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Science & Education by Thomas H. Huxley

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the course of the last twenty years, and are improving. What we do not
know is that the complicated scheme of the divisional boards will ever
be got to work at all.

My own belief is that every necessary reform may be effected, without
any interference with vested interests, without any unjust interference
with the prestige of institutions which have been, and still are,
extremely valuable, without any question of compensation arising, and
by an extremely simple operation. It is only necessary in fact to add a
couple of clauses to the Medical Act to this effect: (1) That from and
after such a date no person shall be placed upon the Medical Register
unless he possesses the threefold qualification. (2) That from and
after this date no examination shall be accepted as satisfactory
from any licensing body except such as has been carried on in part
by examiners appointed by the licensing body, and in part by
coadjutor-examiners of equal authority appointed by the Medical Council
or other central authority, and acting under their instructions.

In laying down a rule of this kind the State confiscates nothing, and
meddles with nobody, but simply acts within its undoubted right of
laying down the conditions under which it will confer certain
privileges upon medical practitioners. No one can say that the State
has not the right to do this; no one can say that the State interferes
with any private enterprise or corporate interest unjustly, in laying
down its own conditions for its own service. The plan would have the
further advantage that all those corporate bodies which have obtained
(as many of them have) a great and just prestige by the admirable way
in which they have done their work, would reap their just reward in the
thronging of students, thenceforward as formerly, to obtain their
qualifications; while those who have neglected their duties, who have
in some one or two cases, I am sorry to say, absolutely disgraced
themselves, would sink into oblivion, and come to a happy and natural
euthanasia, in which their misdeeds and themselves would be entirely

Two of my colleagues, Professor Turner and Mr. Bryce, M.P., whose
practical familiarity with examinations gave their opinions a high
value, expressed their substantial approval of this scheme, and I am
unable to see the weight of the objections urged against it. It is
urged that the difficulty and expense of adequately inspecting so many
examinations and of guaranteeing their efficiency would be great, and
the difficulty in the way of a fair adjustment of the representation of
existing interests and of the representation of new interests upon the
general Medical Council would be almost insuperable.

The latter objection is unintelligible to me. I am not aware that any
attempt at such adjustment has been fairly discussed, and until that
has been done it may be well not to talk about insuperable
difficulties. As to the notion that there is any difficulty in getting
the coadjutor-examiners, or that the expense will be overwhelming, we
have the experience of Scotland, in which every University does, at the
present time, appoint its coadjutor-examiners, who do their work just
in the way proposed.

Whether in the way I have proposed, or by the Conjoint Scheme, however,
this is perfectly certain: the two things I refer to have to be done:
you must have the threefold qualification; you must have the limitation
of the minimum qualification also; and any scheme for the improvement
of the relations of the State to medicine which does not profess to do
these two things thoroughly and well, has no chance of finality.

But when these reforms are witnessed, when there is a Medical Council
armed with a more real authority than it at present possesses; when a
license to practice cannot be obtained without the threefold
qualification; and when an even minimum of qualification is exacted for
every licence, is there anything else that remains that any one
seriously interested in the welfare of the medical profession, as I may
most conscientiously declare myself to be, would like to see done? I
think there are three things.

In the first place, even now, when a four years' curriculum is
required, the time allotted for medical education is too brief. A young
man of eighteen beginning to study medicine is probably absolutely
ignorant of the existence of such a thing as anatomy, or physiology, or
indeed of any branch of physical science. He comes into an entirely new
world; he addresses himself to a kind of work of which he has not the
smallest experience. Up to that time his work has been with books; he
rushes suddenly into work with things, which is as different from work
with books as anything can well be. I am quite sure that a very
considerable number of young men spend a very large portion of their
first session in simply learning how to learn subjects which are
entirely new to them. And yet recollect that in this period of four
years they have to acquire a knowledge of all the branches of a great
and responsible practical calling of medicine, surgery, obstetrics,
general pathology, medical jurisprudence, and so forth. Anybody who
knows what these things are, and who knows what is the kind of work
which is necessary to give a man the confidence which will enable him
to stand at the bedside and say to the satisfaction of his own
conscience what shall be done, and what shall not be done, must be
aware that if a man has only four years to do all that in he will not
have much time to spare. But that is not all. As I have said, the young
man comes up, probably ignorant of the existence of science; he has
never heard a word of chemistry, he has never heard a word of physics,
he has not the smallest conception of the outlines of biological
science; and all these things have to be learned as well and crammed
into the time which in itself is barely sufficient to acquire a fair
amount of that knowledge which is requisite for the satisfactory
discharge of his professional duties.

Therefore it is quite clear to me that, somehow or other, the
curriculum must be lightened. It is not that any of the subjects which
I have mentioned need not to be studied, and may be eliminated. The
only alternative therefore is to lengthen the time given to study.
Everybody will agree with me that the practical necessities of life in
this country are such that, for the average medical practitioner at any
rate, it is hopeless to think of extending the period of professional
study beyond the age of twenty-two. So that as the period of study
cannot be extended forwards, the only thing to be done is to extend it

The question is how this can be done. My own belief is that if the
Medical Council, instead of insisting upon that examination in general
education which I am sorry to say I believe to be entirely futile, were
to insist upon a knowledge of elementary physics, and chemistry, and
biology, they would be taking one of the greatest steps which at
present can be made for the improvement of medical education. And the
improvement would be this. The great majority of the young men who are
going into the profession have practically completed their general
education--or they might very well have done so--by the age of sixteen
or seventeen. If the interval between this age and that at which they
commence their purely medical studies were employed in obtaining a
practical acquaintance with elementary physics, chemistry, and biology,
in my judgment it would be as good as two years added to the course of
medical study. And for two reasons: in the first place, because the
subject-matter of that which they would learn is germane to their
future studies, and is so much gained; in the second place, because you
might clear out of the course of their professional study a great deal
which at present occupies time and attention; and last, but not
least--probably most--they would then come to their medical studies
prepared for that learning from Nature which is what they have to do in
the course of becoming skilful medical men, and for which at present
they are not in the slightest degree prepared by their previous

The second wish I have to express concerns London especially, and I may
speak of it briefly as a more economical use of the teaching power in
the medical schools. At this present time every great hospital in
London--and there are ten or eleven of them--has its complete medical
school, in which not only are the branches of practical medicine
taught, but also those studies in general science, such as chemistry,
elementary physics, general anatomy, and a variety of other topics
which are what used to be called (and the term was an extremely useful
one) the institutes of medicine. That was all very well half a century
ago; it is all very ill now, simply because those general branches of
science, such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physiological
chemistry, physiological physics, and so forth, have now become so
large, and the mode of teaching them is so completely altered, that it
is absolutely impossible for any man to be a thoroughly competent
teacher of them, or for any student to be effectually taught without
the devotion of the whole time of the person who is engaged in
teaching. I undertake to say that it is hopelessly impossible for any
man at the present time to keep abreast with the progress of physiology
unless he gives his whole mind to it; and the bigger the mind is, the
more scope he will find for its employment. Again, teaching has become,
and must become still more, practical, and that also involves a large
expenditure of time. But if a man is to give his whole time to my
business he must live by it, and the resources of the schools do not
permit them to maintain ten or eleven physiological specialists.

If the students in their first one or two years were taught the
institutes of medicine, in two or three central institutions, it would
be perfectly easy to have those subjects taught thoroughly and
effectually by persons who gave their whole mind and attention to the
subject; while at the same time the medical schools at the hospitals
would remain what they ought to be--great institutions in which the
largest possible opportunities are laid open for acquiring practical
acquaintance with the phenomena of disease. So that the preliminary or
earlier half of medical education would take place in the central
institutions, and the final half would be devoted altogether to
practical studies in the hospitals.

I happen to know that this conception has been entertained, not only by
myself, but by a great many of those persons who are most interested in
the improvement of medical study for a considerable number of years. I
do not know whether anything will come of it this half-century or not;
but the thing has to be done. It is not a speculative notion; it lies
patent to everybody who is accustomed to teaching, and knows what the
necessities of teaching are; and I should very much like to see the
first step taken--people making up their minds that it has to be done
somehow or other.

The last point to which I may advert is one which concerns the action
of the profession itself more than anything else. We have arrangements
for teaching, we have arrangements for the testing of qualifications,
we have marvellous aids and appliances for the treatment of disease in
all sorts of ways; but I do not find in London at the present time, in
this little place of four or five million inhabitants which supports so
many things, any organisation or any arrangement for advancing the
science of medicine, considered as a pure science. I am quite aware
that there are medical societies of various kinds; I am not ignorant of
the lectureships at the College of Physicians and the College of
Surgeons; there is the Brown Institute; and there is the Society for
the Advancement of Medicine by Research, but there is no means, so far
as I know, by which any person who has the inborn gifts of the
investigator and discoverer of new truth, and who desires to apply that
to the improvement of medical science, can carry out his intention. In
Paris there is the University of Paris, which gives degrees; but there
are also the Sorbonne and the Collége de France, places in which
professoriates are established for the express purpose of enabling men
who have the power of investigation, the power of advancing knowledge
and thereby reacting on practice, to do that which it is their special
mission to do. I do not know of anything of the kind in London; and if
it should so happen that a Claude Bernard or a Ludwig should turn up in
London, I really have not the slightest notion of what we could do with
him. We could not turn him to account, and I think we should have to
export him to Germany or France. I doubt whether that is a good or a
wise condition of things. I do not think it is a condition of things
which can exist for any great length of time, now that people are every
day becoming more and more awake to the importance of scientific
investigation and to the astounding and unexpected manner in which it
everywhere reacts upon practical pursuits. I should look upon the
establishment of some institution of that kind as a recognition on the
part of the medical profession in general, that if their great and
beneficent work is to be carried on, they must, like other people who
have great and beneficent work to do, contribute to the advancement of
knowledge in the only way in which experience shows that it can be

* * * * *


[1]The fees to be paid by candidates for admission to the examinations
of the Divisional Board should be of such an amount as will be
sufficient to cover the cost of the examinations and the other expenses
of the Divisional Board, _and also to provide the sum required to
compensate the medical authorities, or such of them as may be entitled
to compensation, for any pecuniary losses they may hereafter sustain by
reason of the abolition of their privilege of conferring a licence to
practise. Report_ 50, p. xii.




The great body of theoretical and practical knowledge which has been
accumulated by the labours of some eighty generations, since the dawn
of scientific thought in Europe, has no collective English name to
which an objection may not be raised; and I use the term "medicine" as
that which is least likely to be misunderstood; though, as every one
knows, the name is commonly applied, in a narrower sense, to one of the
chief divisions of the totality of medical science.

Taken in this broad sense, "medicine" not merely denotes a kind of
knowledge, but it comprehends the various applications of that
knowledge to the alleviation of the sufferings, the repair of the
injuries, and the conservation of the health, of living beings. In
fact, the practical aspect of medicine so far dominates over every
other, that the "Healing Art" is one of its most widely-received
synonyms. It is so difficult to think of medicine otherwise than as
something which is necessarily connected with curative treatment, that
we are apt to forget that there must be, and is, such a thing as a pure
science of medicine--a "pathology" which has no more necessary
subservience to practical ends than has zoology or botany.

