« PreviousContinue »
The Historical relations of Ancient Hindu with Greek Me
dicine, in connection with the study of modern Medical Science in India ; being a General Introductory Lecture, delivered June 1850, at the Calcutta Medical College, by Allan Webb, M. D., Author of the Pathologia Indica; Surgeon, Bengal Army; Professor of Descriptive and Surgical Anatomy : lately officiating Professor of Medicine and Clinical Medicine.
Such is the formidable title of a discourse, with which we have been favoured for notice in the pages of our Review. introductory lectures have been published within the last twenty years, and there is so much sameness in the majority of them, as to repel rather than invite attention. There are, however, many facts of peculiar interest connected with the history of the introduction of European science in India, which places all papers relating to our Eastern Medical Schools beyond the pale of the ordinary rules relating to such subjects.
Few can have watched without interest the rapid progress of the Medical College, from its small and modest beginning in the neighbourhood of the Hindu College, to its present ample dimensions and extended organization. It is one of the best and most complete practical refutations extant of the rash and groundless fears usually entertained regarding the prejudices of the natives, and the bug-bear of interference with their religion, that are such powerful opponents to the many laudable efforts making in various directions for their improvement. They, who remember the predictions of failure, and the host of evils that were imagined to be contained in the attempt to introduce the practice of human dissection in this great city, can scarcely imagine they could by any possibility have had refer. ence to an institution, in which practical anatomy, in the space of sixteen short years, is pursued to a greater extent than in any school of corresponding extent in Europe !
This should afford encouragement to Mr. Bethune in the introduction of Female Education, to which the opposition raised is not a tithe of that which threatened to extinguish and strangle the Medical College at its birth. The great mistake that is generally made, is to imagine the idle and impotent vapouring of a few Calcutta Babús to be an indication of the feelings of the bulk of the Hindu community, or a circumstance that should excite any feelings save those of contempt and pity for so unworthy and besotted an opposition. Unblushing, unscrupulous falsehoods, and the most senseless clamour, are the only weapons used by the old order of Calcutta
native orthodoxy in this great battle. But we return to the immediate subject of our notice.
The value of an introductory lecture depends in part upon the intrinsic merit and originality of its matter, and in some measure upon its suitability to the occasion of its delivery. When judged according to either of these standards, we fear that we cannot accord to Professor Webb the praise fairly due to his industry and good intentions. According to our notion, a general introductory lecture should never be devoted to a special subject, however interesting and valuable that may be in itself. Its real object is to take a general review of the various matters that will engage the attention of the students during the coming session, and to exhibit to all the existing working state of the school. It should point out to those about to commence the study of medicine, the preliminary knowledge and acquirements absolutely necessary to be possessed by all, who may reasonably hope to enter upon it with any chance of success. It should exhibit the value of a sound acquaintance with the ordinary branches of a liberal education, and particularly of the pure and exact sciences the importance of which, as a means of cultivating the reasoning powers, and of rendering the pursuits of the speculative branches of physic more rigid and exact, has scarcely been estimated at its real value in the preliminary training of the disciples of Æsculapius. The application of the science of numbers, and of various formulæ and symbols, to the elucidation and classification of the vast number of new facts and observations almost daily added to the different departments of medicine, is, at length, beginning to reduce them to some degree of order and method, and to promise ere long to place some at least of its branches on the level of the exact sciences.
To the first and second-year students, it should afford an outline of the objects, uses, and advantages of the elementary subjects --the pure sciences of medicine--which they are required to study during the two first years of their college career.
The manifold wonders and numberless objects of interest belonging to the pursuit of Chemistry; the elegant and fascinating field of Botany, replete with charms of the highest order, and with a graceful interest and beauty of its own; and the awful contemplation of the anatomy of the human frame, the fearful and wonderful construction of which has afforded the sublimest proofs of design in the creation-in themselves afford ample scope for the eloquence and learning of a lecturer, without travelling into the regions of Greek tradition and Hindu fable.
Every subsequent period in the progress of the pupil should also be carefully noted, and its particular points of interest and importance clearly indicated, in order that the future dispensers of health and its countless blessings to the multitude of the sick and suffering, who will come under their care, may have some general idea of the art and science of medicine as a whole.
