Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Friday, January 30, 2004

It’s been a while since I posted any lengthy quotations out of old books I have--I finally plumbed Everyone’s Writing Desk Book for all it had in it aside from the synonyms-antonyms-homonyms section. SO, I figured I would rummage through my other stuff and see what I could find.

I have a modern reprint here of a book entitled, Plain Concise, Practical Remarks on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures, by John Jones, MD. I purchased this from a wonderful place called the King’s Arms Press and Bindery, who specialize in reprints of 18th century publications and ephemera, with a particular focus on military and political treatises of the Revolutionary War period.

According to their website, the book I have is a copy of a “rare work of 113 pages printed in New York in 1776 and contains much detailed information of the treatment of wounds and fractures as well as hints on the design and use of military hospitals. Among the chapters included are, Penetrating Wounds of the Thorax and Abdomen, Of Simple Fractures, Of Compound Fractures, On Amputation, Of Gun-shot Wounds, &c.”

Believe it or not, it really is interesting (even with the chore of reading something full of “long esses” and ligatures). The discourse seems vigorously scientific on one hand, but the outcome of that supposed scientific knowledge points to a profound ignorance of the nature of disease--some of the treatments had not changed since Galen. Lots of bleedings and purgatives and minute observations of humourous imbalances, and biting upon rolled up cloths to alleviate pain during the more uncomfortable procedures.

Oftentimes, our modern stereotype of doctors during this time is that they were cruel men not far removed from pure quacks, but despite describing some rather grisly treatments, the overall tone of Dr. Jones’ book is nonetheless one of great kindness and compassion toward the suffering patient.

In the Introduction, Dr. Jones delves into his opinion of what becomes a good Surgeon--

[…] instead of attempting an idle panegyric upon the most useful of arts, permit me to point out to you some of the most essential duties and qualifications of a good Surgeon; the proper requisites of which respectable character, are only to be found in a liberal education, furthering every means of acquiring knowledge, which must be ripened by experience, and graced by the constant practice of attention, tenderness, and humanity. A judicious surgeon will always find his powers and abilities of assisting the wretched, proportionable to the time he has spent, and the pains he has bestowed in acquiring the proper knowledge of his profession. […]

Besides a competent acquaintance with the learned languages, which are to lay the foundation of every other acquisition; he must possess an accurate knowledge of the structure of the human body, acquired not only by attending anatomical lectures, but by frequent dissections of dead bodies with his own hands.--This practice cannot be too warmly recommended to the students of Surgery: It is from this source, and a knowledge of hydraulics, they must derive any adequate notions of the animal oeconomy or physiology. Chymistry and Materia Medica are very necessary to a right understanding of pharmacy or composition. [...]

But there must be a happiness, as well as an art, to complete the character of the great Surgeon.

He ought to have firm steady hands, and be able to use both alike; a strong clear sight and above all, a mind calm and intrepid, yet humane and compassionate, avoiding every appearance of terror and cruelty to his patients, amidst the most severe operations.

Sounds pretty good to me, even after 228 years.

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