Shelby County, Indiana
William. Deprez Inlow
In the development of natural science in Indiana during the nineteenth century the doctor of medicine played an important role. His contribution is not to be marveled at, for it was he above all others who by temperament and training was led to the study of nature. It was to be expected that his primary concern with the science of man himself should also find expression in the exploration of other fields. The physician became a botanist almost of necessity, for he had need of medicinal plants. He roved forest and field in collecting; he treasured his herbarium; animal life intrigued him. He often made notations and reports concerning both the flora and the fauna of his area. Scientific interest thus always goes beyond subservience to what is deemed immediately practical. In the streams where the physician studied fish and searched for shells he found rocks exposed, some of which bore in them the remains of the life of eons past. He became a collector of fossils. The pursuit of paleontology led him into the intricacies of stratigraphy. When interest in geological knowledge developed, it was frequently to the physician that public authorities turned for assistance in geological survey.
Today the physician is no longer natural historian having a wide knowledge of the abundant life forms of his state, no longer paleontologist classifying specimens for his cabinet, no longer field geologist conducting surveys of his own and other counties. Science in days past was not so comprehensive, so detailed as now. One then could be an all-round man: William DePrez Inlow is senior surgeon, Inlow Clinic, Shelbyville, Indiana. This article is adapted from an address delivered before the Indiana Association of the History of Medicine at the Pre-conference Meeting of the Twenty-ninth Annual Indiana History Conference, Indiana State Library, December 11, 1947: "competent in many fields; but with modern specialization this feat has become well-nigh impossible. The present-day physician, busy with his own estate, seldom pauses long enough even to visit the lands of his neighbor. Intensification of effort confined to an ever smaller domain has brought much profit, but in the process of specialization something has been lost -- something intangible and difficult to name. It has been customary to look down on the early medical man as a person of meagre intellectual attainment. In this judgment we should not be too hasty. It is the purpose of this presentation to call attention to some of the physician's contributions in fields not ordinarily considered his province. After briefly tracing the general story of natural history and geology in the state, this article will portray the part taken in this development by certain medical men whose contributions were outstanding.
"Indiana Magazine of History," Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 1-35. The Indiana Physician as Geologist and Naturalist.
Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming
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