Page images
PDF
EPUB

is no wonder, therefore, that on such a difficult subject, Dr. Hoffman's system was imperfect and incorrect, and has had less influence on the writings and practice of physicians since his time than might have been expected. He himself has not applied his fundamental doctrine so extensively as he might have done; and he has everywhere intermixed an humoral pathology, as incorrect and hypothetical as any other. Though he differed from his colleague Dr. Stahl, in the fundamental doctrines of his system, it is but too evident that he was very much infected with the Stahlian doctrines of Plethora and Cacochymy, as may be ob served throughout the whole course of his work; and particularly in his chapter De morborum generatione ex nimia sanguinis quantitate et humorum impuritate.

But it is needless for me to dwell any longer upon the system of Hoffman: and I am next to offer some remarks on the system of Dr. Boer. haave, the contemporary of both the other systematics, and who, over all Europe, and especially in this part of the world, gained higher reputation than either of the others.

Dr. BOERHAAVE was a man of general erudition; and, in applying to medicine, he had carefully studied the auxiliary branches of anatomy, chemistry, and botany, so that he excelled in

each, In forming a system of physic, he seems to have studied diligently all the several writings of both ancient and modern physicians; and, without prejudice in favour of any former systems, he endeavoured to be a candid and genuine eclectic, Possessed of an excellent systematic genius, he gave a system superior to any that had ever before appeared. As in the great extent, and seemingly perfect consistency, of system, he appeared to im. prove and refine upon every thing that had before been offered, and as in his lectures he explained his doctrines with great clearness and elegance, he soon acquired a very high reputation, and his system was more generally received than any former had been since the time of Galen, Whoever will consider the merits of Dr. Boerhaave, and can compare his system with that of former writers, must acknowledge that he was very justly esteemed, and gave a system which was at that ţime deservedly valued,

But, in the progress of an inquisitive and in, dustrious age, it was not to be expected that any system should last so long as Boerhaave's has done, The elaborate commentary of Van Swieten on Boerhaave's system of practice, has been only finished a few years ago ; and though this commentator has added many facts, and made some corrections, he has not, except in the particular mentioned above, made any improvement in the general system. It is even surprising, that Boerhaave himself, though he lived near forty years after he had first formed his system, had hardly, in all that time, made any corrections of it, or additions to it: the following is the most remarkable. In aphorism 755, the words forte et nervosi, tam cerebri quam cerebelli cordi destinati inertia, did not appear in any edition before the fourth; and what a difference of system this points at, every physician must perceive.

· When I first applied to the study of physic, Į learned only the system of Boerhaave; and even when I came to take a professor's chair in this university, I found that system here in its entire and full force; and as I believe it still subsists in credit elsewhere, and that no other system of reputation has been yet offered to the world, I think it necessary for me to point out particularly the imperfections and deficiencies of the Boerhaavian system, in order to shew the propriety and necessity of attempting a new one.

To execute this, however, so fully as I might, would lead me into a detail that can hardly be admitted of here, and I hope it is not necessary, as - I think, that every intelligent person, who has ac

quired any tolerable knowledge of the present state of our scie::ce, must, in many instances, perceive its imperfections. I shall therefore touch only upon the great lines of this system ; and from the remarks I am to offer, trust that both the mistakes and deficiencies which run through the whole of his works will appear.

Dr. Boerhaave's treatise of the diseases of the simple solids, has the appearance of being very clear and consistent, and was certainly considered by him as a fundamental doctrine: but, in my apprchension, it is neither correct, nor extensively. applicable. Not to mention the useless, and perhaps erroneous, notion of the composition of earth and gluten ; nor his mistake concerning the structure of compound membranes; nor his inattention to the state of the cellular texture; all of them circumstances which render his doctrine imperfect; I shall insist only upon the whole being very little applicable to the explaining the phenomena of health or sickness. The laxity or rigidity of the simple solid does indeed take place at the different periods of life, and may, perhaps, upon other oc-, casions, occur as the cause of disease: but I presume, that the state of the simple solid is, upon few occasions, either changeable or actually changed; and that, in ninety-nine cases of an hundred, the phenomena attributed to such a change, do truly depend on the state of the solidum vivum ; a circumstance which Dr. Boerhaave has hardly taken notice of in any part of his works. How much this shews the deficiency and imperfection of his

system, I need not explain. The learned work of Dr. Gaubius, above referred to, as well as many other treatises of late authors, point out sufficientİy the defects and imperfections of Boerhaave on this subject.

After Dr. Boerhaave has considered the diseases of the solids, he, in the next place, attempts to explain the more simple diseases of the Suids, and there, indeed, he delivers a more correct doctrine of acid and alkali than had been given before: but, after all, he has done it very imperfectly. We have, indeed, since his time, acquired more knowledge upon the subject of digestion; and so much as to know, that a great deal more is yet necessary to enable us to understand in what manner the animal fluids are formed from the aliments taken in. And although Dr. Boerhaave has fallen into no considerable error with respect to a morbid acidity in the stomach, he could not possibly be complete upon that subject; and his notion of the effects of acidity in the mass of blood seems to have been entirely mistaken, and is indeed not consistent with what he himself has delivered else) where.

His doctrine of alkali is somewhat better found ed, but it is probably carried too far; and the state of alkalescency and putrefaction, as well as all the other changes which can take place in the

« PreviousContinue »