Images de page

school was, however, almost entirely independent of ecclesiastical influence, and was besides largely responsible for this decree. It was felt that something had to be done to stop the evil that had arisen and the charlatanry and quackery which was being practised. This was, however, rather an attempt to regulate the practice of medicine and keep it in the hands of medical school graduates than an example of intolerance towards the Jews. Practically no Jews had graduated at its university, Montpellier being their favorite school, and Paris was not a little jealous of its rights to provide for physicians from the northern part of France. We have not got away from manifestations of that spirit even yet, as our non-reciprocating state medical laws show.

During the next quarter of a century decrees not unlike those of the University of Paris were issued in the south of France, especially in Provence and Avignon. Anyone who knows the conditions which existed in the south of France at this time with regard to medical practice will be aware that a number of attempts were made by the ecclesiastical authorities just at this time to regulate the practice of medicine. Great abuses had crept in. Almost anyone who wished could set up as a physician, and those who were least fitted were often best able to secure a large number of patients by their cleverness, their knowledge of men, and their smooth tongues. The bishops of various dioceses met, and issued decrees forbidding anyone from practising medicine unless he was a graduate of the medical school of the neighboring University of Montpellier. After a time it was


found that the greatest number of violators of these decrees were Jews. Accordingly special regulations were made against them. They happen to be ecclesiastical regulations, because no other authority at that time claimed the right to regulate medical education and the practice of medicine.

What is sure is that many Jewish physicians reached distinction under Christian as well as Arabian rulers at all times during the Middle Ages. It would be quite impossible in the limited space at command here to give any adequate mention of what was accomplished by these Jewish physicians, whose names we have scarcely been able to more than catalogue, nor of the place they hold in their times. As the physicians of rulers, their influence for culture and the cultivation of science was extensive, and as a rule they stood for what was best and highest in education. The story of one of them, who is generally known in the Christian world at least, Maimonides, given in some detail, may serve as a type of these Jewish physicians of the Middle Ages. He lived just before the flourishing period of university life in the thirteenth century brought about that wonderful development of medicine and surgery in the west of Europe that meant so much for the final centuries of the Middle Ages. His works influenced not a little the great thinkers and teachers whose own writings were to be the foundations of education for several centuries after their time. Maimonides was well known in the Western universities. Though his life had been mainly spent in the East, and he died there, there was scarcely a distinguished scholar of Europe who was not acquainted directly or indirectly with his works, and the greater the reputation of the scholar, as a rule, the more he knew of Maimonides, Moses iEgyptaeus, as he was called, and the more frequently he referred to his writings.



The life of one of the great Jewish physicians, who has come to be known in history as Maimonides, is of such significance in medical biography that he deserves to have a separate sketch. Born in Spain, his life was lived in the East, where his connection as royal physician with the great Sultan Saladin of Crusades fame made his influence widely felt. He is a type of the broadly educated man, conversant with the culture of his time and of the past, knowing much besides medicine, who has so often impressed himself deeply on medical practice. While the narrow specialists in each generation, the men who are quite sure that they are curing the special ills of men to which they devote themselves, have always felt that whatever of progress there was in any given time was due to them, they occupy but little space as a rule in the history of medicine. The men who loom large were the broad-minded, humanely sympathetic, deeply educated physicians, who treated men and their ills rather than their ills without due consideration of the individual, and who not only relieved the discomfort of their patients and greatly lessened human suffering, and added to the sum of human happiness in their time, but also left precious deeply significant lessons for succeeding generations of their profession. Hippocrates, Galen, Sydenham, Auenbrugger, Morgagni, these are representatives of this great class, and Maimonides must be considered one of them.

Moses Ben Maimum, whose Arabic name was Abu Amran Musa Ben Maimum Obaid Alla el-Cordovi, who was called by his Jewish compatriots Ramban or Rambam, was born at Cordova in Spain, on the 30th of March in 1135 or 1139, the year is in doubt. It might not seem of much import now after nearly eight centuries, but not a little ink is spilt over it yet by devoted biographers.

We are rather prone to think in our time that the conditions in which men were born and reared before what we are pleased to call modern times, and, above all, in the Middle Ages, must have made a distinct handicap for their intellectual development. Most of us are quite sure that the conditions in medieval cities were eminently unsuited for the stimulation of the intellect, for incentive to art impulse, for uplift in the intellectual life, or for any such broad interest in what has been so well called the humanities—the humanizing things that lift us above animal necessities—as would make for genuinely liberal education. We are likely to be set in the opinion that the environment of the growing youth of an old-time city, especially so early as the middle of the twelfth century, was poor and sordid. The cares of the citizens are presumed to have been mainly for material concerns, and, indeed, mostly for the wants of the body. They were only making a start on the way from barbarism to something like our glorious culmination of civilization. As " the

« PrécédentContinuer »