Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/165

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MEDICAL QUACKS AND QUACKERIES.

inches long, blunt at one end and pointed at the other." They (so he affirmed) "cured rheumatism, local pains, inflammation, and even tumors, by drawing them over the affected parts for a few minutes." Dr. Perkins patented his discovery, and soon found numerous adherents, many of them being men of wealth and position. His son, Benjamin Douglass Perkins, crossed the Atlantic with the tractors, and in 1798 they were employed in the Royal Hospital in Copenhagen. In London their reputation was quickly established, and they soon became the fashion. The Royal Society accepted Perkins's tractors and book, and passed a vote of thanks to him; by 1804 a "Perkinean Institution" had been founded, which published transactions and held annual dinners. Lord Rivers was the first president, Governor Franklin vicepresident, and Lord Henneker, a fellow of the Royal Society, one of the members. All this time Douglass Perkins was coining money by selling tractors at five guineas each, which cost about ninepence. A hospital was built, where the only treatment was "tractoration." Persons in the highest positions willingly gave testimonials, telling of the marvelous cures wrought on themselves and their friends by these wonderful tractors. The bishops and clergymen on both sides of the Atlantic were most eager to thrust forward evidence on this medical topic; whole pages of panegyric were contributed by them. One writes, "I have used the tractors with success in several other cases in my own family, and, although like Naaman, the Syrian, I can not tell why the waters of Jordan should be better than Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, yet since experience has proved them so no reasoning can change the opinion" ("Currents and Counter-Currents," p. 85).

Many ministers of religion were furnished with tractors gratuitously, and Dr. Holmes remarks that one of the risks of infancy he had to encounter was Perkins's tractors. The medical profession was ever hostile to the new revelation, and their hostility by many was attributed to jealousy and self-interest. The Connecticut Medical Society, in 1797, expelled Dr. Perkins, for violating their regulations against nostrums and secret remedies. The bubble was burst by Dr. Haygarth, of Bath, who experimented on patients with bogus tractors made of wood: he was quite as successful with them as with the fiveguinea ones! These experiments did not immediately destroy the belief of the real Perkinistic enthusiasts, because, as Froude says, "belief in the marvelous does not rise from evidence, and will not yield to it." After a time, however, Perkinism passed away so quietly that the date of its death is unrecorded. Lord Byron, in his "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," refers to these celebrated Tractors:[1]

  1. "Thus saith the Preacher, 'Naught beneath the sun
    Is new,' yet still from change to change we run;
    What varied wonders tempt us as they pass!—
    The cow-pox, Tractors, galvanism, gas,
    In turns appear to make the vulgar stare,
    Till the swoll'n bubble bursts—and all is air!"