Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/161

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MEDICAL QUACKS AND QUACKERIES.

the "manual exercise," and declared that after touching thirty to forty a day he felt the goodness go out of him. No doubt these people practiced unconsciously what Mesmer many years after practiced by design. On the subject of Mesmerism and spiritualism I do not propose to enter. Of late years cures by the laying on of hands, assisted, however, by prayer, and the anointing with oil, have become very common, especially in the United States, the hot-bed of all sorts of quackeries. This summer there has been a "faith convention" at Old Orchard, in Maine, where many people were publicly cured by this method; all the diseases treated appeared to be, from the indefinite history of cases reported in religious newspapers, affections of the nervous system. Many hysterical cases were possibly benefited purely by the effect of the imagination: as the disases are ones of the imagination, so are the cures. We have yet to hear of a case of actual disease, such as is daily seen in our hospitals, cured by this method.

The immediate progenitor of our present race of quacks is Paracelsus, who flourished in the sixteenth century; he generally styled himself Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Paracelsus Bombastus von Hohenheim. His father, who was the natural son of a prince, gave him an excellent education. He studied medicine, and afterward was for some time professor at Basle, in Switzerland. Paracelsus denied the utility of knowing the cause or mode of origin of disease; he said all he wanted to know was, how to cure it. He styled himself the monarch of physicians, and asserted that the hair on the back of his head knew more than all the writers from Galen to Avicenna, and he publicly burned their books. He invented a nostrum called "azoth," which he vaunted as the philosopher's stone, the tincture of life. He proclaimed that he had the power of making man immortal, yet he died at the age of forty-eight. Still, by the aid of opium, antimony, and mercury, he performed some wonderful cures, and to him must be awarded the credit of first drawing the attention of the profession to the value of these remedies in the treatment of diseases. He also helped medicine to advance by showing contempt for traditional methods of treatment and the humoral pathology of the ancients, which had held sway for over two thousand years.

The most remarkable example of credulity and superstition of the public is found in the history of two quackeries which flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I refer to the weapon-ointment and sympathetic-powder cures. The weapon-ointment was used in healing wounds; but, instead of the ointment being applied to the wound, it was applied to the weapon which caused it. This was fortunate for the people so treated, as the applications to fresh wounds in those times were most barbarous. The ointment was prepared in various ways, and its ingredients were most diverse, consisting of human fat and blood, mummy, moss from a dead man's skull, bull's blood and fat, etc. At one time there was a schism in the weapon-salve school, and a