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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/774

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

on a diet that would endanger the life of a city dweller in a single month. It has been repeatedly observed that individuals who attained to an extreme old age were generally poor peasants whose avocations required daily labor in the open air, though their habits differed in almost every other respect; also that the average duration of life in. various countries of the Old World depends not so much on climatic peculiarities or their respective degree of culture as on the chief occupation of the inhabitants; the starved Hindoo outlives the well-fed Parsee merchant, the unkempt Bulgarian enjoys an average longevity of forty-two years to the west Austrian citizen's thirty-five.

In the cities of the higher latitudes, sedentary occupations in a vitiated atmosphere become often a sort of "second nature": artisans and shopkeepers, after following their business for a number of years, frequently come to dislike fresh air, as the convent slave, by an analogous suppression of his better instincts, becomes averse to free inquiry. But this abnormal indolence seldom becomes hereditary—perhaps never, if we except the children of inebriate idiots. The mediæval prejudice against all natural propensities—founded on the dogma of innate depravity—is, indeed, strikingly refuted by a young child's love of out-door exercise. Without the mediation of supernatural revelators or preternatural bugbears, a healthy boy prefers even the hardships of our northern winter sports to the atmosphere of a comfortable stove-room, and in summer-time the paradise of childhood is still a tree-garden. No domestic events of our later years can efface the impression of the woodland rambles, butterfly hunts, and huckleberry expeditions of our boyhood: the recollections of our first outdoor adventures endure like the mountains and rivers of a promised land whose cities have vanished for ever.

I have often been asked at what age infants can first be safely exposed to the influence of the open air. My answer is. On the first warm, dry day. There is no reason why a new-born child should not sleep as soundly under the canopy of a garden-tree on a pillow of sunwarmed hay as in the atmosphere of an ill-ventilated nursery. Thousands of sickly nurslings, pining away in the slums of our manufacturing towns, might be saved by an occasional sun-bath. Aside from its warmth and its chemical influence on vegetal oxygen, sunlight exercises upon certain organisms a vitalizing influence which science has not yet quite explained, but whose effect is illustrated by the contrast between the weeds of a shady grove and those of the sunlit fields, between the rank grass of a deep valley and the aromatic herbage of a mountain meadow, as well as by the peculiar wholesome appearance of a "sunburned" person or a sun-ripened fruit. Sunlight is too cheap to become a fashionable remedy, but its hygienic influence can hardly be overrated. Even in the glorious climate of the Latian hills, the Roman Epicureans constructed special solaria—glass-covered turrets—where they could bask in the full rays of the winter