The logical connection between this purely scientific doctrine of
disease, or pathology, and ordinary biology, is easily traced. Living
matter is characterised by its innate tendency to exhibit a definite
series of the morphological and physiological phenomena which
constitute organisation and life. Given a certain range of conditions,
and these phenomena remain the same, within narrow limits, for each
kind of living thing. They furnish the normal and typical character of
the species, and, as such, they are the subject-matter of ordinary

Outside the range of these conditions, the normal course of the cycle
of vital phenomena is disturbed; abnormal structure makes its
appearance, or the proper character and mutual adjustment of the
functions cease to be preserved. The extent and the importance of these
deviations from the typical life may vary indefinitely. They may have
no noticeable influence on the general well-being of the economy, or
they may favour it. On the other hand, they may be of such a nature as
to impede the activities of the organism, or even to involve its

In the first case, these perturbations are ranged under the wide and
somewhat vague category of "variations"; in the second, they are called
lesions, states of poisoning, or diseases; and, as morbid states, they
lie within the province of pathology. No sharp line of demarcation can
be drawn between the two classes of phenomena. No one can say where
anatomical variations end and tumours begin, nor where modification of
function, which may at first promote health, passes into disease. All
that can be said is, that whatever change of structure or function is
hurtful belongs to pathology. Hence it is obvious that pathology is a
branch of biology; it is the morphology, the physiology, the
distribution, the aetiology of abnormal life.

However obvious this conclusion may be now, it was nowise apparent in
the infancy of medicine. For it is a peculiarity of the physical
sciences that they are independent in proportion as they are imperfect;
and it is only as they advance that the bonds which really unite them
all become apparent. Astronomy had no manifest connection with
terrestrial physics before the publication of the "Principia"; that of
chemistry with physics is of still more modern revelation; that of
physics and chemistry with physiology, has been stoutly denied within
the recollection of most of us, and perhaps still may be.

Or, to take a case which affords a closer parallel with that of
medicine. Agriculture has been cultivated from the earliest times, and,
from a remote antiquity, men have attained considerable practical skill
in the cultivation of the useful plants, and have empirically
established many scientific truths concerning the conditions under
which they flourish. But, it is within the memory of many of us, that
chemistry on the one hand, and vegetable physiology on the other,
attained a stage of development such that they were able to furnish a
sound basis for scientific agriculture. Similarly, medicine took its
rise in the practical needs of mankind. At first, studied without
reference to any other branch of knowledge, it long maintained, indeed
still to some extent maintains, that independence. Historically, its
connection with the biological sciences has been slowly established,
and the full extent and intimacy of that connection are only now
beginning to be apparent. I trust I have not been mistaken in supposing
that an attempt to give a brief sketch of the steps by which a
philosophical necessity has become an historical reality, may not be
devoid of interest, possibly of instruction, to the members of this
great Congress, profoundly interested as all are in the scientific
development of medicine.

The history of medicine is more complete and fuller than that of any
other science, except, perhaps, astronomy; and, if we follow back the
long record as far as clear evidence lights us, we find ourselves taken
to the early stages of the civilisation of Greece. The oldest hospitals
were the temples of Aesculapius; to these Asclepeia, always erected on
healthy sites, hard by fresh springs and surrounded by shady groves,
the sick and the maimed resorted to seek the aid of the god of health.
Votive tablets or inscriptions recorded the symptoms, no less than the
gratitude, of those who were healed; and, from these primitive clinical
records, the half-priestly, half-philosophic caste of the Asclepiads
compiled the data upon which the earliest generalisations of medicine,
as an inductive science, were based.

In this state, pathology, like all the inductive sciences at their
origin, was merely natural history; it registered the phenomena of
disease, classified them, and ventured upon a prognosis, wherever the
observation of constant co-existences and sequences suggested a
rational expectation of the like recurrence under similar

Further than this it hardly went. In fact, in the then state of
knowledge, and in the condition of philosophical speculation at that
time, neither the causes of the morbid state, nor the _rationale_
of treatment, were likely to be sought for as we seek for them now. The
anger of a god was a sufficient reason for the existence of a malady,
and a dream ample warranty for therapeutic measures; that a physical
phenomenon must needs have a physical cause was not the implied or
expressed axiom that it is to us moderns.

The great man whose name is inseparably connected with the foundation
of medicine, Hippocrates, certainly knew very little, indeed
practically nothing, of anatomy or physiology; and he would, probably,
have been perplexed even to imagine the possibility of a connection
between the zoological studies of his contemporary Democritus and
medicine. Nevertheless, in so far as he, and those who worked before
and after him, in the same spirit, ascertained, as matters of
experience, that a wound, or a luxation, or a fever, presented such and
such symptoms, and that the return of the patient to health was
facilitated by such and such measures, they established laws of nature,
and began the construction of the science of pathology. All true
science begins with empiricism--though all true science is such
exactly, in so far as it strives to pass out of the empirical stage
into that of the deduction of empirical from more general truths. Thus,
it is not wonderful, that the early physicians had little or nothing to
do with the development of biological science; and, on the other hand,
that the early biologists did not much concern themselves with
medicine. There is nothing to show that the Asclepiads took any
prominent share in the work of founding anatomy, physiology, zoology,
and botany. Rather do these seem to have sprung from the early
philosophers, who were essentially natural philosophers, animated by
the characteristically Greek thirst for knowledge as such. Pythagoras,
Alcmeon, Democritus, Diogenes of Apollonia, are all credited with
anatomical and physiological investigations; and, though Aristotle is
said to have belonged to an Asclepiad family, and not improbably owed
his taste for anatomical and zoological inquiries to the teachings of
his father, the physician Nicomachus, the "Historia Animalium," and the
treatise "De Partibus Animalium," are as free from any allusion to
medicine as if they had issued from a modern biological laboratory.

It may be added, that it is not easy to see in what way it could have
benefited a physician of Alexander's time to know all that Aristotle
knew on these subjects. His human anatomy was too rough to avail much
in diagnosis; his physiology was too erroneous to supply data for
pathological reasoning. But when the Alexandrian school, with
Erasistratus and Herophilus at their head, turned to account the
opportunities of studying human structure, afforded to them by the
Ptolemies, the value of the large amount of accurate knowledge thus
obtained to the surgeon for his operations, and to the physician for
his diagnosis of internal disorders, became obvious, and a connection
was established between anatomy and medicine, which has ever become
closer and closer. Since the revival of learning, surgery, medical
diagnosis, and anatomy have gone hand in hand. Morgagni called his
great work, "De sedibus et causis morborum per anatomen indagatis," and
not only showed the way to search out the localities and the causes of
disease by anatomy, but himself travelled wonderfully far upon the
road. Bichat, discriminating the grosser constituents of the organs and
parts of the body, one from another, pointed out the direction which
modern research must take; until, at length, histology, a science of
yesterday, as it seems to many of us, has carried the work of Morgagni
as far as the microscope can take us, and has extended the realm of
pathological anatomy to the limits of the invisible world.

Thanks to the intimate alliance of morphology with medicine, the
natural history of disease has, at the present day, attained a high
degree of perfection. Accurate regional anatomy has rendered
practicable the exploration of the most hidden parts of the organism,
and the determination, during life, of morbid changes in them;
anatomical and histological post-mortem investigations have supplied
physicians with a clear basis upon which to rest the classification, of
diseases, and with unerring tests of the accuracy or inaccuracy of
their diagnoses.

If men could be satisfied with pure knowledge, the extreme precision
with which, in these days, a sufferer may be told what is happening,
and what is likely to happen, even in the most recondite parts of his
bodily frame, should be as satisfactory to the patient as it is to
the scientific pathologist who gives him the information. But I am
afraid it is not; and even the practising physician, while nowise
under-estimating the regulative value of accurate diagnosis, must often
lament that so much of his knowledge rather prevents him from doing
wrong than helps him to do right.

A scorner of physic once said that nature and disease may be compared
to two men fighting, the doctor to a blind man with a club, who strikes
into the _mêlée_, sometimes hitting the disease, and sometimes
hitting nature. The matter is not mended if you suppose the blind man's
hearing to be so acute that he can register every stage of the
struggle, and pretty clearly predict how it will end. He had better not
meddle at all, until his eyes are opened, until he can see the exact
position of the antagonists, and make sure of the effect of his blows.
But that which it behoves the physician to see, not, indeed, with his
bodily eye, but with clear, intellectual vision, is a process, and the
chain of causation involved in that process. Disease, as we have seen,
is a perturbation of the normal activities of a living body, and it is,
and must remain, unintelligible, so long as we are ignorant of the
nature of these normal activities. In other words, there could be no
real science of pathology until the science of physiology had reached a
degree of perfection unattained, and indeed unattainable, until quite
recent times.

So far as medicine is concerned, I am not sure that physiology, such as
it was down to the time of Harvey, might as well not have existed. Nay,
it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that, within the memory of living
men, justly renowned practitioners of medicine and surgery knew
less physiology than is now to be learned from the most elementary
text-book; and, beyond a few broad facts, regarded what they did know
as of extremely little practical importance. Nor am I disposed to blame
them for this conclusion; physiology must be useless, or worse than
useless, to pathology, so long as its fundamental conceptions are

Harvey is often said to be the founder of modern physiology; and there
can be no question that the elucidations of the function of the heart,
of the nature of the pulse, and of the course of the blood, put forth
in the ever-memorable little essay, "De motu cordis," directly worked a
revolution in men's views of the nature and of the concatenation of
some of the most important physiological processes among the higher
animals; while, indirectly, their influence was perhaps even more

But, though Harvey made this signal and perennially important
contribution to the physiology of the moderns, his general conception
of vital processes was essentially identical with that of the ancients;
and, in the "Exercitationes de generatione," and notably in the
singular chapter "De calido innato," he shows himself a true son of
Galen and of Aristotle.

For Harvey, the blood possesses powers superior to those of the
elements; it is the seat of a soul which is not only vegetative, but
also sensitive and motor. The blood maintains and fashions all parts of
the body, "idque summâ cum providentiâ et intellectu in finem certum
agens, quasi ratiocinio quodam uteretur."

Here is the doctrine of the "pneuma," the product of the philosophical
mould into which the animism of primitive men ran in Greece, in full
force. Nor did its strength abate for long after Harvey's time. The
same ingrained tendency of the human mind to suppose that a process is
explained when it is ascribed to a power of which nothing is known
except that it is the hypothetical agent of the process, gave rise, in
the next century, to the animism of Stahl; and, later, to the doctrine
of a vital principle, that "asylum ignorantiae" of physiologists, which
has so easily accounted for everything and explained nothing, down to
our own times.

