books



previous page: Civics and Health | by William H. Allen
  
page up: Health and Healing Books
  
next page: The Lady's Assistant: Family Physician | by P. Davey and B. Law

Medical Essays | by Oliver Wendell Holmes



This paper was written in a great heat and with passionate indignation. If I touched it at all I might trim its rhetorical exuberance, but I prefer to leave it all its original strength of expression. I could not, if I had tried, have disguised the feelings with which I regarded the attempt to put out of sight the frightful facts which I brought forward and the necessary conclusions to which they led.

TitleMedical Essays
AuthorOliver Wendell Holmes
PublisherThe Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
Year1842
Copyright1842, Oliver Wendell Holmes
AmazonMedical Essays
-Preface
The character of the opposition which some of these papers have met with suggests the inference that they contain really important, but unwelcome truths. Negatives multiplied into each other change th...
-A Second Preface
These Lectures and Essays are arranged in the order corresponding to the date of their delivery or publication. They must, of course, be read with a constant reference to these dates, by such as care ...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions
Homoeopathy has proved lucrative, and so long as it continues to be so will surely exist,--as surely as astrology, palmistry, and other methods of getting a living out of the weakness and credulity of...
-Currents And Counter-Currents
My attack on over-drugging brought out some hostile comments and treatment. Thirty years ago I expressed myself with more vivacity than I should show if I were writing on the same subjects today. Some...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions Introduction
[Two lectures delivered before the Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. 1842.] [When a physician attempts to convince a person, who has fallen into the Homoeopathic delusion, of the ...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I
I have selected four topics for this lecture, the first three of which I shall touch but slightly, the last more fully. They are 1. The Royal cure of the King's Evil, or Scrofula. 2. The Weapon Oint...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 2
Lord Bacon speaks of the Weapon Ointment, in his Natural History, as having in its favor the testimony of men of credit, though, in his own language, he himself as yet is not fully inclined to believ...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 3
'To Berkeley every virtue under heaven.' Even the discerning, fastidious, and turbulent Atterbury said, after an interview with him, 'So much understanding, so much knowledge, so much innocence, a...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 4
Dr. Elisha Perkins was born at Norwich, Connecticut, in the year 1740. He had practised his profession with a good local reputation for many years, when he fell upon a course of experiments, as it is...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 5
The Royal Society, that learned body which for ages has constituted the best tribunal to which Britain can appeal in questions of science, accepted Mr. Perkins's Tractors and the book written about th...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 6
I trust it will not be thought in any degree disrespectful to a profession which we all honor, that I have mentioned the great zeal of many clergymen in the cause of Perkinism. I hope, too, that I may...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 7
Next in order after the appeal to what were called facts, came a series of arguments, which have been so long bruised and battered round in the cause of every doctrine or pretension, new, monstrous, o...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture I. Part 8
As usual with these people, much indignation was expressed at any parallel between their particular doctrine and practice and those of their exploded predecessors. The motives, says the disintereste...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II
It may be thought that a direct attack upon the pretensions of Homoeopathy is an uncalled-for aggression upon an unoffending doctrine and its peaceful advocates. But a little inquiry will show that i...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 2
A grain of the powder is to be taken, a hundred drops of alcohol are to be poured on it, the vial is to be slowly turned for a few minutes, until the powder is dissolved, and two shakes are to be give...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 3
So far as I can learn from the conflicting statements made upon the subject, the following is the present condition of belief. 1. All of any note agree that the law Similia similibus is the only fund...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 4
A calculation nearly like the following was made by Dr. Panvini, and may be readily followed in its essential particulars by any one who chooses. For the first dilution it would take 100 drops of alc...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 5
And when one man claims to have established these three independent truths, which are about as remote from each other as the discovery of the law of gravitation, the invention of printing, and that of...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 6
This is a strange contradiction to the doctrine of the development of what they call dynamic power, by means of friction and subdivision. In 1835 a public challenge was offered to the best known Homo...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 7
Even if every word he had pretended to take from his old authorities were to be found in them, even if the authority of every one of these authors were beyond question, the looseness with which they a...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 8
I come now to the most directly practical point connected with the subject, namely,-What is the state of the evidence as to the efficacy of the proper Homoeopathic treatment in the cure of diseases. ...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 9
It is evidently impossible that I should attempt, within the compass of a single lecture, any detailed examination of the very numerous cases reported in the Homoeopathic Treatises and Journals. Havin...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 10
All the rest were cases of grave disease; and so far as the trial, which was interrupted about the fortieth day, extended, the patients grew worse, or received no benefit. A case is reported on the pa...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 11
