Edinburgh Review,  1 (1802–03), 466–74.

Art.XX. [Review of Commentaries on the History and Cure of Diseases, by William Heberden]

[John Thomson] *



Publications reviewed:

Heberden 1802


Disease, Observation, Reason, Methodology, Quackery, Diet, Medical Treatment, Physiology, Gravity, Metaphysics, Progress

People mentioned:

William H Wollaston, Nicolas L Vauquelin, Antoine F de Fourcroy

    Observes: 'It seems now beginning to be understood, what indeed reason and example might have taught us long ago, that the science of medicine can only be improved by observation and experience, by attending to the animal body, both in health and disease, and tracing their general laws' (466). Discusses the different meanings of 'experience', stating that the 'term has been frequently misapplied' (467). Quotes from William Heberden the claim: 'the art of healing [...] has scarcely hitherto had any guide, but the flow of experience, and has yet made no illustrious advances by the help of reason: nor will it probably make any, till providence thinks fit to bless mankind, by sending into the world some superior genius, capable of contemplating the animated world with the sagacity shewn by Newton in the inanimate; and discovering that great principle of life, upon which its existence depends, and by which all its functions are governed and directed'. The reviewer comments: 'If no progress can be made in the art of healing, till another Newton arises to proclaim that great principle of life, and determine its laws, our expectations must surely be very hopeless. The discovery of Newton was not the discovery of a cause, but the generalization of a particular fact. [...] The questions concerning vitality, bear the same relation to the study of physiology, and the practice of medicine, as the metaphysical discussions concerning materiality, or immateriality of the soul, to the phenomena of the mind'. (474)

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