Now the essence of modern, as contrasted with ancient, physiological
science appears to me to lie in its antagonism to animistic hypotheses
and animistic phraseology. It offers physical explanations of vital
phenomena, or frankly confesses that it has none to offer. And, so far
as I know, the first person who gave expression to this modern view of
physiology, who was bold enough to enunciate the proposition that vital
phenomena, like all the other phenomena of the physical world, are, in
ultimate analysis, resolvable into matter and motion, was René

The fifty-four years of life of this most original and powerful thinker
are widely overlapped, on both sides, by the eighty of Harvey, who
survived his younger contemporary by seven years, and takes pleasure in
acknowledging the French philosopher's appreciation of his great

In fact, Descartes accepted the doctrine of the circulation as
propounded by "Harvaeus médecin d'Angleterre," and gave a full account
of it in his first work, the famous "Discours de la Méthode," which was
published in 1637, only nine years after the exercitation "De motu
cordis"; and, though differing from Harvey on some important points (in
which it may be noted, in passing, Descartes was wrong and Harvey
right), he always speaks of him with great respect. And so important
does the subject seem to Descartes, that he returns to it in the
"Traité des Passions," and in the "Traité de l'Homme."

It is easy to see that Harvey's work must have had a peculiar
significance for the subtle thinker, to whom we owe both the
spiritualistic and the materialistic philosophies of modern times. It
was in the very year of its publication, 1628, that Descartes withdrew
into that life of solitary investigation and meditation of which his
philosophy was the fruit. And, as the course of his speculations led
him to establish an absolute distinction of nature between the material
and the mental worlds, he was logically compelled to seek for the
explanation of the phenomena of the material world within itself; and
having allotted the realm of thought to the soul, to see nothing but
extension and motion in the rest of nature. Descartes uses "thought" as
the equivalent of our modern term "consciousness." Thought is the
function of the soul, and its only function. Our natural heat and all
the movements of the body, says he, do not depend on the soul. Death
does not take place from any fault of the soul, but only because some
of the principal parts of the body become corrupted. The body of a
living man differs from that of a dead man in the same way as a watch
or other automaton (that is to say, a machine which moves of itself)
when it is wound up and has, in itself, the physical principle of the
movements which the mechanism is adapted to perform, differs from the
same watch, or other machine, when it is broken, and the physical
principle of its movement no longer exists. All the actions which are
common to us and the lower animals depend only on the conformation of
our organs, and the course which the animal spirits take in the brain,
the nerves, and the muscles; in the same way as the movement of a watch
is produced by nothing but the force of its spring and the figure of
its wheels and other parts.

Descartes' "Treatise on Man" is a sketch of human physiology, in which
a bold attempt is made to explain all the phenomena of life, except
those of consciousness, by physical reasonings. To a mind turned in
this direction, Harvey's exposition of the heart and vessels as a
hydraulic mechanism must have been supremely welcome.

Descartes was not a mere philosophical theorist, but a hardworking
dissector and experimenter, and he held the strongest opinion
respecting the practical value of the new conception which he was
introducing. He speaks of the importance of preserving health, and of
the dependence of the mind on the body being so close that, perhaps,
the only way of making men wiser and better than they are, is to be
sought in medical science. "It is true," says he, "that as medicine is
now practised it contains little that is very useful; but without any
desire to depreciate, I am sure that there is no one, even among
professional men, who will not declare that all we know is very little
as compared with that which remains to be known; and that we might
escape an infinity of diseases of the mind, no less than of the body,
and even perhaps from the weakness of old age, if we had sufficient
knowledge of their causes, and of all the remedies with which nature
has provided us." [1] So strongly impressed was Descartes with this,
that he resolved to spend the rest of his life in trying to acquire
such a knowledge of nature as would lead to the construction of a
better medical doctrine. [2] The anti-Cartesians found material for
cheap ridicule in these aspirations of the philosopher; and it is
almost needless to say that, in the thirteen years which elapsed
between the publication of the "Discours" and the death of Descartes,
he did not contribute much to their realisation. But, for the next
century, all progress in physiology took place along the lines which
Descartes laid down.

The greatest physiological and pathological work of the seventeenth
century, Borelli's treatise "De Motu Animalium," is, to all intents and
purposes, a development of Descartes' fundamental conception; and the
same may be said of the physiology and pathology of Boerhaave, whose
authority dominated in the medical world of the first half of the
eighteenth century.

With the origin of modern chemistry, and of electrical science, in the
latter half of the eighteenth century, aids in the analysis of the
phenomena of life, of which Descartes could not have dreamed, were
offered to the physiologist. And the greater part of the gigantic
progress which has been made in the present century is a justification
of the prevision of Descartes. For it consists, essentially, in a more
and more complete resolution of the grosser organs of the living body
into physicochemical mechanisms.

"I shall try to explain our whole bodily machinery in such a way, that
it will be no more necessary for us to suppose that the soul produces
such movements as are not voluntary, than it is to think that there is
in a clock a soul which causes it to show the hours." [3] These words
of Descartes might be appropriately taken as a motto by the author of
any modern treatise on physiology.

But though, as I think, there is no doubt that Descartes was the first
to propound the fundamental conception of the living body as a physical
mechanism, which is the distinctive feature of modern, as contrasted
with ancient physiology, he was misled by the natural temptation to
carry out, in all its details, a parallel between the machines with
which he was familiar, such as clocks and pieces of hydraulic
apparatus, and the living machine. In all such machines there is a
central source of power, and the parts of the machine are merely
passive distributors of that power. The Cartesian school conceived of
the living body as a machine of this kind; and herein they might have
learned from Galen, who, whatever ill use he may have made of the
doctrine of "natural faculties," nevertheless had the great merit of
perceiving that local forces play a great part in physiology.

The same truth was recognised by Glisson, but it was first prominently
brought forward in the Hallerian doctrine of the "vis insita" of
muscles. If muscle can contract without nerve, there is an end of the
Cartesian mechanical explanation of its contraction by the influx of
animal spirits.

The discoveries of Trembley tended in the same direction. In the
freshwater _Hydra_, no trace was to be found of that complicated
machinery upon which the performance of the functions in the higher
animals was supposed to depend. And yet the hydra moved, fed, grew,
multiplied, and its fragments exhibited all the powers of the whole.
And, finally, the work of Caspar F. Wolff, [4] by demonstrating the
fact that the growth and development of both plants and animals take
place antecedently to the existence of their grosser organs, and are,
in fact, the causes and not the consequences of organisation (as then
understood), sapped the foundations of the Cartesian physiology as a
complete expression of vital phenomena.

For Wolff, the physical basis of life is a fluid, possessed of a "vis
essentialis" and a "solidescibilitas," in virtue of which it gives rise
to organisation; and, as he points out, this conclusion strikes at the
root of the whole iatro-mechanical system.

In this country, the great authority of John Hunter exerted a similar
influence; though it must be admitted that the too sibylline utterances
which are the outcome of Hunter's struggles to define his conceptions
are often susceptible of more than one interpretation. Nevertheless, on
some points Hunter is clear enough. For example, he is of opinion that
"Spirit is only a property of matter" ("Introduction to Natural
History," p. 6), he is prepared to renounce animism, (_l.c._ p.
8), and his conception of life is so completely physical that he thinks
of it as something which can exist in a state of combination in the
food. "The aliment we take in has in it, in a fixed state, the real
life; and this does not become active until it has got into the lungs;
for there it is freed from its prison" ("Observations on Physiology,"
p. 113). He also thinks that "It is more in accord with the general
principles of the animal machine to suppose that none of its effects
are produced from any mechanical principle whatever; and that every
effect is produced from an action in the part; which action is produced
by a stimulus upon the part which acts, or upon some other part with
which this part sympathises so as to take up the whole action" (_l.c._
p. 152).

And Hunter is as clear as Wolff, with whose work he was probably
unacquainted, that "whatever life is, it most certainly does not depend
upon structure or organisation" (_l.c._ p. 114).

Of course it is impossible that Hunter could have intended to deny the
existence of purely mechanical operations in the animal body. But
while, with Borelli and Boerhaave, he looked upon absorption,
nutrition, and secretion as operations effected by means of the small
vessels, he differed from the mechanical physiologists, who regarded
these operations as the result of the mechanical properties of the
small vessels, such as the size, form, and disposition of their canals
and apertures. Hunter, on the contrary, considers them to be the effect
of properties of these vessels which are not mechanical but vital. "The
vessels," says he, "have more of the polypus in them than any other
part of the body," and he talks of the "living and sensitive principles
of the arteries," and even of the "dispositions or feelings of the
arteries." "When the blood is good and genuine the sensations of the
arteries, or the dispositions for sensation, are agreeable.... It is
then they dispose of the blood to the best advantage, increasing the
growth of the whole, supplying any losses, keeping up a due succession,
etc." (_l.c._ p. 133).

If we follow Hunter's conceptions to their logical issue, the life of
one of the higher animals is essentially the sum of the lives of all
the vessels, each of which is a sort of physiological unit, answering
to a polype; and, as health is the result of the normal "action of the
vessels," so is disease an effect of their abnormal action. Hunter thus
stands in thought, as in time, midway between Borelli on the one hand,
and Bichat on the other.

The acute founder of general anatomy, in fact, outdoes Hunter in his
desire to exclude physical reasonings from the realm of life. Except in
the interpretation of the action of the sense organs, he will not allow
physics to have anything to do with physiology.

"To apply the physical sciences to physiology is to explain the
phenomena of living bodies by the laws of inert bodies. Now this is a
false principle, hence all its consequences are marked with the same
stamp. Let us leave to chemistry its affinity; to physics, its
elasticity and its gravity. Let us invoke for physiology only
sensibility and contractility." [5]

Of all the unfortunate dicta of men of eminent ability this seems one
of the most unhappy, when we think of what the application of the
methods and the data of physics and chemistry has done towards bringing
physiology into its present state. It is not too much to say that
one-half of a modern text-book of physiology consists of applied
physics and chemistry; and that it is exactly in the exploration of the
phenomena of sensibility and contractility that physics and chemistry
have exerted the most potent influence.

Nevertheless, Bichat rendered a solid service to physiological progress
by insisting upon the fact that what we call life, in one of the higher
animals, is not an indivisible unitary archaeus dominating, from its
central seat, the parts of the organism, but a compound result of the
synthesis of the separate lives of those parts.

"All animals," says he, "are assemblages of different organs, each of
which performs its function and concurs, after its fashion, in the
preservation of the whole. They are so many special machines in the
general machine which constitutes the individual. But each of these
special machines is itself compounded of many tissues of very different
natures, which in truth constitute the elements of those organs"
(_l.c._ lxxix.). "The conception of a proper vitality is applicable
only to these simple tissues, and not to the organs themselves"
(_l.c._ lxxxiv.).

And Bichat proceeds to make the obvious application of this doctrine of
synthetic life, if I may so call it, to pathology. Since diseases are
only alterations of vital properties, and the properties of each tissue
are distinct from those of the rest, it is evident that the diseases of
each tissue must be different from those of the rest. Therefore, in any
organ composed of different tissues, one may be diseased and the other
remain healthy; and this is what happens in most cases (_l.c._ lxxxv.).

In a spirit of true prophecy, Bichat says, "We have arrived at an epoch
in which pathological anatomy should start afresh." For, as the
analysis of the organs had led him to the tissues as the physiological
units of the organism; so, in a succeeding generation, the analysis of
the tissues led to the cell as the physiological element of the
tissues. The contemporaneous study of development brought out the same
result; and the zoologists and botanists, exploring the simplest and
the lowest forms of animated beings, confirmed the great induction of
the cell theory. Thus the apparently opposed views, which have been
battling with one another ever since the middle of the last century,
have proved to be each half the truth.