On some of these topics Professor Webb lias made a few detached
remarks in a spirit of earnestness and piety, which make us regret his not having pursued them throughout. The following extract is honourable to him, and worthy of the occasion :
But before proceeding further upon this subject, I will say a few words upon your own position and duties. There are, perhaps, no medical students at this moment in the world, to whom such great privileges are so fully and so freely given of mere sovereign bounty, as those which you receive at the hand of Government. This medical school, however regarded, as repects its Instructive Establishment, its Hospitals, its Museums, or the number of patients and students who benefit by it, is now equal to some of the most ancient schools of Europe ; yet, so far I know, it stands alone in this, that every advantage is freely given. Here no fees are paid ! The finest Medical education is freely offered gratis, to all comersof whatever creed, of whatever caste, of whatever clime. No wonder, where all is thus freely given, that we find this goodly gathering of students, of all kindreds, and countries around us. From the Punjab to the Burman Empire, from Ceylon to the snowy mountains of the North, our young men assemble here ; without any other jealousy than that of professional honour, any other distinction than that of science, All are equally welcome, equally rewarded, equally respected, if they do well.
It has been said knowledge is power;" but knowledge and well-doing are not always synonymous. We sometimes see young men, not behind their fellows in the race of intelligence, lost, confounded, and ruined ; having forgotten that man is not only an intelligent, but also a moral being. Do to others as you would be done by, is a grand rule for the medical student. Follow it out, and you dare not be idle here. To be so would stain your humanity, dishonour your profession, disgrace your College.
As Professor of Clinical Medicine, my guidance of your studies has been but short ; but it has afforded me additional reason to urge upon you this principle of responsible humanity. Watch over your patients with this principle true in your hearts, and your minds will seize, with powerful and tenacious grasp, the Clinical instruction of the Professor. It will become a sacred duty to record your cases accurately, to think of them earnestly. You will be the first students in the wards, and the last to leave ; your books will be read well, and well remembered, and understood.
It was said upon the occasion alluded to, of our first Graduates leaving the College - Your duties are four-fold ; they concern the sick, the profession to which you belong, society at large, and the Government we all have the honor
Of your duties to yourselves, I say nothing, deeming that they are self-evident to you.
All these duties are based upon this very simple golden rule, to do to others as we would be done by. An inhuman, a dishonest, a licentious medical practitioner-is there not in the very expression something that jars upon the moral sense ? If a physician be wanting in honour, in humanity, and in rectitude of conduct, what possible security have society for the confidence reposed in him ? None! And where are those on the face of the earth, men in whose discretion, honour, and goodness, such a large measure of confidence is placed, as in medical men ? If they want those qualities, then, I emphatically say, they want all : for the other qualities are naught without the moral ones. Scientific skill and experience are like the sword of the loyal and brave
of use only when in the hands of the honest and true. Personal honour must be the loadstar of your conduct : without that, you will only be bringing a reproach upon the fair fame of our profession."*
You now see before you examples of what courage and conduct will do. Dwarkanath Bose was the first of our gallant band of medical pioneers, to return to us with the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons. He is now one of your teachers of Anatomy. Surjoo Coomar Chuckerbutty, just returned with the diploma of the London University, is Assistant Physician in our College Hospital." Drs.
* Report of Council of Medical College, Calcutta, 4th February 1839, p. 26.
Seal and Bose both held appointments in this City. It is not often that men pass at once from the schools to offices of such importance. In conferring these rewards upon such young men, the Government has strongly marked its interest in their welfare, and its desire to encourage you.
Remarks such as these are more to the purpose, and of greater interest to the native students of medicine, than all the laudation lavished upon Galen and the Greek Fathers of Physic, or than the blind enthusiasm which has attempted to extract from the matchless perfections of Grecian art evidence of an amount of early culture of human anatomy in Greece, for which there is no adequate authority in existence.
