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think differently may discuss the question with Sir Isaac, and decide it as they please. Of this you may feel assured, that for the common pursuits of life common abilities, properly cultivated, are sufficient. And with regard to the strong tendency which some persons are said to evince towards particular studies and occupations, this, I believe, will in almost all cases be found to depend far less upon original mental temperament than upon accidental circumstances which have given the inclinations of the individual an especial direction, and induced him to devote to one kind of business the abilities and talents which with the same industry and perseverance would have found equal enjoyment and equal success in any other.
I think then, gentlemen, for the reasons I have stated, that you have no cause for apprehension and distrust in relation to your fitness for the business which you have undertaken. The student who is conscious of nothing that can impede his professional progress but the want of extraordinary genius, or the peculiar bent of that genius towards his profession, may justly entertain a comfortable assurance of suc
If you cultivate in the best manner the abilities which you possess, and apply them earnestly and patiently to the study of your profession, neither you nor that profession will have cause to regret the selection which you have made of your walk in life.
Not one of you
become so wise in science and so skilful in art as to be highly useful to the community. Not one of you but may become such as your profession will delight to honour, and be proud to rank high hereafter on the long catalogue of her true and honourable sons.
“If you cultivate in the best manner such abilities as you possess.” This brings me to an important part of the remarks which I propose to submit to your consideration. How are you to cultivate your minds in such a manner as will best fit
for your profession? How are you so to prosecute the study of Medicine as will most speedily, most certainly, and most thoroughly put you in possession of the science and the art which are its subjects ?
The answer to this inquiry is everywhere at hand; every one can supply it. You must use strenuously the common means,—books, lectures, demonstrations, clinical observations, which are every day employed by other students of medical science.
But are these the proper means, the most useful and effectual means, for the accomplishment of the end in view ? Are they the means best adapted to prepare you for your future business—to prepare you for the grave duties of a profession in which the lives and happiness of your fellow-men will so often be dependent on your knowledge and skill ?
To this I answer, that I am acquainted with no better means. The ingenuity and good sense of man
. kind, aided by long experience in many ages and many countries, appear to have not yet devised any that are better.
But you will please to observe, that however good and fit these means in themselves may be, their utility in any given case must depend very much upon the manner in which they are used. Like the remedies which it will in future be your business to administer, they are very useful if properly employed, and very useless or very pernicious if employed improperly.
The proper and improper modes of employing them, will be the subject of some of the ensuing lectures.
It is not the having within our reach the means of obtaining knowledge that can improve and enlighten our minds. We must make use of those means, or we shall live and die in ignorance; and we must use them skilfully and judiciously, or we shall fail to obtain from them all the help and benefit which they are capable of affording.
The means for acquiring medical knowledge are often employed, even where there is sufficiency of industry and patience, with such extreme lack of judgment that the result is a beggarly account of lost years, wasted labour, and disappointed hopes. They are often employed in such a manner that they serve only to enfeeble and prostrate the intellect, or to fill the mind with a farrago of false notions and erroneous opinions that are more worthless and more dangerous than the simple and primitive ignorance which they supplanted.
I shall proceed to notice some of the most common and most important of the errors to which students are liable in the use of those means, and to state the cautions which are necessary in order to avoid them.
How is it with regard to reading as one of the processes for acquiring medical knowledge? Is the method of reading to advantage generally understood by students, and generally practised? Or does it sometimes happen that this mode of study is so conducted as to be feeble or impotent to do good, and yet powerful to do mischief ?
Let us consider these questions; and I think we shall find that there are certain popular and grave errors in relation to this subject which are capable of being rectified, and which, if neglected, must necessarily impede and retard the progress of the student in the path of mental improvement.
Reading is undoubtedly one of the most useful means of gaining knowledge to which the student of Medicine, or the student of any other science, can resort. It imparts to the individual, to a certain degree, the benefit of the experience of a multitude of minds. It endows the short-lived being of a few fleeting and agitated years with the accumulated knowledge of many centuries. It puts him who has but little abi
. lity or opportunity for observation in possession of the rich stores collected by the most gifted and fortu