Physiology for Science Schools

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THE book before us belongs to a class which requires some apology for its existence. This particular work has been prepared for lay students intending to present themselves for the second or advanced stage of the Science and Art Department. It aims at being something more than a mere cram book, and in justification of this aim it professes “to furnish precise and accurate information on such parts of histology and anatomy as are required, as well as to give a reasoned account of the physiological processes of the human body.” For all this, however, the book belongs to a class to which exception may justly be taken. The writer appears to have depended almost entirely upon the existence of descriptive physiological works for his material. The result is that the book represents simply a compilation of physiological facts, and in no sense can it be described as a guide to physiological practice. The South Kensington examinations, both elementary and advanced, attempt, as far as their opportunities permit, to test the practical acquaintance of a candidate with the subject in which he presents himself for examination. This is very frequently found to be non-existent, and most usually the reason of this is that the teacher himself is not in a position to act as an instructor in the practical work of a subject he professes to teach. There exists a large number of books which give the minimum of the required amount of physiological fact necessary to impart to his pupils, and upon these alone he usually depends. This class of books gives the teacher no information as to the best way to demonstrate practically the facts he teaches, for the reason generally that the writers themselves are unacquainted with the methods. These books are the class which we would wish to see abolished from our elementary science schools; they are necessarily unreliable, and they always tempt the teacher who uses them to depend upon a wholly artificial knowledge of little practical value whatever. What advantage is it to a student to know that if fibrin be “placed in gastric juice and the mixture kept at a temperature of about 40° C… in about an hour the fibrin will be in great part dissolved ”? By itself this is simply a naked fact (though stated in the way the writer puts it, it can hardly be called a fact). The whole process could be shown the student in the most simple way on the lecture table, and unless he actually sees the change produced by the gastric juice, he can, as a rule, have but an imperfect idea of what really occurs.

Human Physiology.

By John Thornton (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1894.)

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