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Becoming a PhysicianMedical Education in Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, 1750-1945$
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Thomas Neville Bonner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195062984

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195062984.001.0001

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The Spread of Laboratory Teaching, 1850-1870

The Spread of Laboratory Teaching, 1850-1870

9 (p.231) The Spread of Laboratory Teaching, 1850-1870
Becoming a Physician

Thomas Neville Bonner

Oxford University Press

“I still see the narrow, long hallway in the university building,” reminisced Albert von Kölliker, . . . where Henle, for lack of another room for demonstrations, showed us and explained the simplest things, so awe inspiring in their novelty, with scarcely five or six microscopes: epithelia, skin scales, cilia cells, blood corpuscles, pus cells, semen, then teased-out preparations from muscles, ligaments, nerves, sections from cartilage, cuts of bones, etc. . . . Something of the excitement and sense of adventure conveyed to students by the early use of the microscope in teaching is reflectedin Kölliker’s words and those of other students of the 1830s and 1840s. But at that time, few students anywhere had had direct, personal experience in the use of the microscope or other laboratory instruments, and indeed not many teachers believed that such experience was important to the education of the average student of medicine. New improvements in the microscope in the late 1830s had made it feasible to consider using the instrument for teaching purposes, but what were its pedagogical advantages? Of what value was it at the bedside if a physician were skillful in using the microscope and could do simple chemical tests? No one questioned the advantages afforded by the new chemistry and physics to those who used them in research in a special workplace, now called the laboratory, but the “belief that practical experience [in a laboratory] was important for all students, not merely for a small elite” constituted the real pedagogical revolution in the teaching of medicine. Like the earlier shift to clinical teaching, the transition to laboratory teaching, including the use of the microscope, came slowly and sporadically, had roots in the immediate past, was justified by its practical uses, and was shaped by a variety of educational and political circumstances in each country. Just as some contemporaries as well as later admirers reified the French achievement in clinical teaching because of the simultaneous scientific advances and superb opportunities opened to students in the Paris hospitals, so the remarkable pedagogical opening and research achievements of the German laboratory were extravagantly admired by visitors and later writers alike.

Keywords:   Bavaria, Cannes, Ecole normale, Foreign students, Glasgow, Konigsberg, Lille, Paris

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