The proposition of Descartes that the body of a living man is a
machine, the actions of which are explicable by the known laws of
matter and motion, is unquestionably largely true. But it is also true,
that the living body is a synthesis of innumerable physiological
elements, each of which may nearly be described, in Wolff's words, as a
fluid possessed of a "vis essentialis" and a "solidescibilitas"; or, in
modern phrase, as protoplasm susceptible of structural metamorphosis
and functional metabolism: and that the only machinery, in the precise
sense in which the Cartesian school understood mechanism, is, that
which co-ordinates and regulates these physiological units into an
organic whole.

In fact, the body is a machine of the nature of an army, not of that of
a watch or of a hydraulic apparatus. Of this army each cell is a
soldier, an organ a brigade, the central nervous system headquarters
and field telegraph, the alimentary and circulatory system the
commissariat. Losses are made good by recruits born in camp, and the
life of the individual is a campaign, conducted successfully for a
number of years, but with certain defeat in the long run.

The efficacy of an army, at any given moment, depends on the health of
the individual soldier, and on the perfection of the machinery by which
he is led and brought into action at the proper time; and, therefore,
if the analogy holds good, there can be only two kinds of diseases, the
one dependent on abnormal states of the physiological units, the other
on perturbations of their co-ordinating and alimentative machinery.

Hence, the establishment of the cell theory, in normal biology, was
swiftly followed by a "cellular pathology," as its logical counterpart.
I need not remind you how great an instrument of investigation this
doctrine has proved in the hands of the man of genius to whom its
development is due, and who would probably be the last to forget that
abnormal conditions of the co-ordinative and distributive machinery of
the body are no less important factors of disease.

Henceforward, as it appears to me, the connection of medicine with the
biological sciences is clearly indicated. Pure pathology is that branch
of biology which defines the particular perturbation of cell-life, or
of the co-ordinating machinery, or of both, on which the phenomena of
disease depend.

Those who are conversant with the present state of biology will hardly
hesitate to admit that the conception of the life of one of the higher
animals as the summation of the lives of a cell aggregate, brought into
harmonious action by a co-ordinative machinery formed by some of these
cells, constitutes a permanent acquisition of physiological science.
But the last form of the battle between the animistic and the physical
views of life is seen in the contention whether the physical analysis
of vital phenomena can be carried beyond this point or not.

There are some to whom living protoplasm is a substance, even such as
Harvey conceived the blood to be, "summâ cum providentiâ et intellectu
in finem certum agens, quasi ratiocinio quodam;" and who look with as
little favour as Bichat did, upon any attempt to apply the principles
and the methods of physics and chemistry to the investigation of the
vital processes of growth, metabolism, and contractility. They stand
upon the ancient ways; only, in accordance with that progress towards
democracy, which a great political writer has declared to be the fatal
characteristic of modern times, they substitute a republic formed by a
few billion of "animulae" for the monarchy of the all-pervading

Others, on the contrary, supported by a robust faith in the universal
applicability of the principles laid down by Descartes, and seeing that
the actions called "vital" are, so far as we have any means of knowing,
nothing but changes of place of particles of matter, look to molecular
physics to achieve the analysis of the living protoplasm itself into a
molecular mechanism. If there is any truth in the received doctrines of
physics, that contrast between living and inert matter, on which Bichat
lays so much stress, does not exist. In nature, nothing is at rest,
nothing is amorphous; the simplest particle of that which men in their
blindness are pleased to call "brute matter" is a vast aggregate of
molecular mechanisms performing complicated movements of immense
rapidity, and sensitively adjusting themselves to every change in the
surrounding world. Living matter differs from other matter in degree
and not in kind; the microcosm repeats the macrocosm; and one chain of
causation connects the nebulous original of suns and planetary systems
with the protoplasmic foundation of life and organisation.

From this point of view, pathology is the analogue of the theory of
perturbations in astronomy; and therapeutics resolves itself into the
discovery of the means by which a system of forces competent to
eliminate any given perturbation may be introduced into the economy.
And, as pathology bases itself upon normal physiology, so therapeutics
rests upon pharmacology; which is, strictly speaking, a part of the
great biological topic of the influence of conditions on the living
organism, and has no scientific foundation apart from physiology.

It appears to me that there is no more hopeful indication of the
progress of medicine towards the ideal of Descartes than is to be
derived from a comparison of the state of pharmacology, at the present
day, with that which existed forty years ago. If we consider the
knowledge positively acquired, in this short time, of the _modus
operandi_ of urari, of atropia, of physostigmin, of veratria, of
casca, of strychnia, of bromide of potassium, of phosphorus, there can
surely be no ground for doubting that, sooner or later, the
pharmacologist will supply the physician with the means of affecting,
in any desired sense, the functions of any physiological element of the
body. It will, in short, become possible to introduce into the economy
a molecular mechanism which, like a very cunningly-contrived torpedo,
shall find its way to some particular group of living elements, and
cause an explosion among them, leaving the rest untouched.

The search for the explanation of diseased states in modified
cell-life; the discovery of the important part played by parasitic
organisms in the aetiology of disease; the elucidation of the action of
medicaments by the methods and the data of experimental physiology;
appear to me to be the greatest steps which have ever been made towards
the establishment of medicine on a scientific basis. I need hardly say
they could not have been made except for the advance of normal biology.

There can be no question, then, as to the nature or the value of the
connection between medicine and the biological sciences. There can be
no doubt that the future of pathology and of therapeutics, and,
therefore, that of practical medicine, depends upon the extent to which
those who occupy themselves with these subjects are trained in the
methods and impregnated with the fundamental truths of biology.

And, in conclusion, I venture to suggest that the collective sagacity
of this congress could occupy itself with no more important question
than with this: How is medical education to be arranged, so that,
without entangling the student in those details of the systematist
which are valueless to him, he may be enabled to obtain a firm grasp of
the great truths respecting animal and vegetable life, without which,
notwithstanding all the progress of scientific medicine, he will still
find himself an empiric?

* * * * *


[1] _Discours de la Méthode_, 6e partie, Ed. Cousin, p. 193.

[2] _Ibid_. pp. 193 and 211.

[3] _De la Formation du Foetus_.

[4] _Theoria Generationis_, 1759.

[5] _Anatomie générale_, i. p. liv.




An electioneering manifesto would be out of place in the pages of this
Review; but any suspicion that may arise in the mind of the reader that
the following pages partake of that nature, will be dispelled, if he
reflect that they cannot be published [1] until after the day on which
the ratepayers of the metropolis will have decided which candidates for
seats upon the Metropolitan School Board they will take, and which they
will leave.

As one of those candidates, I may be permitted to say, that I feel much
in the frame of mind of the Irish bricklayer's labourer, who bet
another that he could not carry him to the top of the ladder in his
hod. The challenged hodman won his wager, but as the stakes were handed
over, the challenger wistfully remarked, "I'd great hopes of falling at
the third round from the top." And, in view of the work and the worry
which awaits the members of the School Boards, I must confess to an
occasional ungrateful hope that the friends who are toiling upwards
with me in their hod, may, when they reach "the third round from the
top," let me fall back into peace and quietness.

But whether fortune befriend me in this rough method, or not, I should
like to submit to those of whom I am potential, but of whom I may not
be an actual, colleague, and to others who may be interested in this
most important problem--how to get the Education Act to work
efficiently--some considerations as to what are the duties of the
members of the School Boards, and what are the limits of their power.

I suppose no one will be disposed to dispute the proposition, that the
prime duty of every member of such a Board is to endeavour to
administer the Act honestly; or in accordance, not only with its
letter, but with its spirit. And if so, it would seem that the first
step towards this very desirable end is, to obtain a clear notion of
what that letter signifies, and what that spirit implies; or, in other
words, what the clauses of the Act are intended to enjoin and to
forbid. So that it is really not admissible, except for factious and
abusive purposes, to assume that any one who endeavours to get at this
clear meaning is desirous only of raising quibbles and making

Reading the Act with this desire to understand it, I find that its
provisions may be classified, as might naturally be expected, under two
heads: the one set relating to the subject-matter of education; the
other to the establishment, maintenance, and administration of the
schools in which that education is to be conducted.

Now it is a most important circumstance, that all the sections of the
Act, except four, belong to the latter division; that is, they refer to
mere matters of administration. The four sections in question are the
seventh, the fourteenth, the sixteenth, and the ninety-seventh. Of
these, the seventh, the fourteenth, and the ninety-seventh deal with
the subject-matter of education, while the sixteenth defines the nature
of the relations which are to exist between the "Education Department"
(an euphemism for the future Minister of Education) and the School
Boards. It is the sixteenth clause which is the most important, and, in
some respects, the most remarkable of all. It runs thus:--

"If the School Board do, or permit, any act in contravention of, or
fail to comply with, the regulations, according to which a school
provided by them is required by this Act to be conducted, the
Education Department may declare the School Board to be, and such
Board shall accordingly be deemed to be, a Board in default, and
the Education Department may proceed accordingly; and every act, or
omission, of any member of the School Board, or manager appointed
by them, or any person under the control of the Board, shall be
deemed to be permitted by the Board, unless the contrary be proved.

"If any dispute arises as to whether the School Board have done, or
permitted, any act in contravention of, or have failed to comply
with, the said regulations, _the matter shall be referred to the
Education Department, whose decision thereon shall be final_."

It will be observed that this clause gives the Minister of Education
absolute power over the doings of the School Boards. He is not only the
administrator of the Act, but he is its interpreter. I had imagined
that on the occurrence of a dispute, not as regards a question of pure
administration, but as to the meaning of a clause of the Act, a case
might be taken and referred to a court of justice. But I am led to
believe that the Legislature has, in the present instance, deliberately
taken this power out of the hands of the judges and lodged it in those
of the Minister of Education, who, in accordance with our method of
making Ministers, will necessarily be a political partisan, and who may
be a strong theological sectary into the bargain. And I am informed by
members of Parliament who watched the progress of the Act, that the
responsibility for this unusual state of things rests, not with the
Government, but with the Legislature, which exhibited a singular
disposition to accumulate power in the hands of the future Minister of
Education, and to evade the more troublesome difficulties of the
education question by leaving them to be settled between that Minister
and the School Boards.

I express no opinion whether it is, or is not, desirable that such
powers of controlling all the School Boards in the country should be
possessed by a person who may be, like Mr. Forster, eminently likely to
use these powers justly and wisely, but who also may be quite the
reverse. I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that such powers
are given to the Minister, whether he be fit or unfit. The extent of
these powers becomes apparent when the other sections of the Act
referred to are considered. The fourth clause of the seventh section

"The school shall be conducted in accordance with the conditions
required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain
an annual Parliamentary grant."

What these conditions are appears from the following clauses of the
ninety-seventh section:--

"The conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in
order to obtain an annual Parliamentary grant shall be those
contained in the minutes of the Education Department in force for
the time being.... Provided that no such minute of the Education
Department, not in force at the time of the passing of this Act,
shall be deemed to be in force until it has lain for not less than
one month on the table of both Houses of Parliament."

