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The Huxley Lecture—Recent Advances in Science and their Bearing on Medicine and Surgery: 1I

Nature volume 54, pages 580583 | Download Citation



WHEN fifty-four years ago the school of Charing Cross Hospital gathered itself together for its winter work, among the new comers was a pale-faced, dark-haired, livight-eyed lad, whose ways and works soon told his fellows that he was of no common mould. To-day I am about to attempt the fulfilment of the duty, which the authorities of the school have done me the honour to lay upon me, of delivering the first of the series of lectures which the school has wisely instituted to keep alive, in the minds of those to come, the great services which that lad's strenuous and brilliant life rendered to the healing art. The trust of the Huxley Lectureship provides that the lecturer shall dwell on recent advances in science, and their bearings on medicine and surgery. I venture to hope that I shall be considered as not really departing from the purpose of the trust, if I attempt to make this first lecture a sort of preface to the volume, or rather the volumes of lectures to come. And since a preface bears a different paging, and is written in a different fashion from that which it prefaces, I shall be so bold as, with your permission, to make the character of my lecture to-day different from what I suppose will be that of the lectures of my successors. It will, I imagine, be their duty to single out on each occasion some new important advance in science, and show in detail its bearings on the art of medicine. Each succeeding lecturer will, in turn, be limited in the choice of his subject, and so assisted in his task by the choice of his predecessors. I to-day have no such aid. It seems fitting that, for the purposes of this initial lecture, the word “recent” should be so used as to go back as far as the days of Huxley's studentship. If it be so used, I am brought to face advances in science affecting medicine and surgery, so numerous and so momentous that any adequate treatment of them as a whole would far exceed not only the time at my disposal, but also, what is more, my powers to treat and your patience to hear. I will not dare so hopeless a task. Nor will I attempt to select what may be deemed, or what may appear to me, the most important of these advances, and expound the bearings on medicine of these alone. I venture to hope I shall best fulfil the duty laid upon me, and meet with your approval, if I single out and dwell on one or two general themes suggested by the history of science during those fifty odd years.

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