« PreviousContinue »
PHARMACOPEŻA COLLEGII REGALIS MEDICORUM LONDI.
NENSIS. MDCCCIX. London. 4to, pp. 237, ll. 45.; 12mo, pp. 216, 4s. Longman.
THE PHARMACOPEĽA OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF PHYSI.
CIANS OF LONDON. 1809. TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH, WITH NOTES; BY RICHARD POWELL, M.D. FELLOW OF THE COLLEGE, PHYSICIAN TO $T. BARTHOLOMEW'S AND THE MAGDALEN HOSPITALS. London, 1809. 8vo, pp. 518; one plate. 10s. 6d. Longman.
In a country which is distinguished by the universal concession of as much individual liberty as is consistent with the general safety, and in which all monopolies are discouraged, as tending to circumscribe the advantages of a fair competition; it might be questioned, whether it is necessary to lay any restraint on the unlimited disposal of that knowledge and skill, which has been, or is supposed to have been honourably purchased by study and experience : and, taken generally and abstractedly, it is probable that this question might be in speculation, as it usually has been in practice, decided in the negative. It requires, however, but very little consideration of the nature of the evidence, on which the celebrity of a practitioner of physic is founded, to be convinced, that it must be highly desirable to establish some more adequate cri. terion of his merit, than the vague and fallacious standard of bold profession or casual success. Hence, in all civilised countries, has arisen the custom of affording a public sanction to a regular education, by the grant of an academical diploma: and further testimonials have been required, in particular places, for conferring still higher distinctions on those, who wish to acquire a superior right to some peculiar local privileges. It is much to be regretted, that any of these tests should ever be rendered completely nugatory: and where the abuse is open and avowed, it really appears to be incumbent on that government, from which all authority flows, to apply the most obvious remedy. A very moderate annuity, paid to each of the lesser Scotch universities, would probably be a sufficient compensation, to induce them cheerfully to give up their right of conferring degrees on absentees, or on unqualified residents : and surely any reasonable sum would be most willingly allowed by the public of Great Britain, for a purpose in any manner connected with the general health, or with the honour of its guardians. A diploma, granted with proper restrictions, ought perhaps to be a sufficient authority for general practice : but a metropolis, in which the power of doing good and of doing harm is particularly extended, has a right to be distinguished by the exaction of some further tests of competency. Hence, additional examinations are very properly required : and, for the general regulation of the affairs of the profession, a society is formed, which is princi. pally, although not to the absolute exclusion of others, to consist of those who have graduated at one of the domestic universities. In this selection, there is nothing contrary either to the general principles of modified liberality, which pervade the constitution of this country, or to the established usages of other nations, in some of which the restrictions are still more positive and severe. The great mass of the profession is employed in applying to practice what has been learned from past experience: the particular objects of a college of physicians ought to be, to extend the bounds of medical knowledge in all its departments, and to support the dignity of the science and the general respectability of its professors; besides exercising a salutary control over the proceedings of medical practitioners in general. The conditions of admissibility into such a college ought to be very strictly defined, and punctually observed ; no qualifications, as ascertainable by examination only, can ever be sufficient to insure the exclusion of all improper persons: an education at an English university is reasonably to be expected, from one who is to stand in the first rank of his profession, in the capital of England: and such an education, when taken together with the studies necessary for undergoing the established examinations, has the peculiar advantage of requiring, that at least three or four years should have been devoted to those subordinate pursuits, which fortify, at the same time that they polish the mind, and which are as important to the cultivation of science as to the holding an elevated station in general society.
