Letter on Medical Education

Nature (August 1890)

[352] Prof. Huxley contributed to the Times of Tuesday a valuable letter on medical educaiton–the subject with which Dr. Wade had dealt in his Presidential address to the British Medical Association. In this letter Prof. Huxley urges that the scientific training of medical students, and of those who propose to [353] become medical students, should be much more thorough and exact than it has hitherto generally been. "Those who know what modern medicine is," he says, "are well aware that four years would be but a brief period of study, even if it could be allotted exclusively to the practical branches of the medical science and art. But in the present condition of middle-class education thé youth of 17 too commonly enters the medical school, not only devoid of the slightest tincture of scientific knowledge, but, what is worse, so completely habituated to learn only from books or oral teaching that the attempt to learn from things and to get his knowledge at first hand is something new and strange. Thus a large proportion of medical students spend much of their first year in learning how to learn, and when they have done that, in acquiring the preliminary scientific knowledge, with which, under any rational system of education, they would have come provided." Prof. Huxley does not, of course, underrate the importance of a proper literary training for medical students. This, with adequate instruction in science, they might, he thinks, obtain, if our methods of education were improved. The reform for which he especially pleads is that "the time wasted in forcing upon the medical student a sham acquaintance with Latin should be devoted to teaching him the use of his own language and the right enjoyment of its literary wealth, no less than to the study of science."


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University