Images de page

of the skeleton from the body of a prostitute by the process of boiling, by Rabbi Ishmael, a physician, at the close of the first century. He gives the number of bones as 252 instead of 232. The Talmudists knew the origin of the spinal cord at the foramen magnum and its form of termination; they described the æsophagus as being composed of two coats; they speak of the pleura as the double covering of the lungs; and mention the special coat of fat about the kidneys. They had made progress in obstetrics; described monstrosities and congenital deformities; practised version, evisceration, and Cæsarian section upon the dead and upon the living mother. A. H. Israels has clearly shown in his . Dissertatio Historico-Medica Inauguralis 'that Cæsarian section, according to the Talmud, was performed among the Jews with safety to mother and child. The surgery of the Talmud includes a knowledge of dislocation of the thigh bone, contusions of the skull, perforation of the lungs, csophagus, stomach, small intestines, and gall bladder; wounds of the spinal cord, windpipe, of fractures of the ribs, etc. They described imperforate anus and how it was to be relieved by operation. Chanina Ben Chania inserted natural and wooden teeth as early as the second century, C. E."

There is a famous summing up of the possibilities of life and happiness in the Talmud that has been often quoted—its possible wanting in gallantry being set down to the times in which it was written. “ Life is compatible with any disease, provided the bowels remain open; any kind of pain, provided the heart remain unaffected; any kind of uneasiness, provided the head is not attacked; all manner of evils, except it be a bad woman.”

There are many other interesting suggestions in

the Talmud. Sometimes they have come to be generally accepted in the modern time, sometimes they are only curious notions that have not, however, lost all their interest. The crucial incision for carbuncle is a typical example of the first class and the suggestion of the removal of superfluous fat from within the abdomen or in the abdominal wall itself by operation is another. That they had some idea of the danger of sepsis may be gathered from the fact that they suspected iron surgical instruments and advised the use of others of less enduring character.

The Talmud itself was indeed a sort of encyclopedia in which was gathered knowledge of all kinds from many sources. It was not particularly a book of medicine, though it contains so many medical ideas. In many parts of it the authors' regard for science is emphatically expressed. Landau, in his “ History of Jewish Physicians,' closes his account of the Talmud with this paragraph:

“I conclude this brief review of Talmudic medicine with some reference to how high the worth of science was valued in this much misunderstood work. In one place we have the expression' occupation with science means more than sacrifice.' In another

science is more than priesthood and kingly dignity.'"

10f course there are many absurd things recommended in the Talmud. We cannot remind ourselves too often, however, that there have been absurd things at all times in medicine, and especially in therapeutics. It is curious how often some of these absurdities have repeated themselves. We are liable to think it very queer that men should have presumed, or somehow jumped to the conclusion, that portions of ani. mals might possess wonderful virtue for the healing of diseases of the corresponding special parts of man. We ourselves, however, within a

After all this of national tradition in medicine before and after Christ, it is only what we might quite naturally expect to find, that there is scarcely a century of the Middle Ages which does not contain at least one great Jewish physician and sometimes there are more. Many of these men made distinct contributions to medical science and their names have been held in high estimation ever since. Perhaps I should say that they were held in high estimation until that neglect of historical studies which characterized the eighteenth century developed, and that there has been a reawakening of interest in our time. We forget this curious decadence of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which did so much to obscure history and especially the history of the sciences. Fortunately the scholars of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries accomplished successfully the task of printing many of the books of these old-time physicians and secured their publication in magnificent editions. These were bought eagerly by scholars and libraries all over Europe

little more than a decade, had a phase of opotherapy-how much less absurd it seems under that high-sounding Greek term-that was apparently very learned in its scientific aspects yet quite as absurd as many phases of old-time therapy, as we look at it. We administered cardin for heart disease and nephrin for kidney trouble, cerebrin for insanity (save the mark !), and even prostate tissue for prostatism-and with reported good results! How many of us realize now that in this we were only repeating the absurdities, so often made fun of in old medicine, with regard to animal tissue and excrement therapeutics? The Talmud has many conclusions with regard to the symptoms of patients drawn from dreams; as, for instance, it is said to be a certain sign of sanguineous plethora when one dreams of the comb of a cock. One phase of our psycho-analysis in the modern time, however, has taken us back to an interpretation of dreams different of course from this, yet analogous enough to be quite striking.

in spite of the high price they commanded in that era of slow, laborious printing. The Renaissance exhibits some of its most admirable qualities in its reverence for these old workers in science and above all for the careful preparation by its scholars of the text of these first editions of old-time physicians. The works have often been thus literally preserved for us, for some of them at least would have disappeared among the vicissitudes of the intervening time, most of which was anything but favorable to the preservation of old-time works, no matter what their content or value.

During the second and third centuries of our era, while the Talmudic writings were taking shape, three great Jewish physicians came into prominence. The first of them, Chanina, was a contemporary of Galen. According to tradition, as we have said, he inserted both natural and artificial teeth before the close of the second century. The two others were Rab or Raw and Samuel. Rab has the distinction of having studied his anatomy from the human body. According to tradition he did not hesitate to spend large sums of money in order to procure subjects for dissection. At this time it is very doubtful whether Galen, though only of the preceding generation, ever had the opportunity to study more than animals or, at most, a few human bodies. Samuel, the third of the group, was an intimate friend of Rab's, perhaps a disciple, and his fame depends rather on his practice of medicine than of research in medical science. He was noted for his practical development of two specialties that cannot but seem to us rather distant from each other. His reputation as a skilful obstetrician was only surpassed by the estimation in which he was held as an oculist. He seems to have turned to astronomy as a hobby, and was highly honored for his knowledge of this science. Probably there is nothing commoner in the story of great Jewish physicians than their successful pursuit of some scientific subject as a hobby and reaching distinction in it. Their surplus intellectual energy needed an outlet besides their vocation, and they got a rest by turning to some other interest, often accomplishing excellent results in it. Like most great students with a hobby, the majority of them were long-lived. Their lives are a lesson to a generation that fears intellectual overwork.

During the fourth century we have a number of very interesting traditions with regard to a great Jewish physician, Abba Oumna, to whom patients flocked from all over the world. He seems particularly to have been anxious to make his services available to the scholars of his time. He looked upon them as brothers in spirit, fellow-laborers whose investigations were as important as his own and whose labors for mankind he hoped to extend by the helpfulness of his profession. In order that it might be easy for them to come to him without feeling abashed by their poverty, and yet so that they might pay him anything that they thought they were able to, he hung up a box in his anteroom in which each patient might deposit whatever he felt able to give. His kindliness towards men became the foundation for many legends. Needless to say he was often imposed upon, but that seems to have made no difference to him, and he went on straightforwardly doing

8 that ind yet so without fear it might helpful

« PrécédentContinuer »