Such is the origin, and such the description of the body, which, in its corporate capacity, has lately made public the work which is now to be examined. Its individual members have been varied in a remarkable degree, since the publication of the former edition in 1787. Of the forty-two fellows then on the list, eleven only are surviving; and to these, forty-eight more have been added, besides four candidates. Of eightyseven licentiates, fifty-two have died; and one hundred and seventeen new licentiates have been received. The licentiates in midwifery were eight, and are now reduced to five, without the addition of any other names. Why licentiates in midwifery are not now admitted by the College of Physicians, the public has not been informed : there can be no doubt that the College is, or ought to be, competent to ascertain their merits; but there are probably some good reasons, for wishing that the practice of midwifery should in London, as well as in the country, be rather associated with the office of a surgeon than with the character of a physician. The extralicentiates, instead of twenty-nine, are become thirty-six, or rather thirtyfive, the first on the list having been dead for some time. Thus, in the space of twenty-two years, the whole number of practitioners, authorised by the College, has been increased from 158 to 255. For so great an augmentation, it is not easy to assign a reason perfectly satisfactory: probably the late enlargement of our military establishments has contributed as much to occasion it, as the progress of opulence and luxury,
which has thrown into every learned profession many individuals, who, in times of greater penury, would have been devoted to more mechanical, but less precarious employments.
Of a further revision of the Pharmacopæïa, and of the more or less literal adoption of a language now become familiar to chemists, the Colleges of Edinburgh and of Dublin, especially the former, had not long ago set the example. With a laudable alacrity in eagerly watching for all the information to be obtained from our neighbours on the continent, the members of these colleges have perhaps united a deference, somewhat too implicit, to their authority; and their publications bear, both in their form and in their substance, a little too much the appearance of preferring the dogmas of theory, which are often too hasty and general, to the more safe, though less brilliant inductions from individual experience, in the particular cases to be determined. The College of London has been somewhat more temperate in both these respects: but it is not impossible, that a little more reluctance in making alterations might have been at least justifiable. Notwithstanding the late wonderful improvements in chemical science, there is scarcely a single instance, in which any one of the refined discoveries, made since the publication of the last Pharmacopæïa, is in the remotest degree applicable to practical pharmacy.
In the new edition, the whole order and arrangement of the work is considerably altered and improved. It is difficult to say what method was proposed to be followed in the former edition: that of the present is well adapted to a chemical and pharmaceutical view of all the processes. The first chapter relates to weights and measures, the second to the materia medica: then follow the preparations in order : acids, alkalis, and alkaline salts, earths and earthy salts, sulfureous substances, metals and metallic salts. Most of these articles are substances comparatively simple, and as such more immediately belonging to chemistry: they are also principally derived from the mineral kingdom. Then follow vegetables, their oils, essences, waters, decoctions, infusions, mucilages, and extracts : next, the more compound aqueous mixtures, spirits, tinctures, ethereal preparations, wines, vinegars, honeys, and syrups: confections, powders, and pills, conclude this division. Animal substances are next; and, as connected with these, plasters, cerates, ointments, and liniments. The cataplasms, which are the last articles, might perhaps more properly have followed the other vegetable substances : perhaps also, the sulfurs should have been placed after the metallic salts; for they have no natural right to separate these from the earthy salts: and the decoctions might also have stood between the infusions and the mucilages..
The weights remain as before : the measures have been materially altered in their denominations and subdivisions. It has long been an irregularity, inconsistent with all just rules of scientific nomenclature, that two things, so distinct from each other as a pound and a pint, should in Latin be expressed by the same term ; and that a similar ambiguity should be extended to the ounce and the drachm. The pint, or the eighth part of a gallon, has now been very properly termed octarius: the ounce measure of a liquid has been called fluiduncia, and the drachm fluidrachma; words neither strikingly classical, nor so inelegant, as to be offensive, and which may, with equal propriety, be translated fluidounce and fluidrachm. The fluidrachm has been divided into sixty minima, or minims, nearly corresponding to the usual magnitude of drops of water; with an intimation, that the measurement of minims is intended wholly to supersede the custom of estimating small quantities of liquids by dropping them; and it is observed, that about twice as many drops of any tincture, as of water, are required for filling a given measuré.
It must be confessed, that the term minimum indicates a great poverty of invention : the same word was once used in music, to express the shortest note that was employed; but from the change of style, and of the mode of writing, this same note is now become