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THIS work originated in a series of papers contributed by the writer to a public journal with which he was connected. They excited some attention at the time, and it was suggested that, if revised and published in a separate form, they might aid in diffusing a more correct knowledge of the Bath than generally prevails.
It was found, however, that, to do anything like justice to the subject, considerable additions were required, which involved the re-casting of the whole matter; and thus, what was at first intended to be a small pamphlet, gradually expanded into the present volume.
The indifference of the Medical Profession, as a body, to the employment of Heat as a Therapeutic, and the prejudiced hostility with which the Bath has been received by the great majority of practitioners, led to the addition of the Introductory Chapter, and also of Chapter XIV., for the purpose of illustrating the value properly attachable to such opposition, no matter how authoritatively expressed, and of showing that anything new
is not necessarily false or useless because it may be ridiculed and repudiated by medical men of the highest public repute. Great professional eminence, in the estimation of the world; is quite compatible with the harbouring of inveterate prejudices, and the existence of even gross ignorance on strictly professional subjects.
It is only necessary to observe that, in describing the condition of the medical profession and the deplorable effects of drug practice, the authorities relied on are members of that profession who hold, or have held, high position in its ranks. Nothing has been advanced save on such authority, and, considering the whole character of the evidence adduced, it is for rational minds. to estimate the credit due to medical opinion, when dogmatically expressed, in opposition to the natural system of Therapeutics advocated in these pages. In medical practice, as in all other social ameliorations, public intelligence must lead the way.
TO RICHARD BARTER, M.R.C.S.E.
DEAR DR. BArter,
The high sense I entertain of your distinguished labours in a cause which has for its object the prolongation of human life, the mitigation of suffering, and the increase of health and happiness, leads me to dedicate to you this humble effort to direct public attention, in the words of Sir John Forbes, to "the great value and importance of what may be termed the physiological, hygienic, or natural system of curing diseases, in contradistinction to the pharmaceutical or empirical drug plan, generally prevalent."
In common with all who are familiar with the facts, I recognise in you the earnest, intrepid, and successful innovator, who, with the truths of Nature for your guide, succeeded in introducing a new system of Therapeutics, which some of the most gifted minds of the age, who adorn the medical profession, have welcomed as a priceless "boon to humanity."
To you the honour justly belongs of having been the first to establish, on a firm basis, Hydropathy in Ireland, and to you also the Western nations are indebted for the revival of the ancient Hot Air Bath, and its application as a remedial agent in the treatment of disease-thereby demonstrating the incompar
able advantages of artificial Heat as a curative means. You thus conferred on Hydropathy a new power which constitutes its perfection as a rational system of Therapeutics-vastly augmenting its utility and intensifying its benefits.
Having been led, in the first instance, to follow the imperfect modern Turkish mode of constructing and working the Bath, your sagacious experience soon induced you to detect and correct the evils arising therefrom. You restored the purity of the Bath atmosphere in accordance with the more approved ancient practice, and thus avoiding the inconveniences of superabundant moisture, you instructed the Easterns to appreciate the curative powers of the Bath, and indicated the only means by which high degrees of Temperature can be safely and beneficially employed.
Feeling your way with prudent circumspection, and profiting by your large experience, you gradually tested the value of high temperatures and the direct action of Heat in the treatment of disease, thus heralding the development of a therapeutical agency which is destined to revolutionise the unphilosophical system of Old Medicine, and supersede the gratuitous cruelties of its irrational practices.
When satisfied you possessed in the Bath a remedial agency of superlative power as applicable to man, your humanity suggested the sound physiological conclusion that it would prove of equal potency in the treatment of the various diseases to which domesticated animals are subject, and experience has amply confirmed the correctness of your views.
Undeterred by the opposition which besets the path of every one who earnestly labours for the benefit of mankind, you have had the satisfaction of seeing your views adopted, or tacitly acquiesced in, by many of those who were foremost to ridicule or senselessly condemn. "Of all methods of advancing the interests of science," remarks Dr. Andrew Combe, "that which consists in the supercilious neglect of alleged new discoveries, merely on the ground that they differ from what is already known, is assuredly the worst." And he further observes"We ought to extend the hand of welcome to every man who is able to correct an established error, or add a new truth to the existing store; and much more so, if the offered contribution should be of that new and important principle capable, if true, of modifying and improving the whole field of medical practice."
That your "contributions" merit such a character is now admitted by all who judge impartially; yet no such "hand of welcome" was extended to you by the great majority of your professional brethren. On the contrary, you experienced the fate of all great practical benefactors of mankind in having your labours misrepresented—your motives impugned-—your claims to distinction unfairly questioned, and the merits of your improvements ungenerously decried and depreciated.
But you have, nevertheless, enjoyed the signal triumph of having lived to witness the successful establishment of the Bath not only in Western Europe, but also in America and other countries, where it was previously unknown, and future generations cannot fail to recognise your merits as a distinguished pioneer in the cause of human welfare.