But, in the face of all this, the following remarks are made by Wolff, of Dresden, whose essays, according to the editor of the Homoeopathic Examiner, represent the opinions of a large majority of ...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 12
And as to one more point, it is time that the public should fully understand that the common method of supporting barefaced imposture at the present day, both in Europe and in this country, consists i...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 13
Homoeopathy may be said, then, to be in a sufficiently miserable condition in Paris. Yet there lives, and there has lived for years, the illustrious Samuel Hahnemann, who himself assured my correspond...
-Homoeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions. Lecture II. Part 14
In the same year the Medical Committee of Paris spoke of vaccination in a public letter, as the most brilliant and most important discovery of the eighteenth century. The Directors of a Society for ...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever
Printed in 1843; reprinted with additions, 1855. The Point At Issue The Affirmative The disease known as Puerperal Fever is so far contagious as to be frequently carried from patient to patient by...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 2
To the MEDICAL STUDENTS, into whose hands this Essay may fall, some words of introduction may be appropriate, and perhaps, to a small number of them, necessary. There are some among them who, from you...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 3
I will take it for granted that they have so far counterpoised the depreciating language of my fellow-countryman and fellow-teacher as to gain me a reader here and there among the youthful class of st...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 4
It would seem as if the force of this argument could hardly fail to be seen, if it were granted that every one of these series of cases were so reported as to prove that there could have been no trans...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 5
To the six propositions in the 142d paragraph, and the remarks about specific diseases, the answer, if any is necessary, seems very simple. An inflammation of a serous membrane may give rise to sec...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 6
Why a grand jury should not bring in a bill against a physician who switches off a score of women one after the other along his private track, when he knows that there is a black gulf at the end of it...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 7
I am not sure that this paper will escape another remark which it might be wished were founded in justice. It may be said that the facts are too generally known and acknowledged to require any formal ...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 8
But his most terrible evidence is given in these words: I Arrived At That Certainty In The Matter, That I Could Venture To Foretell What Women Would Be Affected With The Disease, Upon Hearing By Wha...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 9
Dr. Blundell says, Those who have never made the experiment can have but a faint conception how difficult it is to obtain the exact truth respecting any occurrence in which feelings and interests are...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 10
Dr. Rutter, the practitioner referred to, observed that, after the occurrence of a number of cases of the disease in his practice, he had left the city and remained absent for a week, but on returnin...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 11
It is also mentioned in the same letter, that another physician had a case during the last summer and another last fall, both of which recovered. Another gentleman reports a case last December, a sec...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 12
All the cases that occurred in my practice took place between the 7th of May and the 17th of June 1842. They were not confined to any particular part of the city. The first two cases were patients ...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 13
I shall now mention a few instances in which the disease appears to have been conveyed by the process of direct inoculation. Dr. Campbell of Edinburgh states that in October, 1821, he assisted at the...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 14
Of about fifty cases of injuries of this kind, of various degrees of severity, which I have collected from different sources, at least twelve were instances of infection from puerperal peritonitis. So...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Part 15
The names of Gordon, John Clarke, Denman, Burns, Young, Hamilton, Haighton, Good, Waller; Blundell, Gooch, Ramsbotham, Douglas, Lee, Ingleby, Locock, Abercrombie, Alison; Travers, Rigby, and Watson, m...
-The Contagiousness Of Puerperal Fever. Additional References And Cases
Fifth Annual Report of the Registrar-General of England. 1843. Appendix. Letter from William Farr, Esq.--Several new series of cases are given in the Letter of Mr. Stows, contained in the Appendix to...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science
An Address delivered before the Massachusetts Medical Society, at the Annual Meeting, May 30, 1860. Facultate magis quam violentia. HIPPOCRATES. Our Annual Meeting never fails t...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 2
Observe the coincidences between certain great political and intellectual periods and the appearance of illustrious medical reformers and teachers. It was in the age of Pericles, of Socrates, of Plat...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 3
In this Society we have had the Hippocratic and the Themisonic side fairly represented. The treatise of one of your early Presidents on the Mercurial Treatment is familiar to my older listeners. Other...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 4
Another portion of the blame rests with the public itself, which insists on being poisoned. Somebody buys all the quack medicines that build palaces for the mushroom, say rather, the toadstool million...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 5
The practice of making a profit on the medicine ordered has been held up to reprobation by one at least of the orators who have preceded me. That the effect of this has been ruinous in English practic...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 6
Art can do something more than say this. It can sometimes reach the pebble or berry after it has been swallowed. But the great thing is to keep these things out of children's mouths, and as soon as th...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 7
Again, invalidism is the normal state of many organizations. It can be changed to disease, but never to absolute health by medicinal appliances. There are many ladies, ancient and recent, who are per...
-Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science. Part 8
I may, however, call your attention, briefly, to the singular fact, that English and American practitioners are apt to accuse French medical practice of inertness, and French surgical practice of unne...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Some Provinces Of Medical Science
An Introductory Lecture delivered before the Medical Class of Harvard University, November 6, 1861. [This Lecture appears as it would have been delivered had the time allowed been less strictly, limi...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 2
To return to the colder scientific aspect of chemistry. It has shown us how bodies stand affected to each other through an almost boundless range of combinations. It has given us a most ingenious theo...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 3
The doctrines of the convertibility or specific equivalence of the various forms of force, and of its conservation, which is its logical consequence, are very generally accepted, as I believe, at the ...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 4
The second new method of studying the human structure, beginning with the labors of Scarpa, Burns, and Colles, grew up principally during the first third of this century. It does not deal with organs,...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 5
But the great triumph of the microscope as applied to anatomy has been in the resolution of the organs and the tissues into their simple constituent anatomical elements. It has taken up general anatom...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 6
Let me briefly recapitulate a few of our acquisitions in Physiology, due in large measure to our new instruments and methods of research, and at the same time indicate the limits which form the perman...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 7
But there are other positive gains of a more practical character. Thus we are no longer permitted to place the seat of the living actions in the extreme vessels, which are only the carriers from which...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 8
In the investigation of the nervous system, anatomy and physiology have gone hand in hand. It is very singular that so important, and seemingly simple, a fact as the connection of the nerve-tubes, at ...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 9
Castor gaudet equis, ovo proanatus eodem Pugnis. Strike out the false pretensions of phrenology; call it anthropology; let it study man the individual in distinction from man the abstraction,...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 10
The microscope has achieved some of its greatest triumphs in teaching us the changes which occur in the development of the embryo. No more interesting discovery stands recorded in the voluminous liter...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 11
But when it comes to substances alien to the healthy system, which never belong to it as normal constituents, the case is very different. There is a presumption against putting lead or arsenic into th...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 12
I have been in relation successively with the English and American evacuant and alterative practice, in which calomel and antimony figured so largely that, as you may see in Dr. Jackson's last Letter...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 13
Thus the alien elements, those which do not properly enter into the composition of any living tissue, are the most to be suspected, --mercury, lead, antimony, silver, and the rest, for the reasons I h...
-Border Lines Of Knowledge In Medical Science. Part 14
I cannot help believing that medical curative treatment will by and by resolve itself in great measure into modifications of the food, swallowed and breathed, and of the natural stimuli, and that less...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching
An Introductory Lecture delivered before the Medical Class of Harvard University, November 6, 1867. The idea is entertained by some of our most sincere professional brethren, that to lengthen and mul...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 2
This general thought will be kept in view throughout my somewhat discursive address, which will begin with an imaginary clinical lesson from the lips of an historical personage, and close with the por...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 3
In the first dwelling they come to, a stout fellow is bellowing with colic. He will die, Master, of a surety, methinks, says the timid youth in a whisper. Nay, Luke, the Master answers, 't is b...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 4
I do not know how the remarks of the image-breaker may strike others, but I feel that they put me on my defence with regard to much of my teaching. Some years ago I ventured to show in an introductor...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 5
This, then, is my view of scientific training as conducted in courses such as you are entering on. Up to a certain point I believe in set Lectures as excellent adjuncts to what is far more important, ...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 6
Again, the complaint is often heard that the native population is not increasing so rapidly as in former generations. The breeding and nursing period of American women is one of peculiar delicacy and ...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 7
Or these women who are hammering at the gates on which is written No admittance for the mothers of mankind, will by and by organize an institution, which starting from that skilful kind of nursing w...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 8
Dr. JAMES JACKSON, Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine in this University from 1812 to 1846, and whose name has been since retained on our rolls as Professor Emeritus, died on the 27th of...
-Scholastic And Bedside Teaching. Part 9
When it came to the non-naturals, as he would sometimes call them, after the old physicians,--namely, air, meat and drink, sleep and watching, motion and rest, the retentions and excretions, and the...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts
A Lecture of a Course by members of the Massachusetts Historical Society, delivered before the Lowell Institute, January 29, 1869. The medical history of eight generations, told in an hour, must be i...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 2
One of the most pressing needs of the early colonists must have been that of physicians and surgeons. In Mr. Savage's remarkable Genealogical Dictionary of the first settlers who came over before 1692...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 3
