It was something to have unlearned the pernicious habit of constantly giving poisons to a patient, as if they were good in themselves, of drawing off the blood which he would want in his struggle with disease, of making him sore and wretched with needless blisters, of turning his stomach with unnecessary nauseous draught and mixtures, --only because he was sick and something must be done. But there were positive as well as negative facts to be learned, and some of us, I fear, came home rich in the negatives of the expectant practice, poor in the resources which many a plain country practitioner had ready in abundance for the relief and the cure of disease. No one instructor can be expected to do all for a student which he requires. Louis taught us who followed him the love of truth, the habit of passionless listening to the teachings of nature, the most careful and searching methods of observation, and the sure means of getting at the results to be obtained from them in the constant employment of accurate tabulation. He was not a showy, or eloquent, or, I should say, a very generally popular man, though the favorite, almost the idol, of many students, especially Genevese and Bostonians. But he was a man of lofty and admirable scientific character, and his work will endure in its influences long after his name is lost sight of save to the faded eyes of the student of medical literature.
Many other names of men more or less famous in their day, and who were teaching while I was in Paris, come up before me. They are but empty sounds for the most part in the ears of persons of not more than middle age. Who of you knows anything of Richerand, author of a very popular work on Physiology, commonly put into the student's hands when I first began to ask for medical text-books? I heard him lecture once, and have had his image with me ever since as that of an old, worn-out man,--a venerable but dilapidated relic of an effete antiquity. To verify this impression I have just looked out the dates of his birth and death, and find that he was eighteen years younger than the speaker who is now addressing you. There is a terrible parallax between the period before thirty and that after threescore and ten, as two men of those ages look, one with naked eyes, one through his spectacles, at the man of fifty and thereabout. Magendie, I doubt not you have all heard of. I attended but one of his lectures. I question if one here, unless some contemporary of my own has strayed into the amphitheatre,--knows anything about Marjolin. I remember two things about his lectures on surgery, the deep tones of his voice as he referred to his oracle,--the earlier writer, Jean Louis Petit,--and his formidable snuffbox. What he taught me lies far down, I doubt not, among the roots of my knowledge, but it does not flower out in any noticeable blossoms, or offer me any very obvious fruits. Where now is the fame of Bouillaud, Professor and Deputy, the Sangrado of his time? Where is the renown of Piorry, percussionist and poet, expert alike in the resonances of the thoracic cavity and those of the rhyming vocabulary? --I think life has not yet done with the vivacious Ricord, whom I remember calling the Voltaire of pelvic literature,--a sceptic as to the morality of the race in general, who would have submitted Diana to treatment with his mineral specifics, and ordered a course of blue pills for the vestal virgins.
Ricord was born at the beginning of the century, and Piorry some years earlier. Cruveilhier, who died in 1874, is still remembered by his great work on pathological anatomy; his work on descriptive anatomy has some things which I look in vain for elsewhere. But where is Civiale,--where are Orfila, Gendrin, Rostan, Biett, Alibert, --jolly old Baron Alibert, whom I remember so well in his broad- brimmed hat, worn a little jauntily on one side, calling out to the students in the court-yard of the Hospital St. Louis, "Enfans de la methode naturelle, etes-vous tous ici?" "Children of the natural method [his own method of classification of skin diseases,] are you all here? "All here, then, perhaps; all where, now?
My show of ghosts is over. It is always the same story that old men tell to younger ones, some few of whom will in their turn repeat the tale, only with altered names, to their children's children.
Like phantoms painted on the magic slide, Forth from the darkness of the past we glide, As living shadows for a moment seen In airy pageant on the eternal screen, Traced by a ray from one unchanging flame, Then seek the dust and stillness whence we came.
Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, whom I well remember, came back from Leyden, where he had written his Latin graduating thesis, talking of the learned Gaubius and the late illustrious Boerhaave and other dead Dutchmen, of whom you know as much, most of you, as you do of Noah's apothecary and the family physician of Methuselah, whose prescriptions seem to have been lost to posterity. Dr. Lloyd came back to Boston full of the teachings of Cheselden and Sharpe, William Hunter, Smellie, and Warner; Dr. James Jackson loved to tell of Mr. Cline and to talk of Mr. John Hunter; Dr. Reynolds would give you his recollections of Sir Astley Cooper and Mr. Abernethy; I have named the famous Frenchmen of my student days; Leyden, Edinburgh, London, Paris, were each in turn the Mecca of medical students, just as at the present day Vienna and Berlin are the centres where our young men crowd for instruction. These also must sooner or later yield their precedence and pass the torch they hold to other hands. Where shall it next flame at the head of the long procession? Shall it find its old place on the shores of the Gulf of Salerno, or shall it mingle its rays with the northern aurora up among the fiords of Norway,--or shall it be borne across the Atlantic and reach the banks of the Charles, where Agassiz and Wyman have taught, where Hagen still teaches, glowing like his own Lampyris splendidula, with enthusiasm, where the first of American botanists and the ablest of American surgeons are still counted in the roll of honor of our great University?
Let me add a few words which shall not be other than cheerful, as I bid farewell to this edifice which I have known so long. I am grateful to the roof which has sheltered me, to the floors which have sustained me, though I have thought it safest always to abstain from anything like eloquence, lest a burst of too emphatic applause might land my class and myself in the cellar of the collapsing structure, and bury us in the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. I have helped to wear these stairs into hollows,--stairs which I trod when they were smooth and level, fresh from the plane. There are just thirty- two of them, as there were five and thirty years ago, but they are steeper and harder to climb, it seems to me, than they were then. I remember that in the early youth of this building, the late Dr. John K. Mitchell, father of our famous Dr. Weir Mitchell, said to me as we came out of the Demonstrator's room, that some day or other a whole class would go heels over head down this graded precipice, like the herd told of in Scripture story. This has never happened as yet; I trust it never will. I have never been proud of the apartment beneath the seats, in which my preparations for lecture were made. But I chose it because I could have it to myself, and I resign it, with a wish that it were more worthy of regret, into the hands of my successor, with my parting benediction. Within its twilight precincts I have often prayed for light, like Ajax, for the daylight found scanty entrance, and the gaslight never illuminated its dark recesses. May it prove to him who comes after me like the cave of the Sibyl, out of the gloomy depths of which came the oracles which shone with the rays of truth and wisdom!
This temple of learning is not surrounded by the mansions of the great and the wealthy. No stately avenues lead up to its facades and porticoes. I have sometimes felt, when convoying a distinguished stranger through its precincts to its door, that he might question whether star-eyed Science had not missed her way when she found herself in this not too attractive locality. I cannot regret that we--you, I should say--are soon to migrate to a more favored region, and carry on your work as teachers and as learners in ampler halls and under far more favorable conditions.
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