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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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Science and Medical Study: Early Nineteenth Century

Science and Medical Study: Early Nineteenth Century

5 (p.142) Science and Medical Study: Early Nineteenth Century
Becoming a Physician

Thomas Neville Bonner

Oxford University Press

The strong utilitarian impulse to make medical training more practical— the subject of the last chapter—coincided in time with a growing understanding of the human body. Indeed, the remarkable advances in anatomical knowledge of the eighteenth century were crucial to the adoption of the surgical model of teaching students in the nineteenth century. Medical educators now accepted without question the anatomical basis of disease and put increasing emphasis on anatomical studies and personal experience in dissecting the human body in their teaching. Whether in a university course, a hospital clinic, a school for practical physicians, a program for midwives, or private classes, by the early nineteenth century the study of anatomy, both theoretical and practical, was seen as the cornerstone of all medical teaching. It was by means of the study of anatomy and the routine performance of autopsy, the famed French clinicians taught, that a real understanding of disease could be ultimately gained. In their zeal to discover new means of diagnosing illness in the living body, they searched for ways to determine the presence of telltale lesions or faulty functioning in the body that were not visible to the human eye. To “see” inside the body, to “feel” the presence of disease, to hear the sounds of irregular function would enable the physician to understand the course of the disease before it was found at autopsy. If disease were local and lodged in the organs and tissues, as Morgagni and Bichat had demonstrated, then the new French technology of measurement, percussion, and auscultation would enable the physician to locate it and, conceivably, to arrest or extirpate it. The practical impulse in teaching and the new anatomical science of pathology thus worked together to create a new, more hopeful approach to the ancient riddle of how illness began, spread, and worked its mischief. The French achievement in creating a science of pathological anatomy out of the study of diseased tissue, declared the German clinician Karl Pfeufer, brought to medicine a “hitherto unknown sharpness of diagnosis.”

Keywords:   Bamberg, Chemistry, Dissection, Edinburgh, Magdeburg, New Orleans, Paris, Strasbourg

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