Billeder på siden

would have received the volumes of the Synthetic Philosophy, beyond all peradventure the vastest deductive work ever conceived but generated and accomplished, not in a Scotch, but in an English brain.

This then is the stricture that we would pass on Buckle's examination of Hunter's intellect, but in all other respects we pronounce it a far abler and more comprehensive sketch than has been written by any medical man; the passage on Hunter as a pathologist is especially superb.

[ocr errors]

Among the speculations which had engaged Hunter's mind was the possibility of scientifically freezing human beings, and warming them back to life a century or two afterwards. But tho he pursued the subject so far as actually to experiment on animals with this object in view, his ingenious project, like Leonardo da Vinci's ambitious plan to remove mountains by the laws of physics, never materialized. On the whole we need not regret that he failed in this respect, for it is with considerable trepidation that we would view the re-birth of some of Hunter's contemporaries; for instance, Samuel Johnson, the arch-obscurantist, nor would we care to listen again to Edmund Burke's puerile lament of mankind's ingratitude towards queens.

But how well it would have been if John Hunter himself, instead of perishing in a passion, had been congealed, and if now, after an hibernation of 120 years, he could be thawed out and live once more among us. How eagerly we would press around the master, and how much his disciples would have to show him. But not long could we prattle, for John Hunter would grow impatient, and we would soon see him lost in thought, as when he sat before Sir Joshua's brush, or we would find him with rolled-up sleeves in a laboratory, working over the great modern problem of cancer.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]




Medicine has never before produced any single improvement of such utility. Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood was a beautiful addition to our knowledge of the ancient economy; but on a review of the practice of medicine before and since that epoch, I do not see any great amelioration which has been derived from that discovery. You have erased from the calendar of human afflictions one of its greatest. Yours is the comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived; future nations will know by history only that the loathsome small-pox has existed, and by you has been extirpated.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: to Edward Jenner.

LET us not mourn at the mystery which surrounds the life of Mary Wortley Montagu, for altho it is true that we cannot ascertain whether the honorable lady ever entered a harem and saw the Sultan's animated aphrodisiacs, it is equally true that the matter is of no consequence, while what we do know of her is of the utmost importance: that during the second decade of the eighteenth century, while residing at Constantinople in the capacity of the British Ambassador's wife, she observed the Turkish practice of inoculating against smallpox.

Most Englishwomen of that period would have scorned to adopt the ways of the heathen, but Lady Mary had eloped from the parental home, and a woman who elopes is apt to be unprejudiced. The chief fault of such women is that twenty years later they object to their daughters following in their flying footsteps.

In one of those gossipy letters which have gained her a place in literature by the side of Madame Sevigné, Lady Mary writes: I am going to tell you a thing that I am sure will make you wish yourself here. The smallpox, so fatal, and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the

operation every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the smallpox; they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together), the old woman comes with a nut-shell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch), and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle, and after binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell; and in this manner opens four or five veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the middle of the forehead, in each arm, and on the breast, to mark the sign of the cross; but this has a very ill effect, all these wounds leaving little scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who choose to have them in the legs, or that part of the arm that is concealed. The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. Every year thousands undergo this operation; and the French ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the smallpox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of anyone that has died in it; and you may believe I am very well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son.'

Oddly enough, the recipient of this information, Miss Sarah Chiswell, later succumbed to the smallpox - and yet not so oddly for in those days to die from smallpox was almost the natural manner of dying. The 'dear little son' in the case was duly and successfully inoculated, and lived — to become a big scoundrel.

On her return to England in 1722, Lady Mary introduced inoculation by submitting her daughter to the test. The vi

« ForrigeFortsæt »