IN his wisely eloquent presidential address to the British Medical Association meeting at Cambridge Sir T. Clifford Allbutt struck many a nail on the head. He began with the claim that the universities, ancient and modern, from Alexandria to Edinburgh, have made the professions, and stated the university ambitions to be building up character, training in clear thinking, and imparting particular knowledge and experience. He confessed, however, that the new universities comnare ill with the old in nourishing the imagination. There is need to learn how to teach; there is need for simplification by more blending of details into larger principles; and there is need to beware of letting our teaching stiffen into formulas. Another point, refreshingly illustrated, was the debt of other sciences to medicine, for what impulses have come from medical studies to cytology, to organic chemistry, to bacteriology, and so on, up to philosophy, as the address itself shows. In medical research, as elsewhere, natural observation is yielding more and more to artificial experiment as investigation penetrates from the more superficial to the deeper processes. “The progress of medicine must in large part be endogenous.” “Mere observation—Nature's march past—willnot count for much now.; and as to family histories—well, they vary with each historian.” Once more Sir Clifford Allbutt made a plea for the study of the elements and phases of disease in animals and plants—a comparative pathology that would stir the imagination of young workers and save the world from a wastage as unnecessary as it is incalculable. “Yet no one stirs, save to gyrate each in his own little circle. There is no imagination, no organisation of research, no cross-light from school to school, no mutual enlightenment among investigators, no big outlook. … How blind we are !” After a very severe but timely criticism of psychotherapy—a criticism which is not marked, however, by any lack of appreciation of the fruitfulness of experimental psychology—Sir Clifford Allbutt closed with some discussion of the immediate problems of general practice and preventive medicine. There is inspiration in the whole address (see British Medical Journal, No. 3105, pp. 1–8), not least in its final glimpse of the possibilities before medicine as a social service and international bond.
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Medical Science and Education. Nature 105, 661 (1920). https://doi.org/10.1038/105661a0