Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

As to the questions of American manufactures and the nations that use them, we can safely refer to the reports of our Chamber of Commerce for a satisfactory answer. American science has no need to be ashamed of its Henry and its Morse, its Bache, Peirce, Newcomb, Draper, Marslı, Dana, Gray, Hall, and its adopted Agassiz. Nor has the Anerican Journal of Science anything to fear by comparison with its European contemporaries.

But to the question, “ What does the world yet owe to American physicians and surgeons ?” we would venture a more full reply, although time will not permit us to revert to more than a few of our professional achievements.

First among the greatest boons ever conferred upon suffering humanity stands“ anesthesia,” an American suggestion, and one that immortalizes the name of Morton. Who can ever estimate the value of this discovery, or who can accurately describe the contrast between the fornier agory necessarily endured in many surgical operations, and the present absolute oblivion of all pain, the happy, tranquil, undisturbed sleep while the fleshi quivers under the knife? When we contemplate the millions of human beings on the earth, and consider the fact that at every moment of time, in some part of the civilized world, hundreds, if not thousands, are receiving the benefits of this great discovery, the mind becomes overawed at the magnitude of the blessing, and even imagination fails to comprehend fully its benetits.

Ovariotomy, another American contribution to the medical profession, has done probably as much toward saving life as any other surgical discovery in the nineteenth century. It was first practised, in 1809, on Mrs. Crawford, in Danville, Kentucky, by Dr. Ephraim McDowell. Although honestly and modestly reported, eight years afterward, in the Philadelphia Eclectic Repertory and Analytical Review, it still made no impression on the professional mind, but was received rather with derision and scorn until Dr. Atlee, in 1814, revived the operation, and by persevering effort, in spite of all opposition and the very general condemnation of his contemporaries, was enabled at last by his numerous brilliant successes to establish the operatiou on a permanent basis. At the present time it is acknowledged as the proper operation to perform, in certain cases, by every medical school in the civilized world. Dr. Peaslee says

that “in the United States and Great Britain alone, ovariotomy bas, within the last thirty years, directly contributed more than thirty thousand years of active life to woman, all of which would have been lost, had ovariotomy never been performed."

In Gynecology, the whole professional world cheerfully and gratefully acknowledges the original and invaluable contributions of Sims, Thomas, Emmet, Peaslee, Atlee, Kimball, Taylor, Pallen, Dunlap, Minor, and others in this department.

The new operation of Litholopaxy, which consists in the prompt and entire fragmentation of calculous material in the bladder, and the entire removal of the debris by aspiration through a tube passed by the urethra at a single sitting, first performed and describeil by Dr. Bigelow of Boston, is one of the grandest triumphs of modern surgery, and of which any American surgeon may well feel justly proud.

In conservative Surgery, we certainly compare most favourably with any other nation. In the mechanical treatment of dis. eases of the joints, by which means the patients are able to take free exercise in the open air during the whole progress of the disease, thus acquiring power to overcome the constitutional dyscrasia better than by any means heretofore employed, and, . when the disease has progressed beyond repair, then to perform the sub-periosteal exsection of the joint in such a manner as to leave the muscular attachments in their normal position, and by judicious after-treatment to restore them with but slight deformity and almost perfect power of motion,—these certainly are triumphs in surgery, of which the American profession may well be proud.

In the Lancet, of February 14, 1880, Roderick Maclaren, M.D., Surgeon to the Cumberland Infirmary, in his Presidential address to one of the branches of the British Medical Association, on “The Advances of Surgery during the past twenty years," says: “ No account of the recent progress in Surgery can justly omit the application of the principles of absolute rest to diseases of the vertebræ. It is done by inclosing the body in a plaster-of-Paris jacket. Though only introduced into this country about two years ago, it has established itself as an incontrovertible success.” This is another triumph for American Surgery, and is justly admitted not only in England, but in all parts of the civilized world.

When we contemplate the misery and suffering of the un

fortunate “hump-back," who, after years of torturing treatment, has for its termination only deformity or death; or, the patient with a bad lateral curvature, who, in addition to deformity, las for years suffered constant agony from the application of the cruel instruments of torture, intended for his relief but never successful, and compare his condition with that resulting from the present mode of treatment, which is void of all danger, perfectly painless in its application, allowing the freest exercise and enjoyment during its progress, always affording immediate relief even in cases that have passed beyond the hope of cure, —and in the majority of cases, when the treatment has been commenced at a proper time and judiciously carried out, terminating in a perfect result — frequently leaving no trace of deformity as an evidence of its previous existence,—we feel that American Surgery has a right to congratulate herself that she has contributed this great boou for the relief of human suffering.

