been generally known since as the Physio-Medical
School. It holds a co-ordinate position in many states with the
allopaths or "regulars," the homeopaths, and the eclectics.
Its origin may be traced to Dr. John. Brown, for many years professor
of the theory and practice of medicine in Edinburgh University.
His followers called his the "Brunonian System" in honor
of its founder. The system was based upon the hypothesis of excitability.
Diseases were either sthenic or asthenic, the result of an excess
or a deficiency of excitement. Bleeding, low diet, and cathartics
were the remedies for the former; stimulants for the latter. Brown's
theories and practice found favor upon the continent. Broussais,
in France, promulgated similar doctrines and brought upon himself
the hostility of the whole medical profession of Paris. He was the
author of the famous dictum, "bleed the patient till he is
white," which became the ruling practice in America, under
which the life of Washington was undoubtedly cut short.
The Eclectic School, founded by Dr. Wooster Beach, is also a recognized
system. The term eclectic had been used long before in a general
way, but this was the beginning of its use to designate a school
of medical reformers. A reformed medical college was organized in
Cincinnati, Ohio, about 1842, which was incorporated and named the
"Eclectic Medical Institute" in 1845. Its charter contained
the following sentence:
"Our college will be strictly what its name indicates - Eclectic
- excluding all such medicines and such remedies as 'under the ordinary
circumstances of their judicious use, are liable to produce evil
consequences, or endanger the future health of the patient,' while
we draw from any and every source all such medicine and modes of
treating disease as are found to be valuable, and at the same time
not necessarily attended with bad consequences. "
After much tribulation the Eclectic Medical Institute became the
recognized seat of learning of the eclectic system, and it now claims
to be the oldest Eclectic Medical College in existence. The National
Eclectic Medical Association, in 1851, adopted a platform of principles
which contained the following:
"To encourage the cultivation of medical science in a liberal
spirit, especially to the development of the resources of the vegetable
materia medica, and the safest, speediest, and most efficient methods
of treating disease.
"That a departure from the healthy condition interrupts the
bodily functions, and only the recuperative efforts of nature can
effect their restoration. The object, therefore, of medication accordingly
is to afford to nature the means of doing this work more advantageously,
and under circumstances in which she would otherwise fail.
"The excluding of all permanently depressing and disorganizing
agencies - such as depletion by the lancet and medication of a dangerous
tendency; also a preferring of vegetable remedies, but no exclusive
system of herbalism and no rejection of a mineral agent, except
from the conviction of its injurious effect."
Osteopathy is the only other system of practice which is universal
in its application and at the same time requires a thorough training
in the sciences pertaining to the human body in health and disease.
It also is legalized in most of the states and holds a position
co-ordinate with the other four systems already mentioned. In point
of number of pupils pursuing the required courses of study, it is
second. It now has nine recognized schools, and about 4,000 practitioners.
According to the report of the Commissioner of Education, 1899-1900,
the "regulars" have 121 schools; the homeopaths, 22; and
the eclectic and physio-medics, 8. The last census places the number
of physicians and surgeons in the United States, at 132,225.