A physiological laboratory of to-day is equipped with instruments of research of such ingenious contrivance, such elaborate construction, that one might suppose himself in a workshop where some exquisite fabric was to be wrought, such as Queens love to wear, and Kings do not always love to pay for. They are, indeed, weaving a charmed web, for these are the looms from which comes the knowledge that clothes the nakedness of the intellect. Here are the mills that grind food for its hunger, and "is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
But while many of the sciences have so changed that the teachers of the past would hardly know them, it has not been so with the branch I teach, or, rather, with that division of it which is chiefly taught in this amphitheatre. General anatomy, or histology, on the other hand, is almost all new; it has grown up, mainly, since I began my medical studies. I never saw a compound microscope during my years of study in Paris. Individuals had begun to use the instrument, but I never heard it alluded to by either Professors or students. In descriptive anatomy I have found little to unlearn, and not a great deal that was both new and important to learn. Trifling additions are made from year to year, not to be despised and not to be overvalued. Some of the older anatomical works are still admirable, some of the newer ones very much the contrary. I have had recent anatomical plates brought me for inspection, and I have actually button-holed the book-agent, a being commonly as hard to get rid of as the tar-baby in the negro legend, that I might put him to shame with the imperial illustrations of the bones and muscles in the great folio of Albinus, published in 1747, and the unapproached figures of the lymphatic system of Mascagni, now within a very few years of a century old, and still copied, or, rather, pretended to be copied, in the most recent works on anatomy.
I am afraid that it is a good plan to get rid of old Professors, and I am thankful to hear that there is a movement for making provision for those who are left in need when they lose their offices and their salaries. I remember one of our ancient Cambridge Doctors once asked me to get into his rickety chaise, and said to me, half humorously, half sadly, that he was like an old horse,--they had taken off his saddle and turned him out to pasture. I fear the grass was pretty short where that old servant of the public found himself grazing. If I myself needed an apology for holding my office so long, I should find it in the fact that human anatomy is much the same study that it was in the days of Vesalius and Fallopius, and that the greater part of my teaching was of such a nature that it could never become antiquated.
Let me begin with my first experience as a medical student. I had come from the lessons of Judge Story and Mr. Ashmun in the Law School at Cambridge. I had been busy, more or less, with the pages of Blackstone and Chitty, and other text-books of the first year of legal study. More or less, I say, but I am afraid it was less rather than more. For during that year I first tasted the intoxicating pleasure of authorship. A college periodical, conducted by friends of mine, still undergraduates, tempted me into print, and there is no form of lead-poisoning which more rapidly and thoroughly pervades the blood and bones and marrow than that which reaches the young author through mental contact with type-metal. Qui a bu, boira,--he who has once been a drinker will drink again, says the French proverb. So the man or woman who has tasted type is sure to return to his old indulgence sooner or later. In that fatal year I had my first attack of authors' lead-poisoning, and I have never got quite rid of it from that day to this. But for that I might have applied myself more diligently to my legal studies, and carried a green bag in place of a stethoscope and a thermometer up to the present day.
What determined me to give up Law and apply myself to Medicine I can hardly say, but I had from the first looked upon that year's study as an experiment. At any rate, I made the change, and soon found myself introduced to new scenes and new companionships.
I can scarcely credit my memory when I recall the first impressions produced upon me by sights afterwards become so familiar that they could no more disturb a pulse-beat than the commonest of every-day experiences. The skeleton, hung aloft like a gibbeted criminal, looked grimly at me as I entered the room devoted to the students of the school I had joined, just as the fleshless figure of Time, with the hour-glass and scythe, used to glare upon me in my childhood from the "New England Primer." The white faces in the beds at the Hospital found their reflection in my own cheeks, which lost their color as I looked upon them. All this had to pass away in a little time; I had chosen my profession, and must meet its painful and repulsive aspects until they lost their power over my sensibilities.
The private medical school which I had joined was one established by Dr. James Jackson, Dr. Walter Channing, Dr. John Ware, Dr. Winslow Lewis, and Dr. George W. Otis. Of the first three gentlemen I have either spoken elsewhere or may find occasion to speak hereafter. The two younger members of this association of teachers were both graduates of our University, one of the year 1819, the other of 1818.
Dr. Lewis was a great favorite with students. He was a man of very lively temperament, fond of old books and young people, open-hearted, free-spoken, an enthusiast in teaching, and especially at home in that apartment of the temple of science where nature is seen in undress, the anthropotomic laboratory, known to common speech as the dissecting-room. He had that quality which is the special gift of the man born for a teacher,--the power of exciting an interest in that which he taught. While he was present the apartment I speak of was the sunniest of studios in spite of its mortuary spectacles. Of the students I met there I best remember James Jackson, Junior, full of zeal and playful as a boy, a young man whose early death was a calamity to the profession of which he promised to be a chief ornament; the late Reverend J. S. C. Greene, who, as the prefix to his name signifies, afterwards changed his profession, but one of whose dissections I remember looking upon with admiration; and my friend Mr. Charles Amory, as we call him, Dr. Charles Amory, as he is entitled to be called, then, as now and always, a favorite with all about him. He had come to us from the schools of Germany, and brought with him recollections of the teachings of Blumenbach and the elder Langenbeck, father of him whose portrait hangs in our Museum. Dr. Lewis was our companion as well as our teacher. A good demonstrator is,--I will not say as important as a good Professor in the teaching of Anatomy, because I am not sure that he is not more important. He comes into direct personal relations with the students,--he is one of them, in fact, as the Professor cannot be from the nature of his duties. The Professor's chair is an insulating stool, so to speak; his age, his knowledge, real or supposed, his official station, are like the glass legs which support the electrician's piece of furniture, and cut it off from the common currents of the floor upon which it stands. Dr. Lewis enjoyed teaching and made his students enjoy being taught. He delighted in those anatomical conundrums to answer which keeps the student's eyes open and his wits awake. He was happy as he dexterously performed the tour de maitre of the old barber-surgeons, or applied the spica bandage and taught his scholars to do it, so neatly and symmetrically that the aesthetic missionary from the older centre of civilization would bend over it in blissful contemplation, as if it were a sunflower. Dr. Lewis had many other tastes, and was a favorite, not only with students, but in a wide circle, professional, antiquarian, masonic, and social.
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