Let us consider how this will work in practice. A school established by
a School Board may receive support from three sources--from the rates,
the school fees, and the Parliamentary grant. The latter may be as
great as the two former taken together; and as it may be assumed,
without much risk of error, that a constant pressure will be exerted by
the ratepayers on the members who represent them to get as much out of
the Government, and as little out of the rates, as possible, the School
Boards will have a very strong motive for shaping the education they
give, as nearly as may be, on the model which the Education Minister
offers for their imitation, and for the copying of which he is prepared
to pay.

The Revised Code did not compel any schoolmaster to leave off teaching
anything; but, by the very simple process of refusing to pay for many
kinds of teaching, it has practically put an end to them. Mr. Forster
is said to be engaged in revising the Revised Code; a successor of his
may re-revise it--and there will be no sort of check upon these
revisions and counter revisions, except the possibility of a
Parliamentary debate, when the revised, or added, minutes are laid upon
the table. What chance is there that any such debate will take place on
a matter of detail relating to elementary education--a subject with
which members of the Legislature, having been, for the most part, sent
to our public schools thirty years ago, have not the least practical
acquaintance, and for which they care nothing, unless it derives a
political value from its connection with sectarian politics?

I cannot but think, then, that the School Boards will have the
appearance, but not the reality, of freedom of action, in regard to the
subject-matter of what is commonly called "secular" education.

As respects what is commonly called "religious" education, the power of
the Minister of Education is even more despotic. An interest, almost
amounting to pathos, attaches itself, in my mind, to the frantic
exertions which are at present going on in almost every school
division, to elect certain candidates whose names have never before
been heard of in connection with education, and who are either
sectarian partisans, or nothing. In my own particular division, a body
organised _ad hoc_ is moving heaven and earth to get the seven
seats filled by seven gentlemen, four of whom are good Churchmen, and
three no less good Dissenters. But why should this seven times heated
fiery furnace of theological zeal be so desirous to shed its genial
warmth over the London School Board? Can it be that these zealous
sectaries mean to evade the solemn pledge given in the Act?

"No religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive
of any particular denomination shall be taught in the school."

I confess I should have thought it my duty to reject any such
suggestion, as dishonouring to a number of worthy persons, if it had
not been for a leading article and some correspondence which appeared
in the _Guardian_ of November 9th, 1870.

The _Guardian_ is, as everybody knows, one of the best of the
"religious" newspapers; and, personally, I have every reason to speak
highly of the fairness, and indeed kindness, with which the editor is
good enough to deal with a writer who must, in many ways, be so
objectionable to him as myself. I quote the following passages from a
leading article on a letter of mine, therefore, with all respect, and
with a genuine conviction that the course of conduct advocated by the
writer must appear to him in a very different light from that under
which I see it:--

"The first of these points is the interpretation which Professor
Huxley puts on the 'Cowper-Temple clause.' It is, in fact, that
which we foretold some time ago as likely to be forced upon it by
those who think with him. The clause itself was one of those
compromises which it is very difficult to define or to maintain
logically. On the one side was the simple freedom to School Boards
to establish what schools they pleased, which Mr. Forster
originally gave, but against which the Nonconformists lifted up
their voices, because they conceived it likely to give too much
power to the Church. On the other side there was the proposition to
make the schools secular--intelligible enough, but in the
consideration of public opinion simply impossible--and there was
the vague impracticable idea, which Mr. Gladstone thoroughly tore
to pieces, of enacting that the teaching of all school-masters in
the new schools should be strictly 'undenominational.' The
Cowper-Temple clause was, we repeat, proposed simply to tide over
the difficulty. It was to satisfy the Nonconformists and the
'unsectarian,' as distinct from the secular party of the League, by
forbidding all distinctive 'catechisms and formularies,' which
might have the effect of openly assigning the schools to this or
that religious body. It refused, at the same time, to attempt the
impossible task of defining what was undenominational; and its
author even contended, if we understood him correctly, that it
would in no way, even indirectly, interfere with the substantial
teaching of any master in any school. This assertion we always
believed to be untenable; we could not see how, in the face of this
clause, a distinctly denominational tone could be honestly given to
schools nominally general. But beyond this mere suggestion of
an attempt at a general tone of comprehensiveness in religious
teaching it was not intended to go, and only because such was its
limitation was it accepted by the Government and by the House.

"But now we are told that it is to be construed as doing precisely
that which it refused to do. A 'formulary,' it seems, is a
collection of formulas, and formulas are simply propositions of
whatever kind touching religious faith. All such propositions, if
they cannot be accepted by all Christian denominations, are to be
proscribed; and it is added significantly that the Jews also are a
denomination, and so that any teaching distinctively Christian is
perhaps to be excluded, lest it should interfere with their freedom
and rights. Are we then to fall back on the simple reading of the
letter of the Bible? No! this, it is granted, would be an 'unworthy
pretence.' The teacher is to give 'grammatical, geographical, or
historical explanations;' but he is to keep clear of 'theology
proper,' because, as Professor Huxley takes great pains to prove,
there is no theological teaching which is not opposed by some sect
or other, from Roman Catholicism on the one hand to Unitarianism on
the other. It was not, perhaps, hard to see that this difficulty
would be started; and to those who, like Professor Huxley look at
it theoretically, without much practical experience of schools, it
may appear serious or unanswerable. But there is very little in it
practically; when it is faced determinately and handled firmly, it
will soon shrink into its true dimensions. The class who are least
frightened at it are the school teachers, simply because they know
most about it. It is quite clear that the school managers must be
cautioned against allowing their schools to be made places of
proselytism: but when this is done, the case is simple enough.
Leave the masters under this general understanding to teach freely;
if there in ground of complaint, let it be made, but leave the
_onus probandi_ on the objectors. For extreme peculiarities of
belief or unbelief there is the Conscience Clause; as to the mass
of parents, they will be more anxious to have religion taught than
afraid of its assuming this or that particular shade. They will
trust the school managers and teachers till they have reason to
distrust them, and experience has shown that they may trust them
safely enough. Any attempt to throw the burden of making the
teaching undenominational upon the managers must be sternly
resisted: it is simply evading the intentions of the Act in an
elaborate attempt to carry them out. We thank Professor Huxley for
the warning. To be forewarned is to be forearmed."

A good deal of light seems to me to be thrown on the practical
significance of the opinions expressed in the foregoing extract by the
following interesting letter, which appeared in the same paper:--

"Sir,--I venture to send to you the substance of a correspondence
with the Education Department upon the question of the lawfulness
of religious teaching in rate schools under section 14 (2) of the
Act. I asked whether the words 'which is distinctive,' &c., taken
grammatically as limiting the prohibition of any religious
formulary, might be construed as allowing (subject, however, to the
other provisions of the Act) any religious formulary common to any
two denominations anywhere in England to be taught in such schools;
and if practically the limit could not be so extended, but would
have to be fixed according to the special circumstances of each
district, then what degree of general acceptance in a district
would exempt such a formulary from the prohibition? The answer to
this was as follows:--'It was understood, when clause 14 of the
Education Act was discussed in the House of Commons, that,
according to a well-known rule of interpreting Acts of Parliament,
"denomination" must be held to include "denominations." When any
dispute is referred to the Education Department under the last
paragraph of section 16, it will be dealt with according to the
circumstances of the case.'

"Upon my asking further if I might hence infer that the lawfulness
of teaching any religious formulary in a rate school would thus
depend _exclusively_ on local circumstances, and would
accordingly be so decided by the Education Department in case of
dispute, I was informed in explanation that 'their lordships''
letter was intended to convey to me that no general rule, beyond
that stated in the first paragraph of their letter, could at
present be laid down by them; and that their decision in each
particular case must depend on the special circumstances
accompanying it.

"I think it would appear from this that it may yet be in many cases
both lawful and expedient to teach religious formularies in rate
schools. H. I.

"Steyning, _November_ 5, 1870."

Of course I do not mean to suggest that the editor of the _Guardian_
is bound by the opinions of his correspondent; but I cannot help
thinking that I do not misrepresent him, when I say that he also thinks
"that it may yet be, in many cases, both lawful and expedient to teach
religious formularies in rate schools under these circumstances."

It is not uncharitable, therefore, to assume that, the express words of
the Act of Parliament notwithstanding, all the sectaries who are
toiling so hard for seats in the London School Board have the lively
hope of the gentleman from Steyning, that it may be "both lawful and
expedient to teach religious formularies in rate schools;" and that
they mean to do their utmost to bring this happy consummation about. [2]

Now the pathetic emotion to which I have referred, as accompanying my
contemplations of the violent struggles of so many excellent persons,
is caused by the circumstance that, so far as I can judge, their labour
is in vain.

Supposing that the London School Board contains, as it probably will
do, a majority of sectaries; and that they carry over the heads of a
minority, a resolution that certain theological formulas, about which
they all happen to agree,--say, for example, the doctrine of the
Trinity,--shall be taught in the schools. Do they fondly imagine that
the minority will not at once dispute their interpretation of the Act,
and appeal to the Education Department to settle that dispute? And if
so, do they suppose that any Minister of Education, who wants to keep
his place, will tighten boundaries which the Legislature has left
loose; and will give a "final decision" which shall be offensive to
every Unitarian and to every Jew in the House of Commons, besides
creating a precedent which will afterwards be used to the injury of
every Nonconformist? The editor of the _Guardian_ tells his
friends sternly to resist every attempt to throw the burden of making
the teaching undenominational on the managers, and thanks me for the
warning I have given him. I return the thanks, with interest, for
_his_ warning, as to the course the party he represents intends to
pursue, and for enabling me thus to draw public attention to a
perfectly constitutional and effectual mode of checkmating them.

And, in truth, it is wonderful to note the surprising entanglement into
which our able editor gets himself in the struggle between his native
honesty and judgment and the necessities of his party. "We could not
see," says he, "in the face of this clause how a distinct
denominational tone could be honestly given to schools nominally
general." There speaks the honest and clear-headed man. "Any attempt to
throw the burden of making the teaching undenominational must be
sternly resisted." There speaks the advocate holding a brief for his
party. "Verily," as Trinculo says, "the monster hath two mouths:" the
one, the forward mouth, tells us very justly that the teaching cannot
"honestly" be "distinctly denominational;" but the other, the
backward mouth, asserts that it must by no manner of means be
"undenominational." Putting the two utterances together, I can only
interpret them to mean that the teaching is to be "indistinctly
denominational." If the editor of the _Guardian_ had not shown
signs of anger at my use of the term "theological fog," I should have
been tempted to suppose it must have been what he had in his mind,
under the name of "indistinct denominationalism." But this reading
being plainly inadmissible, I can only imagine that he inculcates the
teaching of formulas common to a number of denominations.

But the Education Department has already told the gentleman from
Steyning that any such proceeding will be illegal. "According to a
well-known rule of interpreting Acts of Parliament, 'denomination'
would be held to include 'denominations.'" In other words, we must read
the Act thus:--

"No religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of
any particular _denominations_ shall be taught."

