Science and Art of Medicine


    THE appointment of Sir Lionel Whitby to the regius chair of physic at Cambridge marks, as Sir Lionel himself says in his inaugural lecture (“The Science and Art of Medicine.” Cambridge University Press, 1946. le. 6d. net), a departure from the traditions of this ancient office, which was founded in 1540. It is, Sir Lionel says, the first time that the chair has been held by a man who is primarily interested in the scientific rather than the clinical aspects of medicine. This may well be “an instinctive recognition of the importance of the scientific aspects of medicine, not forgetting that science is not all factual and itself contains much art”. Medicine, too, he says later on, is both a science and an art. It will, however, never be an exact science, because every person who is ill must be approached differently. “This, the frequently ridiculed bedside manner... is an art which is inborn and not acquired.” The science of medicine is nevertheless necessary ; and one of the attractions of the profession is the personal and individual character of its practice, which constitutes one of the strongest objections to its nationalization and standardization. To-day, we “do riot tend” to produce physicians as skilled and shrewd in diagnosis as those earlier workers who had to rely entirely on their personal observation; and the modern student, with so many scientific checks at his command, will do well to imitate his forbears more closely by "carefully orientating his cases before demanding wholesale laboratory work".

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article

    Cite this article

    Science and Art of Medicine. Nature 157, 508 (1946).

    Download citation


    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.