In regard to the selection of his subject, the learned Professor has, we opine, been equally unfortunate. We have, in vain, endeavored to imagine the reason, which could have induced Dr. Webb to have deemed Greek medicine a suitable subject for the edification of the Putuldungah neophytes, nor can we see what connection Galen has with the very anti-Galenical doctrines now taught and practised in the Calcutta College.
We freely confess to be of those, who are not “ fond of picking up little bits of wisdom in great heaps of folly,” and, with all possible deference for Galen, Plato, Hippocrates, and the galaxy of Greek worthies referred to in the discourse under review, we cannot help exclaiming with Prince Hal--" Oh! monstrous! but one-half penny worth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack.” Moreover, we are sceptical enough to believe that the doctrine of Galen had, in the long and strong hold it maintained on medical opinions, as mischievous an influence on the progress of medicine, as the metaphysics of Aristotle exercised on the minds of men generally, until their dark delusions were dispelled, and for ever discarded by the bright light of the inductive method.
One of the wittiest, and not the least wise, of modern writers and philosophers has raised his voice against the practice of raking up the mouldy ruins of sciences.
said he, this battery against medicine, I do not know where I should stop. Zengis Khan, when he was most crimsoned with blood, never slaughtered the human race, as they have been slaughtered by rash and erroneous theories of medicine."
It is on this principle that we regret the selection of his subject by Dr. Webb, who, whether as the representative of medicine or anatomy, might have exercised his abilities, and exhibited his learning to better effect, than in occupying the very questionable field of debating the comparative claims to admiration of Greek and Hindu Medicine.
Neither time nor space permits us to analyze in detail the train of reasoning adopted by Dr. Webb. We do not share the contempt, with which he treats the 16 poking in a puddle at a putrid carcase, as exhibiting the neagre and superficial, as well as erroneous, knowledge of anatomy possessed by the Hindus. It is scarcely dignified or philosophical to dismiss so important a subject, in the
66 If I were,
so to open
presence of a Hindu audience, with a sneer; or to imagine that an isolated error, albeit of the greatest dimensions, is an adequate test of a great and interesting department of human knowledge. As little do we consider the unfavourable comparison instituted between the “ noble witnesses of the anatomical skill” of the Greeks, and the monsters disfiguring the walls of the Cave Temples of India, to be just, or to bear out the inferences, which the lecturer has attempted to deduce from it.
A more careful study of Hindu Chronology, imperfect as it is, must, we are much inclined to believe, have shown the Professor that no comparison could be fairly instituted between them, and that it would be almost as reasonable to judge the extraordinary monuments of an unknown era, found in Mexico and Peru, by the Greek standard.
We are disposed to regard the Cave Temples of India as Buddhistical, and not Brahminical remains; and, heterodox as the opinion is usually considered, we are inclined to believe that they are much older than any genuine Hindu relics of the Brahminical period of domination in Hindustan. We also regard them, as very long anterior to any Greek specimens of art that have come down to us. To compare things so essentially dissimilar, and produced in such different states of human society, would be very nearly akin to placing the Roman lady's tea-kettle in the scale against Watt's Steam Engine.
We believe, and consider our belief susceptible of proof, that human anatomy was studied, and practically too, notwithstanding its imperfections, by the Hindus, long before the Greeks overcame the prejudices connected with human dissection.
With some degree of inconsistency, but with more show of reason, Dr. Webb supposes that the “Greeks derived their systems of philosophy and medicine from the Hindus," and adduces arguments to show that the close analogy between them could not have been the result of accident, or of independent observation and research.
We regret the manner in which the Professor has treated the subject of Mesmerism ; for, as we are firm believers in the existence of its influence, and of its wonderful power in controlling certain diseased states of the system, we are of opinion that any reference to it should have dwelt on what is certain, and carefully avoided the objections that are brought against it. The note, appended to Dr. Webb's lecture, is, on this account, especially objectionable.
The inipostures of Cagliostro are not yet forgotten : and the whole history of human delusions, in its love for the marvellous, warns us that such subjects should be handled with the greatest caution. We were not then prepared to find that a Professor of the Medical College should introduce Mr. Alin in connection with any scientific fact, or notice with approval certain very suspicious allegations, which have brought much unmerited obloquy upon what is really