Thus we are really very much indebted to the editor of the _Guardian_
and his correspondent. The one has shown us that the sectaries
mean to try to get as much denominational teaching as they can agree
upon among themselves, forced into the elementary schools; while the
other has obtained a formal declaration from the Educational Department
that any such attempt will contravene the Act of Parliament, and that,
therefore, the unsectarian, law-abiding members of the School Boards
may safely reckon upon bringing down upon their opponents the heavy
hand of the Minister of Education. [3]

So much for the powers of the School Boards. Limited as they seem to
be, it by no means follows that such Boards, if they are composed of
intelligent and practical men, really more in earnest about education
than about sectarian squabbles, may not exert a very great amount of
influence. And, from many circumstances, this is especially likely to
be the case with the London School Board, which, if it conducts itself
wisely, may become a true educational parliaments as subordinate in
authority to the Minister of Education, theoretically, as the
Legislature is to the Crown, and yet, like the Legislature, possessed
of great practical authority. And I suppose that no Minister of
Education would be other than glad to have the aid of the deliberations
of such a body, or fail to pay careful attention to its

What, then, ought to be the nature and scope of the education which a
School Board should endeavour to give to every child under its
influence, and for which it should try to obtain the aid of the
Parliamentary grants? In my judgment it should include at least the
following kinds of instruction and of discipline:--

1. Physical training and drill, as part of the regular business of the

It is impossible to insist too much on the importance of this part
of education for the children of the poor of great towns. All the
conditions of their lives are unfavourable to their physical
well-being. They are badly lodged, badly housed, badly fed, and live
from one year's end to another in bad air, without chance of a change.
They have no play-grounds; they amuse themselves with marbles and
chuck-farthing, instead of cricket or hare-and-hounds; and if it were
not for the wonderful instinct which leads all poor children of tender
years to run under the feet of cab-horses whenever they can, I know not
how they would learn to use their limbs with agility.

Now there is no real difficulty about teaching drill and the simpler
kinds of gymnastics. It is done admirably well, for example, in the
North Surrey Union schools; and a year or two ago when I had an
opportunity of inspecting these schools, I was greatly struck with the
effect of such training upon the poor little waifs and strays of
humanity, mostly picked out of the gutter, who are being made into
cleanly, healthy, and useful members of society in that excellent

Whatever doubts people may entertain about the efficacy of natural
selection, there can be none about artificial selection; and the
breeder who should attempt to make, or keep up, a fine stock of pigs,
or sheep, under the conditions to which the children of the poor are
exposed, would be the laughing-stock even of the bucolic mind.
Parliament has already done something in this direction by declining to
be an accomplice in the asphyxiation of school children. It refuses
to make any grant to a school in which the cubical contents of the
school-room are inadequate to allow of proper respiration. I should
like to see it make another step in the same direction, and either
refuse to give a grant to a school in which physical training is not
a part of the programme, or, at any rate, offer to pay upon such
training. If something of the kind is not done, the English physique,
which has been, and is still, on the whole, a grand one, will become as
extinct as the dodo in the great towns.

And then the moral and intellectual effect of drill, as an introduction
to, and aid of, all other sorts of training, must not be overlooked. If
you want to break in a colt, surely the first thing to do is to catch
him and get him quietly to face his trainer; to know his voice and bear
his hand; to learn that colts have something else to do with their
heels than to kick them up whenever they feel so inclined; and to
discover that the dreadful human figure has no desire to devour, or
even to beat him, but that, in case of attention and obedience, he may
hope for patting and even a sieve of oats.

But, your "street Arabs," and other neglected poor children, are rather
worse and wilder than colts; for the reason that the horse-colt has
only his animal instincts in him, and his mother, the mare, has been
always tender over him, and never came home drunk and kicked him in her
life; while the man-colt is inspired by that very real devil, perverted
manhood, and _his_ mother may have done all that and more. So, on
the whole, it may probably be even more expedient to begin your attempt
to get at the higher nature of the child, than at that of the colt,
from the physical side.

2. Next in order to physical training I put the instruction of
children, and especially of girls, in the elements of household work
and of domestic economy; in the first place for their own sakes, and in
the second for that of their future employers.

Every one who knows anything of the life of the English poor is aware
of the misery and waste caused by their want of knowledge of domestic
economy, and by their lack of habits of frugality and method. I suppose
it is no exaggeration to say that a poor Frenchwoman would make the
money which the wife of a poor Englishman spends in food go twice as
far, and at the same time turn out twice as palatable a dinner. Why
Englishmen, who are so notoriously fond of good living, should be so
helplessly incompetent in the art of cookery, is one of the great
mysteries of nature; but from the varied abominations of the railway
refreshment-rooms to the monotonous dinners of the poor, English
feeding is either wasteful or nasty, or both.

And as to domestic service, the groans of the housewives of England
ascend to heaven! In five cases out of six the girl who takes a
"place" has to be trained by her mistress in the first rudiments of
decency and order; and it is a mercy if she does not turn up her nose
at anything like the mention of an honest and proper economy. Thousands
of young girls are said to starve, or worse, yearly in London; and at
the same time thousands of mistresses of households are ready to pay
high wages for a decent housemaid, or cook, or a fair workwoman; and
can by no means get what they want.

Surely, if the elementary schools are worth anything, they may put an
end to a state of things which is demoralising the poor, while it is
wasting the lives of those better off in small worries and annoyances.

3. But the boys and girls for whose education the School Boards have to
provide, have not merely to discharge domestic duties, but each of them
is a member of a social and political organisation of great complexity,
and has, in future life, to fit himself into that organisation, or be
crushed by it. To this end it is surely needful, not only that they
should be made acquainted with the elementary laws of conduct, but that
their affections should be trained, so as to love with all their hearts
that conduct which tends to the attainment of the highest good for
themselves and their fellow men, and to hate with all their hearts that
opposite course of action which is fraught with evil.

So far as the laws of conduct are determined by the intellect, I
apprehend that they belong to science, and to that part of science
which is called morality. But the engagement of the affections in
favour of that particular kind of conduct which we call good, seems to
me to be something quite beyond mere science. And I cannot but think
that it, together with the awe and reverence, which have no kinship
with base fear, but arise whenever one tries to pierce below the
surface of things, whether they be material or spiritual, constitutes
all that has any unchangeable reality in religion.

And just as I think it would be a mistake to confound the science,
morality, with the affection, religion; so do I conceive it to be a
most lamentable and mischievous error, that the science, theology, is
so confounded in the minds of many--indeed, I might say, of the
majority of men.

I do not express any opinion as to whether theology is a true science,
or whether it does not come under the apostolic definition of "science
falsely so called;" though I may be permitted to express the belief
that if the Apostle to whom that much misapplied phrase is due could
make the acquaintance of much of modern theology, he would not hesitate
a moment in declaring that it is exactly what he meant the words to

But it is at any rate conceivable, that the nature of the Deity, and
his relations to the universe, and more especially to mankind, are
capable of being ascertained, either inductively or deductively, or by
both processes. And, if they have been ascertained, then a body of
science has been formed which is very properly called theology.

Further, there can be no doubt that affection for the Being thus
defined and described by theologic science would be properly termed
religion; but it would not be the whole of religion. The affection for
the ethical ideal defined by moral science would claim equal if not
superior rights. For suppose theology established the existence of an
evil deity--and some theologies, even Christian ones, have come very
near this,--is the religious affection to be transferred from the
ethical ideal to any such omnipotent demon? I trow not. Better a
thousand times that the human race should perish under his thunderbolts
than it should say, "Evil, be thou my good."

There is nothing new, that I know of, in this statement of the
relations of religion with the science of morality on the one hand and
that of theology on the other. But I believe it to be altogether true,
and very needful, at this time, to be clearly and emphatically
recognised as such, by those who have to deal with the education

We are divided into two parties--the advocates of so-called
"religious" teaching on the one hand, and those of so-called "secular"
teaching on the other. And both parties seem to me to be not only
hopelessly wrong, but in such a position that if either succeeded
completely, it would discover, before many years were over, that it had
made a great mistake and done serious evil to the cause of education.

For, leaving aside the more far-seeing minority on each side, what
the "religious" party is crying for is mere theology, under the name
of religion; while the "secularists" have unwisely and wrongfully
admitted the assumption of their opponents, and demand the abolition
of all "religious" teaching, when they only want to be free
of theology--Burning your ship to get rid of the cockroaches!

But my belief is, that no human being, and no society composed of human
beings, ever did, or ever will, come to much, unless their conduct was
governed and guided by the love of some ethical ideal. Undoubtedly,
your gutter child may be converted by mere intellectual drill into "the
subtlest of all the beasts of the field;" but we know what has become
of the original of that description, and there is no need to increase
the number of those who imitate him successfully without being aided by
the rates. And if I were compelled to choose for one of my own
children, between a school in which real religious instruction is
given, and one without it, I should prefer the former, even though the
child might have to take a good deal of theology with it. Nine-tenths
of a dose of bark is mere half-rotten wood; but one swallows it for the
sake of the particles of quinine, the beneficial effect of which may be
weakened, but is not destroyed, by the wooden dilution, unless in a few
cases of exceptionally tender stomachs.

Hence, when the great mass of the English people declare that they want
to have the children in the elementary schools taught the Bible, and
when it is plain from the terms of the Act, the debates in and out
of Parliament, and especially the emphatic declarations of the
Vice-President of the Council, that it was intended that such
Bible-reading should be permitted, unless good cause for prohibiting it
could be shown, I do not see what reason there is for opposing that
wish. Certainly, I, individually, could with no shadow of consistency
oppose the teaching of the children of other people to do that which my
own children are taught to do. And, even if the reading the Bible were
not, as I think it is, consonant with political reason and justice, and
with a desire to act in the spirit of the education measure, I am
disposed to think it might still be well to read that book in the
elementary schools.

I have always been strongly in favour of secular education, in the
sense of education without theology; but I must confess I have been no
less seriously perplexed to know by what practical measures the
religious feeling, which is the essential basis of conduct, was to be
kept up, in the present utterly chaotic state of opinion on these
matters, without the use of the Bible. The Pagan moralists lack life
and colour, and even the noble Stoic, Marcus Antonius, is too high and
refined for an ordinary child. Take the Bible as a whole; make the
severest deductions which fair criticism can dictate for shortcomings
and positive errors; eliminate, as a sensible lay-teacher would do, if
left to himself, all that it is not desirable for children to occupy
themselves with; and there still remains in this old literature a vast
residuum of moral beauty and grandeur. And then consider the great
historical fact that, for three centuries, this book has been woven
into the life of all that is best and noblest in English history; that
it has become the national epic of Britain, and is as familiar to noble
and simple, from John-o'-Groat's House to Land's End, as Dante and
Tasso once were to the Italians; that it is written in the noblest and
purest English, and abounds in exquisite beauties of mere literary
form; and, finally, that it forbids the veriest hind who never left his
village to be ignorant of the existence of other countries and other
civilisations, and of a great past, stretching back to the furthest
limits of the oldest nations in the world. By the study of what other
book could children be so much humanised and made to feel that each
figure in that vast historical procession fills, like themselves, but a
momentary space in the interval between two eternities; and earns the
blessings or the curses of all time, according to its effort to do good
and hate evil, even as they also are earning their payment for their

On the whole, then, I am in favour of reading the Bible, with such
grammatical, geographical, and historical explanations by a lay-teacher
as may be needful, with rigid exclusion of any further theological
teaching than that contained in the Bible itself. And in stating what
this is, the teacher would do well not to go beyond the precise words
of the Bible; for if he does, he will, in the first place, undertake a
task beyond his strength, seeing that all the Jewish and Christian
sects have been at work upon that subject for more than two thousand
years, and have not yet arrived, and are not in the least likely to
arrive, at an agreement; and, in the second place, he will certainly
begin to teach something distinctively denominational, and thereby come
into violent collision with the Act of Parliament.