And how Content they were, says Cotton Mather, when an Honest Man, as I have heard, inviting his Friends to a Dish of Clams, at the Table gave Thanks to Heaven, who had given them to suck the abund...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 4
Dr. Clark is said to have received a diploma before he came, for skill in lithotomy. He loved horses, as a good many doctors do, and left a good property, as they all ought to do. His grave and noble ...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 5
I have before me, while writing, a manuscript collection of the medical cases treated by him, and recorded at the time in his own hand, which has been intrusted to me by our President, his descendant....
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 6
These inherited prescriptions are often treasured in families, I do not doubt, for many generations. When I was yet of trivial age, and suffering occasionally, as many children do, from what one of my...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 7
There is a famous law-case of James the First's time, in which a goldsmith sold a hundred pounds' worth of what he called bezoar, which was proved to be false, and the purchaser got a verdict against ...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 8
During the memorable century which bred and bore the Revolution, the medical profession gave great names to our history. But John Brooks belonged to the State, and Joseph Warren belongs to the country...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 9
The present century has seen the establishment of all those great charitable institutions for the cure of diseases of the body and of the mind, which our State and our city have a right to consider as...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 10
Wiseman, the great surgeon, was discoursing eloquently on the efficacy of the royal touch in scrofula. The founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, consorting with alchemists and astrologers, was tr...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 11
The divine takes precedence of the physician in this extraordinary production. He begins by preaching a sermon at his unfortunate patient. Having thrown him into a cold sweat by his spiritual sudorif...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 12
But the profession of medicine never could reach its full development until it became entirely separated from that of divinity. The spiritual guide, the consoler in affliction, the confessor who is ad...
-The Medical Profession In Massachusetts. Part 13
I turn from this less pleasing aspect of the common intelligence which renders such follies possible, to close the honorable record of the medical profession in this, our ancient Commonwealth. We hav...
-The Young Practitioner
[A Valedictory Address delivered to the Graduating Class of the Bellevue Hospital College, March 2, 1871.] The occasion which calls us together reminds us not a little of that other ceremony which un...
-The Young Practitioner. Part 2
You will not accuse me of underrating your accomplishments. You know what to do for a child in a fit, for an alderman in an apoplexy, for a girl that has fainted, for a woman in hysterics, for a leg t...
-The Young Practitioner. Part 3
This is the way it happens: Every grown-up person has either been ill himself or had a friend suffer from illness, from which he has recovered. Every sick person has done something or other by somebo...
-The Young Practitioner. Part 4
A certain amount of natural ability is requisite to make you a good physician, but by no means that disproportionate development of some special faculty which goes by the name of genius. A just balanc...
-The Young Practitioner. Part 5
We had a physician in our city whose smile was commonly reckoned as being worth five thousand dollars a year to him, in the days, too, of moderate incomes. You cannot put on such a smile as that any m...
-The Young Practitioner. Part 6
Let me return once more to the young graduate. Your relations to your professional brethren may be a source of lifelong happiness and growth in knowledge and character, or they may make you wretched a...
-Medical Libraries
[Dedicatory Address at the opening of the Medical Library in Boston, December 3, 1878.] It is my appointed task, my honorable privilege, this evening, to speak of what has been done by others. No one...
-Medical Libraries. Part 2
Now there has come a great change in our time over the form in which living thought presents itself. The first printed books,--the incunabula,--were inclosed in boards of solid oak, with brazen clasps...
-Medical Libraries. Part 3
Arranged, bound, indexed, all these at once become accessible and valuable. I will take the first instance which happens to suggest itself. How many who know all about osteoblasts and the experiments ...
-Medical Libraries. Part 4
We need in this country not only the scholar, but the virtuoso, who hoards the treasures which he loves, it may be chiefly for their rarity and because others who know more than he does of their value...
-Medical Libraries. Part 5
I would extend the hospitality of these shelves to a class of works which we are in the habit of considering as being outside of the pale of medical science, properly so called, and sometimes of coupl...
-Some Of My Early Teachers
[A Farewell Address to the Medical School of Harvard University, November 28, 1882.] I had intended that the recitation of Friday last should be followed by a few parting words to my class and any fr...
-Some Of My Early Teachers. Part 2
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...
-Some Of My Early Teachers. Part 3
As for Lisfranc, I can say little more of him than that he was a great drawer of blood and hewer of members. I remember his ordering a wholesale bleeding of his patients, right and left, whatever migh...
-Some Of My Early Teachers. Part 4
But what Louis did was this: he showed by a strict analysis of numerous cases that bleeding did not strangle,--jugulate was the word then used,--acute diseases, more especially pneumonia. This was not...
-Some Of My Early Teachers. Part 5
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 an...
-Appendum. Notes To The Address On Currents And Counter Currents In Medical Science
Some passages contained in the original manuscript of the Address, and omitted in the delivery on account of its length, are restored in the text or incorporated with these Notes. NOTE A.-There is go...









TOP
previous page: Civics and Health | by William H. Allen
  
page up: Health and Healing Books
  
next page: The Lady's Assistant: Family Physician | by P. Davey and B. Law