Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/680

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lapse of a quarter of a century we can point, not certainly to perfection, but to such an improvement as might fairly at one time have been looked upon as chimerical. The death-rate of the army at home is only two fifths of what it was before the Crimean War; the death rate in India is only one third; and the death-rate in the West Indies one tenth.

In civil life it has recently been shown that the improvements of later times have resulted in a diminution of two per thousand in the general death-rate, and with the knowledge we now have of the causes of disease we may be sure that a general death-rate of not more than fifteen per thousand may be confidently looked for. We have not yet got rid of the fatal endemics in our midst, but they are in some direction's diminishing, and we have good hope for the future; while it seems probable that neither cholera nor any other introduced pestilence could establish a foothold in our land. The remarkable immunity of soldiers and prisoners in the last epidemic shows what can be done when people can be compelled to lead fairly hygienic lives.

I might extend this lecture by reference to the various theories of disease propagation, but time will not permit of it, even if it were otherwise desirable. I may, however, say that no one theory yet promulgated completely satisfies the requirements of the case, and that there may be some basis of truth even in the most conflicting views. So much has been done hitherto, and so much activity is being shown in investigation, that we can not fail ere long to find the key to many of the mysteries that now baffle and perplex us. It is quite clear that it is only by a knowledge of the causes of disease that hygiene can be advanced, and that it can never be in any way perfected without a complete system of etiology; and we are at present in this position, that practical hygiene has to some extent outstripped the knowledge of disease causes. We look, therefore, anxiously toward the pathological investigations of the time, and we deeply deplore the well-meaning but misguided zeal which is at present placing such grave obstacles in the way of the only means by which true science can advance—namely, direct experiment.

Although there are many names I might refer to as great writers in hygiene, abroad as well as at home, there is one which we can not omit in a lecture like this, more especially as it is the first delivered in this museum which has been founded to his memory. Edmund Alexander Parkes did more than any other one man in this or any age to make hygiene a positive fact, a practical science, based upon not only philosophical conceptions but actual experiment. Starting in life as an army medical officer, he was able to produce, during his short service in India and Burmah, works upon dysentery and cholera which will always be of the greatest value. Retiring into civil life, he became eminent as a physician and teacher, and in 1855 he undertook the organization of the hospital at Renkioi, in the Dardanelles, which