4. The intellectual training to be given in the elementary schools must
of course, in the first place, consist in learning to use the means of
acquiring knowledge, or reading, writing, and arithmetic; and it will
be a great matter to teach reading so completely that the act shall
have become easy and pleasant. If reading remains "hard," that
accomplishment will not be much resorted to for instruction, and still
less for amusement--which last is one of its most valuable uses to
hard-worked people. But along with a due proficiency in the use of the
means of learning, a certain amount of knowledge, of intellectual
discipline, and of artistic training should be conveyed in the
elementary schools; and in this direction--for reasons which I am
afraid to repeat, having urged them so often--I can conceive no
subject-matter of education so appropriate and so important as the
rudiments of physical science, with drawing, modelling, and singing.
Not only would such teaching afford the best possible preparation for
the technical schools about which so much is now said, but the
organisation for carrying it into effect already exists. The Science
and Art Department, the operations of which have already attained
considerable magnitude, not only offers to examine and pay the results
of such examination in elementary science and art, but it provides what
is still more important, viz. a means of giving children of high
natural ability, who are just as abundant among the poor as among the
rich, a helping hand. A good old proverb tells us that "One should not
take a razor to cut a block:" the razor is soon spoiled, and the block
is not so well cut as it would be with a hatchet. But it is worse
economy to prevent a possible Watt from being anything but a stoker, or
to give a possible Faraday no chance of doing anything but to bind
books. Indeed, the loss in such cases of mistaken vocation has no
measure; it is absolutely infinite and irreparable. And among the
arguments in favour of the interference of the State in education, none
seems to be stronger than this--that it is the interest of every one
that ability should be neither wasted, nor misapplied, by any one: and,
therefore, that every one's representative, the State, is necessarily
fulfilling the wishes of its constituents when it is helping the
capacities to reach their proper places.

It may be said that the scheme of education here sketched is too large
to be effected in the time during which the children will remain at
school; and, secondly, that even if this objection did not exist, it
would cost too much.

I attach no importance whatever to the first objection until the
experiment has been fairly tried. Considering how much catechism, lists
of the kings of Israel, geography of Palestine, and the like, children
are made to swallow now, I cannot believe there will be any difficulty
in inducing them to go through the physical training, which is more
than half play; or the instruction in household work, or in those
duties to one another and to themselves, which have a daily and hourly
practical interest. That children take kindly to elementary science and
art no one can doubt who has tried the experiment properly. And if
Bible-reading is not accompanied by constraint and solemnity, as if it
were a sacramental operation, I do not believe there is anything in
which children take more pleasure. At least I know that some of the
pleasantest recollections of my childhood are connected with the
voluntary study of an ancient Bible which belonged to my grandmother.
There were splendid pictures in it, to be sure; but I recollect little
or nothing about them save a portrait of the high priest in his
vestments. What come vividly back on my mind are remembrances of my
delight in the histories of Joseph and of David; and of my keen
appreciation of the chivalrous kindness of Abraham in his dealing with
Lot. Like a sudden flash there returns back upon me, my utter scorn of
the pettifogging meanness of Jacob, and my sympathetic grief over the
heartbreaking lamentation of the cheated Esau, "Hast thou not a
blessing for me also, O my father?" And I see, as in a cloud, pictures
of the grand phantasmagoria of the Book of Revelation.

I enumerate, as they issue, the childish impressions which come
crowding out of the pigeon-holes in my brain, in which they have lain
almost undisturbed for forty years. I prize them as an evidence that a
child of five or six years old, left to his own devices, may be deeply
interested in the Bible, and draw sound moral sustenance from it. And I
rejoice that I was left to deal with the Bible alone; for if I had had
some theological "explainer" at my side, he might have tried, as such
do, to lessen my indignation against Jacob, and thereby have warped my
moral sense for ever; while the great apocalyptic spectacle of the
ultimate triumph of right and justice might have been turned to the
base purposes of a pious lampooner of the Papacy.

And as to the second objection--costliness--the reply is, first, that
the rate and the Parliamentary grant together ought to be enough,
considering that science and art teaching is already provided for; and,
secondly, that if they are not, it may be well for the educational
parliament to consider what has become of those endowments which were
originally intended to be devoted, more or less largely, to the
education of the poor.

When the monasteries were spoiled, some of their endowments were
applied to the foundation of cathedrals; and in all such cases it was
ordered that a certain portion of the endowment should be applied to
the purposes of education. How much is so applied? Is that which may be
so applied given to help the poor, who cannot pay for education, or
does it virtually subsidise the comparatively rich, who can? How are
Christ's Hospital and Alleyn's foundation securing their right
purposes, or how far are they perverted into contrivances for affording
relief to the classes who can afford to pay for education? How-- But
this paper is already too long, and, if I begin, I may find it hard to
stop asking questions of this kind, which after all are worthy only of
the lowest of Radicals.

* * * * *


[1] Notwithstanding Mr. Huxley's intentions, the Editor took upon
himself, in what seemed to him to be the public interest, to send an
extract from this article to the newspapers--before the day of the
election of the School Board.--EDITOR of the _Contemporary Review_.

[2] A passage in an article on the "Working of the Education Act," in
the _Saturday Review_ for Nov. 19, 1870, completely justifies this
anticipation of the line of action which the sectaries mean to take.
After commending the Liverpool compromise, the writer goes on to say:--

"If this plan is fairly adopted in Liverpool, the fourteenth clause of
the Act will in effect be restored to its original form, and the
majority of the ratepayers in each district be permitted to decide to
what denomination the school shall belong."

In a previous paragraph the writer speaks of a possible "mistrust" of
one another by the members of the Board, and seems to anticipate
"accusations of dishonesty." If any of the members of the Board adopt
his views, I think it highly probable that he may turn out to be a true

[3] Since this paragraph was written, Mr. Forster, in speaking at the
Birkbeck Institution, has removed all doubt as to what his "final
decision" will be in the case of such disputes being referred to
him:--"I have the fullest confidence that in the reading and explaining
of the Bible, what the children will be taught will be the great truths
of Christian life and conduct, which all of us desire they should know,
and that no effort will be made to cram into their poor little minds,
theological dogmas which their tender age prevents them from




Any candid observer of the phenomena of modern society will readily
admit that bores must be classed among the enemies of the human race;
and a little consideration will probably lead him to the further
admission, that no species of that extensive genus of noxious creatures
is more objectionable than the educational bore. Convinced as I am of
the truth of this great social generalisation, it is not without a
certain trepidation that I venture to address you on an educational
topic. For, in the course of the last ten years, to go back no farther,
I am afraid to say how often I have ventured to speak of education,
from that given in the primary schools to that which is to be had in
the universities and medical colleges; indeed, the only part of this
wide region into which, as yet, I have not adventured is that into
which I propose to intrude to-day.

Thus, I cannot but be aware that I am dangerously near becoming the
thing which all men fear and fly. But I have deliberately elected to
run the risk. For when you did me the honour to ask me to address you,
an unexpected circumstance had led me to occupy myself seriously with
the question of technical education; and I had acquired the conviction
that there are few subjects respecting which it is more important for
all classes of the community to have clear and just ideas than this;
while, certainly, there is none which is more deserving of attention by
the Working Men's Club and Institute Union.

It is not for me to express an opinion whether the considerations,
which I am about to submit to you, will be proved by experience to be
just or not, but I will do my best to make them clear. Among the many
good things to be found in Lord Bacon's works, none is more full of
wisdom than the saying that "truth more easily comes out of error than
out of confusion." Clear and consecutive wrong-thinking is the next
best thing to right-thinking; so that, if I succeed in clearing your
ideas on this topic, I shall have wasted neither your time nor my own.

"Technical education," in the sense in which the term is ordinarily
used, and in which I am now employing it, means that sort of education
which is specially adapted to the needs of men whose business in life
it is to pursue some kind of handicraft; it is, in fact, a fine
Greco-Latin equivalent for what in good vernacular English would be
called "the teaching of handicrafts." And probably, at this stage of
our progress, it may occur to many of you to think of the story of the
cobbler and his last, and to say to yourselves, though you will be too
polite to put the question openly to me, What does the speaker know
practically about this matter? What is his handicraft? I think the
question is a very proper one, and unless I were prepared to answer it,
I hope satisfactorily, I should have chosen some other theme.

The fact is, I am, and have been, any time these thirty years, a man
who works with his hands--a handicraftsman. I do not say this in the
broadly metaphorical sense in which fine gentlemen, with all the
delicacy of Agag about them, trip to the hustings about election time,
and protest that they too are working men. I really mean my words to be
taken in their direct, literal, and straightforward sense. In fact, if
the most nimble-fingered watchmaker among you will come to my workshop,
he may set me to put a watch together, and I will set him to dissect,
say, a blackbeetle's nerves. I do not wish to vaunt, but I am inclined
to think that I shall manage my job to his satisfaction sooner than he
will do his piece of work to mine.

In truth, anatomy, which is my handicraft, is one of the most difficult
kinds of mechanical labour, involving, as it does, not only lightness
and dexterity of hand, but sharp eyes and endless patience. And you
must not suppose that my particular branch of science is especially
distinguished for the demand it makes upon skill in manipulation. A
similar requirement is made upon all students of physical science. The
astronomer, the electrician, the chemist, the mineralogist, the
botanist, are constantly called upon to perform manual operations of
exceeding delicacy. The progress of all branches of physical science
depends upon observation, or on that artificial observation which is
termed experiment, of one kind or another; and, the farther we advance,
the more practical difficulties surround the investigation of the
conditions of the problems offered to us; so that mobile and yet steady
hands, guided by clear vision, are more and more in request in the
workshops of science.

Indeed, it has struck me that one of the grounds of that sympathy
between the handicraftsmen of this country and the men of science, by
which it has so often been my good fortune to profit, may, perhaps, lie
here. You feel and we feel that, among the so-called learned folks, we
alone are brought into contact with tangible facts in the way that you
are. You know well enough that it is one thing to write a history of
chairs in general, or to address a poem to a throne, or to speculate
about the occult powers of the chair of St. Peter; and quite another
thing to make with your own hands a veritable chair, that will stand
fair and square, and afford a safe and satisfactory resting-place to a
frame of sensitiveness and solidity.

So it is with us, when we look out from our scientific handicrafts upon
the doings of our learned brethren, whose work is untrammelled by
anything "base and mechanical," as handicrafts used to be called when
the world was younger, and, in some respects, less wise than now. We
take the greatest interest in their pursuits; we are edified by their
histories and are charmed with their poems, which sometimes illustrate
so remarkably the powers of man's imagination; some of us admire and
even humbly try to follow them in their high philosophical excursions,
though we know the risk of being snubbed by the inquiry whether
grovelling dissectors of monkeys and blackbeetles can hope to enter
into the empyreal kingdom of speculation. But still we feel that our
business is different; humbler if you will, though the diminution of
dignity is, perhaps, compensated by the increase of reality; and that
we, like you, have to get our work done in a region where little
avails, if the power of dealing with practical tangible facts is
wanting. You know that clever talk touching joinery will not make a
chair; and I know that it is of about as much value in the physical
sciences. Mother Nature is serenely obdurate to honeyed words; only
those who understand the ways of things, and can silently and
effectually handle them, get any good out of her.

And now, having, as I hope, justified my assumption of a place among
handicraftsmen, and put myself right with you as to my qualification,
from practical knowledge, to speak about technical education, I will
proceed to lay before you the results of my experience as a teacher of
a handicraft, and tell you what sort of education I should think best
adapted for a boy whom one wanted to make a professional anatomist.

I should say, in the first place, let him have a good English
elementary education. I do not mean that he shall be able to pass in
such and such a standard--that may or may not be an equivalent
expression--but that his teaching shall have been such as to have given
him command of the common implements of learning and to have created a
desire for the things of the understanding.

Further, I should like him to know the elements of physical science,
and especially of physics and chemistry, and I should take care that
this elementary knowledge was real. I should like my aspirant to be
able to read a scientific treatise in Latin, French, or German, because
an enormous amount of anatomical knowledge is locked up in those
languages. And especially, I should require some ability to draw--I do
not mean artistically, for that is a gift which may be cultivated but
cannot be learned, but with fair accuracy. I will not say that
everybody can learn, even this; for the negative development of the
faculty of drawing in some people is almost miraculous. Still
everybody, or almost everybody, can learn to write; and, as writing is
a kind of drawing, I suppose that the majority of the people who say
they cannot draw, and give copious evidence of the accuracy of their
assertion, could draw, after a fashion, if they tried. And that "after
a fashion" would be better than nothing for my purposes.

Above all things, let my imaginary pupil have preserved the freshness
and vigour of youth in his mind as well as his body. The educational
abomination of desolation of the present day is the stimulation of
young people to work at high pressure by incessant competitive
examinations. Some wise man (who probably was not an early riser) has
said of early risers in general, that they are conceited all the
forenoon and stupid all the afternoon. Now whether this is true of
early risers in the common acceptation of the word or not, I will not
pretend to say; but it is too often true of the unhappy children who
are forced to rise too early in their classes. They are conceited all
the forenoon of life, and stupid all its afternoon. The vigour and
freshness, which should have been stored up for the purposes of the
hard struggle for existence in practical life, have been washed out of
them by precocious mental debauchery--by book gluttony and lesson
bibbing. Their faculties are worn out by the strain put upon their
callow brains, and they are demoralised by worthless childish triumphs
before the real work of life begins. I have no compassion for sloth,
but youth has more need for intellectual rest than age; and the
cheerfulness, the tenacity of purpose, the power of work which make
many a successful man what he is, must often be placed to the credit,
not of his hours of industry, but to that of his hours of idleness, in
boyhood. Even the hardest worker of us all, if he has to deal with
anything above mere details, will do well, now and again, to let his
brain lie fallow for a space. The next crop of thought will certainly
be all the fuller in the ear and the weeds fewer.

This is the sort of education which I should like any one who was going
to devote himself to my handicraft to undergo. As to knowing anything
about anatomy itself, on the whole I would rather he left that alone
until he took it up seriously in my laboratory. It is hard work enough
to teach, and I should not like to have superadded to that the possible
need of un-teaching.

Well, but, you will say, this is Hamlet with the Prince of Denmark left
out; your "technical education" is simply a good education, with more
attention to physical science, to drawing, and to modern languages than
is common, and there is nothing specially technical about it.

Exactly so; that remark takes us straight to the heart of what I have
to say; which is, that, in my judgment, the preparatory education of
the handicraftsman ought to have nothing of what is ordinarily
understood by "technical" about it.

The workshop is the only real school for a handicraft. The education
which precedes that of the workshop should be entirely devoted to the
strengthening of the body, the elevation of the moral faculties, and
the cultivation of the intelligence; and, especially, to the imbuing
the mind with a broad and clear view of the laws of that natural world
with the components of which the handicraftsman will have to deal. And,
the earlier the period of life at which the handicraftsman has to enter
into actual practice of his craft, the more important is it that he
should devote the precious hours of preliminary education to things of
the mind, which have no direct and immediate bearing on his branch of
industry, though they lie at the foundation of all realities.

* * * * *

Now let me apply the lessons I have learned from my handicraft to
yours. If any of you were obliged to take an apprentice, I suppose you
would like to get a good healthy lad, ready and willing to learn,
handy, and with his fingers not all thumbs, as the saying goes. You
would like that he should read, write, and cipher well; and, if you
were an intelligent master, and your trade involved the application of
scientific principles, as so many trades do, you would like him to know
enough of the elementary principles of science to understand what was
going on. I suppose that, in nine trades out of ten, it would be useful
if he could draw; and many of you must have lamented your inability to
find out for yourselves what foreigners are doing or have done. So that
some knowledge of French and German might, in many cases, be very

So it appears to me that what you want is pretty much what I want; and
the practical question is, How you are to get what you need, under the
actual limitations and conditions of life of handicraftsmen in this

I think I shall have the assent both of the employers of labour and of
the employed as to one of these limitations; which is, that no scheme
of technical education is likely to be seriously entertained which will
delay the entrance of boys into working life, or prevent them from
contributing towards their own support, as early as they do at present.
Not only do I believe that any such scheme could not be carried out,
but I doubt its desirableness, even if it were practicable.

The period between childhood and manhood is full of difficulties and
dangers, under the most favourable circumstances; and, even among the
well-to-do, who can afford to surround their children with the most
favourable conditions, examples of a career ruined, before it has well
begun, are but too frequent. Moreover, those who have to live by labour
must be shaped to labour early. The colt that is left at grass too long
makes but a sorry draught-horse, though his way of life does not bring
him within the reach of artificial temptations. Perhaps the most
valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the
thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or
not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and, however
early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he
learns thoroughly.

There is another reason, to which I have already adverted, and which I
would reiterate, why any extension of the time devoted to ordinary
schoolwork is undesirable. In the newly-awakened zeal for education, we
run some risk of forgetting the truth that while under-instruction is a
bad thing, over-instruction may possibly be a worse.

Success in any kind of practical life is not dependent solely, or
indeed chiefly, upon knowledge. Even in the learned professions,
knowledge alone, is of less consequence than people are apt to suppose.
And, if much expenditure of bodily energy is involved in the day's
work, mere knowledge is of still less importance when weighed against
the probable cost of its acquirement. To do a fair day's work with his
hands, a man needs, above all things, health, strength, and the
patience and cheerfulness which, if they do not always accompany these
blessings, can hardly in the nature of things exist without them; to
which we must add honesty of purpose and a pride in doing what is done

A good handicraftsman can get on very well without genius, but he will
fare badly without a reasonable share of that which is a more useful
possession for workaday life, namely, mother-wit; and he will be all
the better for a real knowledge, however limited, of the ordinary laws
of nature, and especially of those which apply to his own business.

Instruction carried so far as to help the scholar to turn his store of
mother-wit to account, to acquire a fair amount of sound elementary
knowledge, and to use his hands and eyes; while leaving him fresh,
vigorous, and with a sense of the dignity of his own calling, whatever
it may be, if fairly and honestly pursued, cannot fail to be of
invaluable service to all those who come under its influence.

But, on the other hand, if school instruction is carried so far as to
encourage bookishness; if the ambition of the scholar is directed, not
to the gaining of knowledge, but to the being able to pass examinations
successfully; especially if encouragement is given to the mischievous
delusion that brainwork is, in itself, and apart from its quality, a
nobler or more respectable thing than handiwork--such education may be
a deadly mischief to the workman, and lead to the rapid ruin of the
industries it is intended to serve.

I know that I am expressing the opinion of some of the largest as well
as the most enlightened employers of labour, when I say that there is a
real danger that, from the extreme of no education, we may run to the
other extreme of over-education of handicraftsmen. And I apprehend that
what is true for the ordinary hand-worker is true for the foreman.
Activity, probity, knowledge of men, ready mother-wit, supplemented by
a good knowledge of the general principles involved in his business,
are the making of a good foreman. If he possess these qualities, no
amount of learning will fit him better for his position; while the
course of life and the habit of mind required for the attainment of
such learning may, in various direct and indirect ways, act as direct
disqualifications for it.

Keeping in mind, then, that the two things to be avoided are, the delay
of the entrance of boys into practical life, and the substitution of
exhausted bookworms for shrewd, handy men, in our works and factories,
let us consider what may be wisely and safely attempted in the way of
improving the education of the handicraftsman.

First, I look to the elementary schools now happily established all
over the country. I am not going to criticise or find fault with them;
on the contrary, their establishment seems to me to be the most
important and the most beneficial result of the corporate action of the
people in our day. A great deal is said of British interests just now,
but, depend upon it, that no Eastern difficulty needs our intervention
as a nation so seriously, as the putting down both the Bashi-Bazouks of
ignorance and the Cossacks of sectarianism at home. What has already
been achieved in these directions is a great thing; you must have lived
some time to know how great. An education, better in its processes,
better in its substance, than that which was accessible to the great
majority of well-to-do Britons a quarter of a century ago, is now
obtainable by every child in the land. Let any man of my age go into an
ordinary elementary school, and unless he was unusually fortunate in
his youth, he will tell you that the educational method, the
intelligence, patience, and good temper on the teacher's part, which
are now at the disposal of the veriest waifs and wastrels of society,
are things of which he had no experience in those costly, middle-class
schools, which were so ingeniously contrived as to combine all the
evils and shortcomings of the great public schools with none of their
advantages. Many a man, whose so-called education cost a good deal of
valuable money and occupied many a year of invaluable time, leaves the
inspection of a well-ordered elementary school devoutly wishing that,
in his young days, he had had the chance of being as well taught as
these boys and girls are.

But while in view of such an advance in general education, I willingly
obey the natural impulse to be thankful, I am not willing altogether to
rest. I want to see instruction in elementary science and in art more
thoroughly incorporated in the educational system. At present, it is
being administered by driblets, as if it were a potent medicine, "a few
drops to be taken occasionally in a teaspoon." Every year I notice that
that earnest and untiring friend of yours and of mine, Sir John
Lubbock, stirs up the Government of the day in the House of Commons on
this subject; and also that, every year, he, and the few members of the
House of Commons, such as Dr. Playfair, who sympathise with him, are
met with expressions of warm admiration for science in general, and
reasons at large for doing nothing in particular. But now that Mr.
Forster, to whom the education of the country owes so much, has
announced his conversion to the right faith, I begin to hope that,
sooner or later, things will mend.

I have given what I believe to be a good reason for the assumption,
that the keeping at school of boys, who are to be handicraftsmen,
beyond the age of thirteen or fourteen is neither practicable nor
desirable; and, as it is quite certain, that, with justice to other and
no less important branches of education, nothing more than the

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