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The extensive abstraction of blood here recommended will, no doubt, appear surprising, and bordering on temerity, to those who are influenced by the terrors of subsequent debility, and the false inferences connected with that term. But, in violent cases of ophthalmia, no alternative remains between permanent injury of sight, or perhaps total blindness, and a temporary reduction of strength, which is very speedily restored.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ist September 1815.
Copy of a Letter on Pharmaceutical Nomenclature, addressed
to His Excellency Sir James WrLIE, M. D. Physician to His Imperial Majesty ALEXANDER. By ROBERT LYALL, Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, &c.
EAR Sirg-As I think the subject of my last conversation
with your Excellency of the greatest importance; as I am also of opinion, that pharmaceutical nomenclaturists have of late misled themselves in thinking they were following the principles of Linnæus, while they have been grossly deviating from them; and as I am anxious to see the confusion of our medicinal terminology removed, I hope you will excuse the freedom of the few following observations.
At the present moment, almost every country of Europe, almost every university, has its own pharmacopæia, with its peculiar nomenclature; and even the kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland can boast its three pharmacopoeias, with their various terminologies. The disadvantages arising from these circumstances have been often pointed out, and the want of one general nomenclature been as often lamented. But as it is scarcely to be expected, however desirable, that the heads of all the universities in Europe shall assemble to form and render valid one system of nomenclature, and as you have, in my opinion, a better opportunity in Russia, from the nature of your high situation, as well as of the laws of the country, * than any individual, of carrying my ideas into effect if approved of, I most willingly submit them to your consideration.
* I allude here to the influence of an Imperial Ukaze. VOL. XII. NO. 48.
The Philosophia Botanica I have repeatedly read and studied, and still oftener admired the genius of its author, displayed in the accuracy, conciseness, and precision of the terminology, in its application to science in general, - but above all to botany, my favourite pursuit. But my admiration has always been at its height, when I thought of its advantages in rescuing us from the obscurity predominant among the most celebrated botanists, I may say naturalists, in consequence of the want of one general immutable terminology, with the addition of the synonyms. It is owing, in the first place, to the formation of his Classes and Orders, but especially, in the second place, to the invention of trivial names, that the works of Linnæus have contributed so greatly to the advancement of science. And I question much, if the Linnæan system would have been so much admired, or have immortalized its author, had it not been followed by this valuable invention,
Perhaps a nomenclature for medicines might be formed on the same principles, and in the same manner ; i. e. we might have Classes and Orders, Genera and Species, and every medicine, with its specific character, might have a trivial name. But my object at present is to insist upon the names of medicines being fixed and immutable, so that they might be known, if possible, throughout the world by those names, and which might very appropriately (as before) be called their officinal names.
The rules for the formation of the officinal names are chiefly three: Ist, That they shall be well considered before being adopted ; 2dly, That they shall consist as often as possible of one, and, except when impossible, at most of two words; and, 3dly and principally, That they shall be immutable.
No man can more highly admire the chemical nomenclature of Lavosier and his followers, than I do; and none wish more earnestly to connect general science, especially chemistry, with pharmacy, both in terminology and practice. Yet as science, particularly chemical science, has of late made such improvements, and it is to be hoped will continue to advance with rapid progress ; and as the names of bodies, more particularly compound bodies, must be changed with every revolution; and, as stability of one language or name is the most important con
I allude pointedly here to the brilliant discoveries of Davy respecting the alkalies and some of the earths, which will cause a total change of chemical nomenclature ; although I believe some chemists, except for emendations, pre viously imagined that the system of nomenclature was arrived at the ne plus ultra of perfection.
