Whoever would become a good Anatomist must spare neither time nor labour in the study of Osteology. There is no bone, nor part of a bone, which does not mean more than is implied by the vague and often fanciful name by which it is designated; and a proper recognition of the true signification of such a part leads the mind, by an inductive process of reasoning, both to a correct interpretation of the ends obtained by particular modes of development; and to a just comprehension of the softer structures with which that part is immediately connected.
Nevertheless, Osteology is not a favourite branch of the Science of Anatomy. The great attention paid in the present day to minuteness of anatomical detail has produced in Osteology an extensive assemblage of barren and unconnected facts, which the mind at the outset of its studies is apt to revolt from, or to slur over with ill-concealed distaste.
Thus, a scientific knowledge of the skeleton, of the great cerebrospinal axis, and of the muscles which act on the vertebrae surrounding it, are accomplishments but rarely acquired by the student, although among the simplest and most fundamental truths of Anatomical Science. And until some system can be brought into general use, by which the connection of the different parts may be established, their proper places assigned, and their signification determined, there is but little chance that this subject will be prosecuted in the zealous and comprehensive spirit which it merits.
Such a system is supplied by the study of Homologies ; i. e. of the relations of corresponding parts ; and to Professor Owen is due the merit of having brought it into general notice in this country. My interest in it was excited while attending the Hunt-erian Lectures in the College of Surgeons, 1846-47 ; and the idea then struck me that great advantage would result from its introduction into the general course of medical education. Such a system would permit the indication of corresponding parts by the same names, and thus would involve the reconsideration and perhaps the retrenchment of that medley of terms which have been applied to whatever appearances, natural or artificial, happened to catch the eye of the observer: it would, at the same time, draw attention to the signification of different parts; to the objects attained by modifications of their form; to their relative amount of development ; and to their connections. In short, with increased accuracy and simplicity, it would bring with it a larger amount of useful and interesting information than is rendered available to the student of anatomy by any other existing system.
I shall not attempt to apologize for employing the nomenclature of Professor Owen. This work would have been incomprehensible without it ; unless, indeed, some far more involved nomenclature, such as that of Oken, of Meckel, or of Spix, had been preferred.