TMC Faculty Seeks Location of the Human Soul

Chit-Chat.  Knoxville’s Medical College — Advance in Medicine and Surgery — An Interesting Question

The Knoxville Medical college has been frequently referred to by the Journal.  It is an institution long needed in the city, and truly fills a long-felt want.  Much progress has been made in surgery and medicine in the past century, and we know a great deal more about the human body and the various parts comprising it than our forefathers.  Knowledge of these things has only been arrived at through experiment.  There is an old saw to the effect that —

“If the patient die say nature did it.
But if he lives give me the credit.”

And when unsuccessful in their practice the doctors can lay the result to nature.  As nature is unable to argue the point the doctor generally gets the benefit of the doubt.  It may be fairly presumed, however, that when the physician is a graduate and possesses the skill and ability that should always mark the representative of such an important profession that the patient would have shuffled off this mortal coil as quickly, and in the majority of cases a great deal quicker than if he had not been called in.

But medical colleges have more to do with the dead than the living.  Why is it that an autopsy is performed!  The answer is close at hand.  Occasionally the patient dies and the doctors are puzzled to know what he dies of.  So in order to find out they go through the internal economy of the corpse and locate the trouble.  It is true the discovery does not benefit the dead person but it should be a source of consolation to him to know that he is a martyr to the glorious cause of advanced science and that some other man or woman will profit by his misfortune.  And thus unconsciously, if not unwillingly, our dead friend becomes of practical use in this world even after life has left his body.

What is this mysterious thing we call life anyway?  What subtle spirit of power puts the machinery of our bodies in motion and animates what else would be senseless clay?  The heart pumps streams of blood through miles of intricate arteries and we sleep and wake, think and talk, leap and frisk and do a thousand things that are full of grace and motion.  All at once the heart refuses to work and that minute we die.

Life!  Whence does it come and whither does it go!  It hangs upon a brittle thread and the shears of fate, so the fable has it, are extended always ready to snap it.  Prometheus thought he would steal the fires from heaven and animate a form of clay, but he made a dismal failure of his attempt.  The strong, fine streams of life that runs through all nature is too elusive for us to grasp.  The doctors are baffled at this point.  All we know is that we live, that life is very warm and very sweet, and that it is our desire to prolong it as long as possible.

But what we started out to say was, that the faculty of the medical college are engaged now in a very interesting problem, that is as new as it is old.  They are endeavoring to discover the location of the human soul.  This is meant in all seriousness.  The investigation is not new by any means.  The ancients were bothered by it and advanced some queer ideas concerning the position the soul occupies in the body.  Not long since an eastern investigator announced that he had located the soul in the brain, but this theory is controverted by others.  We hope our own medical college will thoroughly investigate this interesting physiological and psychological question and throw new light on the subject.

Source:  Knoxville Daily Journal and Tribune, December 22, 1889, page 6

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