sideration in pharmaceutical nomenclature, I cannot see the propriety of attempting to make the officinal and the chemical name always the same; and I am convinced, that, in a few years, should the plan prevalent at present be continued, the confusion now experienced will so greatly increase, as to force the medical colleges and faculty to adopt some general universal nomenclature. However, to keep up the connection with the sciences, I think it would be proper and advantageous always to add among the synonyms, the name, ancient and modern, by which the medicine is known to chemists or mineralogists, &c. For the compound substances (of three, or four, or five ingredients) it will also be sufficient, in general, that they be designated in two, or, at most, three words; for if I do not greatly deceive myself, in opposition to bigh authority, we should seldom nominate medicines, from all or even two or three of their component parts, nor from their effects, because, if we attempt it, the names will either be so long, that they will never be adopted by medical men in their prescriptions, or, if shortened, will fail to accomplish the design ; and because it is almost impossible to indicate all the effects of all or most of the ingredients of compound medicines, and, were it accomplished, our language would be confused with such words as these, cathartica, diuretica, sudorifica, &c. and their combinations. For illustration of what I have now stated, pardon me for referring to the nomenclature of the Pharmacopæia Castrensis Ruthena,* especially of the pills and powders, as well as to many of the names employed by the Edinburgh and London Colleges. I would farther remark, that the man who prescribes calomel, for instance, without knowing its composition, its effect, its dose, &c. is just as unlikely to know what submurias hydrargyri is, or perhaps still more so, as he may not be well acquainted with chemistry ; whereas the good practitioner will, in general, recollect the composition, &c. or ingredients of the medicine he prescribes, whatever name he uses. I would therefore
instead of letting the name indicate the nature or effect of the medicine, let the knowledge of its composition, dose, uses, effects, &c. be in the mind of the physician, which is of more importance, and will render the assistance of such a name unnecessary. However, I would certainly prefer such names as are here alluded to, when they were not otherwise objectionable.
The Pharmacopæia Castrensis Ruthena, on which great labour was bestowed, was published by Sir James Wylie in the year 1808, who adopted the new nomenclature, with some improvements and changee.
Perhaps, in the materia medica, the whole of the botanical names may be adopted, as they are almost immutable; but it does not follow, that, although we say Rheum palmatum, in prescription we must say Pulv. or Tinct. Rhei palmati. The trivial name is inconvenient and altogether unnecessary, except when it serves some useful purpose, or where there are different species of the same genus used, as is the case with aloes. Yet I would prefer giving, even in the materia medica, simply the officinal name, Rheum, followed by the botanical name as a synonym, thus, Rheum palmatum Botania. *
I recollect reading, I am not sure whether in a pamphlet or in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, some excellent observations by Dr Bostock of Liverpool on pharmaceutical nomenclature, founded on chemical facts, in objection to the new nomenclature, as it is called ; and to which he was led by a different train of reasoning (if I remember) from that I have employed.
I shall now add a few examples of the manner in which I would form a nomenclature, to illustrate my ideas.
H. E. Dr Crichton followed this plan in the materia medica with respect to animals and plants, as I have just seen, in a copy of the Pharmacopæia in usum Nosocomii Pauperum Petropolitani, given me yesterday; although he followed the new nomenclature in the chemical preparations and compositions.
ACETIS PLUMBI CHEMIÆ. N. B. The confusion of following chemistry, and the change ing of names, is well illustrated, especially in the last example, sugar
of lead, which has three chemical names. One college reckons it an acetate ; another, an acetite; and a third, a superacetate; and, with the improvement of science, we may soon have some additional names. How many similar examples might be quoted from the three pharmacopoeias alone, not to speak of the opinions of some distinguished chemists, who have shewn the inaccuracy of many of the names.
N. B. The chemical names also differ here.
These examples will illustrate what I mean, that, under the Immutable Officinal Name, printed in large characters, all the important synonyms, and lastly, the chemical name, in a line by itself, shall follow. I have only put down one chemical name; but as chemists differ in opinion sometimes, different names could be added, with a reference to the works of the authors. And at the end of the pharmacopoeia, I would have one general index, alphabetically arranged, as in your pharmacopæia, so that any medicine could be found in a moment, either by old or new, or chemical or botanical name, &c. This is agreeable to the plan of Linnæus, in his celebrated works; and would be in reality following Linnæan principles. I have marked Potassa, Cremor Tartari, Pulv. Antimon., Saccharum Saturni, Calomelas, as immutable officinal names.
I only put these down, however, as they strike me to be good names. The name of the medicine most approved should occupy their places, and they can follow as synonyms. Another rule, in the formation of names, perhaps, might be added,—that is, as often