In Laryngology, we can certainly claim Green as a pioneer, and we all know the censure he received, and the opposition he encountered: but the facts he then established are now acknowledged by the entire scientific world—and the improvements made in this department of Surgery by Cohen, Cutter, Bosworth, Elsberg, Lincoln, Lefferts, Robinson, and many others in this country, entitle us to rank with other nations.

Time will not permit us to refer to all our contributions in the different departments of medical and surgical science; but I have enumerated enough to justify the belief that if the distinguished author before referred to was now to write, he would express very different sentiments from those above quoted. Not content, however, with what we have already achieved, let us still press onward, and, accepting the motto of our great State, constantly cry “ Excelsior.”

METRIC SYSTEM.

It is the duty of this Association carefully to investigate every claim to improvement or advance in medical and surgical science; and, if such claim is found to be worthy of confidence, to lend such innovation or improvement the nioral influence of its support.

One of these innovations is the substitution of the “ Metric System of Weights and Measures” for our present uncertain

VOL. XXXI.-9

“ formula.” As medical science is not sectional, or even national, but universal, we certainly should adopt some nomenclature and modes of expression for weight, measure, and form, that would be the same in all languages, and among all nations of the civilized world. This is what the metric system proposes, and it seems to me that this Association should immediately recommend its adoption.

At the meeting of this Association in Buffalo, June 5, 1878, the following resolution was passed by the Section on Practice of Medicine, Materia Medica, and Physiology:

Resolved, That this Section, recognizing the value of the metric system for its uniform, international, indestructible, generally applicable, convenient, simple, sate, and scientific character, hereby recommends to all physicians the use of the same in their practice, and in their writings and teachings.”

The passage of a resolution, even by unanimous vote, does not always imply that those who have favored it will take active measures to have it carried out in practice. There are few, if any, who make themselves practically familiar with the metric system without perceiving its great superiority to all other systems of weights and measures already in use. system, however perfect in theory, can become practically of much value until it has become so well known to the public that little or no special instruction is needed by those who are intrusted with its application. The present objectionable methods of dispensing medicine have the great advantage of prestige of habit. To overthrow this, and to secure for the metric system the mere opportunity to become generally known, will require persistent effort on the part of its friends, aside from such concert of action as may be implied in the passage of resolutions.

To enter into a detailed discussion of the advantages to be gained by using the metric system, and of the difficulties to be overcome in discarding the oid, would necessitate a separate paper, rather than a mere section of an address. It will be possible only to indicate very briefly sonie of the salient points that mark the new system, and to show what has been its success already when imposed by authority in hospital service. At the outset it may be observed that physicians are not put to the necessity of learning the entire terminology of the metric system, simple as this may be. The only unit of volume to be

But no

remembered is the cubic centimetre, occupying the space of a gaming die, or of a cube whose edge is about four-tenths of an inch. The only unit of weight is a gram, which is the weight of one cubic centimetre of pure water at its heaviest. Its English equivalent is a little over fifteen grains. It may be interesting to trace the relation of these units to others in use among physicists; to know, for example, that the length of the centimetre is a hundredth part of a metre, which in turn is the forty millionth part of the earth's circumference; but practically there is little or no necessity for the measurement of length or surface in the dispensing of medicine. The various prefixes, of Latin and Greek origin, which are regarded by many as too learned in sound to be accepted in place of the more familiar, but less simpie, English denominations now in use, will give no trouble to the physician, because he has no need to use them.

No one objects to either the name or the use of dollars and cents; and no one on this side of the Atlantic would be willing to give up our decimal mode of counting money for that of pounds, shillings, pence, and farthings, in which reduction from one denomination to another is a perpetual source of annoyance. By the simple change in position of a decimal point we are able, without the change of a single figure, to express the fortune of a millionaire in fractions of a cent. No one experiences any difficulty in forning an estimate, clearly and promptly, of the value expressed by a given number of dollars and decimals of a dollar; nor does any one think of reading the amount as so many eagles, dollars, dimes, cents, mills, and tenths of a mill. Though these denominations are given in the books, we have practically discarded all except dollars and cents, because these two are found sufficient for most purposes. In like manner, most of the denominations of the metric system will not be employed, because they are not wanted, and because the numerical relation between the few which remain in use is so very simple and easily remembered.

The reasoning which has been applied to the dollar in contrast with the British pound sterling, is equally applicable to the gram in contrast with the British ounce avoirdupois or ounce apothecaries'

. A pound avoirdupois is made up of sixteen ounces, each of which weighs four hundred and thirty-seven and a half grains, making seven thousand grains in all. A pound apothecaries' is made up of twelve ouuces, each of which

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »