Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/460

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
446
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Foremost among the evils which are thus presented to him are those conditions of disease known as anæmia and cachexia. Strictly, these are not diseases like diabetes, bronchitis, or defined affections having a regular course, but they are states of diseased form, which by their presence indicate a faulty nutrition at the period of life when good nutrition is most required, and which can not long go on without insuring the construction of an impaired bodily organization. The blood is not being duly oxygenated, and food, therefore, though it even be fair in quality or quantity, is not properly applied. The nervous system is imperfectly built up; the skeleton is imperfectly built up; the muscular system is imperfectly built up and sustained. How can the improvement which is called scholarship be turned to fitting account in such recipients of it? I watched recently the afternoon working of a large class of scholars, and counted one third of them under the most decisive influence of these conditions of disease. Of the affected, there would not be, in the ordinary averaging of life, twenty years of existence under the course that was being followed. The one saving clause in their case was development by physical training, and that was withheld. The one destroying clause in their case was over mental work, without the physical training, and that was assiduously and regularly supplied.

With or without the anæmia and cachexia, there is the constitutional disease, struma or scrofula, present in these classes. The instances of this kind, in varying degrees of intensity, are most numerous. This condition, again, is a mal or bad nutrition. It, as much as cachexia and anæmia, with which it is so often allied, is fostered by the prevailing system of mental pressure.

With these two conditions before the eye, there is to be seen here and there in the classes, of both sexes, but of the girls especially, the specimen of the phthisical or consumptive subject. In a class of fifty I pick out three thus doomed, if their circumstances be not changed, six per cent, certainly a moderate proportion. The disease has not positively developed, but the probability of its developing is all but certain, unless it be checked by the one or only remedial or preventive method—freedom from nervous exhaustion, combined with physical exercise in open breathing-space. Such preventives are not supplied, but undue nervous exhaustion and confinement are both supplied, and so the fatal disease is systematically fanned from latency into activity.

Spinal deformity and irregular construction of the skeleton is another condition of disease, or actual disease, readily detectable in these classes.

Miss Löfing, speaking of her experiences as to the girls which have come under her notice, reports that they are, as a rule, very flat-chested, that there is evidently much spinal distortion, and that lateral curvature of the spine is common among them. This, which is equally true in respect to boys, is accounted for by Miss Löfing in terms which