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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/818

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

based mainly upon sensational reports which have appeared from time to time in the newspapers.

I will not enter upon a detailed description of this dread malady. It is one which profoundly affects the constitution of its victim, and usually terminates fatally in from five to fifteen years. It can not be said to be an absolutely incurable disease, although the most that medical skill has succeeded in accomplishing, save in a few exceptional instances, has been to cause a temporary disappearance of the symptoms at the outset, or to mitigate the suffering of the patient in the later stages. In some cases, the disease appears in the form of dull, brownish spots upon the skin, with loss of its natural sensibility. This is the macular form of leprosy. In other cases the disease is characterized by the formation of dark, reddish-brown lumps upon the face and other parts of the body, which give the leper a peculiarly unsightly expression. This constitutes the more severe or tubercular form of the disease. In all cases the nerve-trunks are more or less affected, and the sense of touch in the extremities is greatly impaired. The hands shrivel, the fingers become bent like claws, ulceration takes place in some cases, and the joints drop off one by one. The leper now becomes an utterly helpless and pitiable object.

Such is leprosy as met with at the present day, and at once the interesting question arises, "Is this the leprosy of olden time the tsaraath of the Old Testament?" Without doubt the disease of which I have been speaking existed among the Egyptians and the Israelites in Moses's day, and from Egypt gradually made its way along the coasts of the Mediterranean to Greece and later to Italy. There is doubt, however, as to whether Moses was perfectly familiar with the leprosy which we now recognize, and distinguished it from other affections of a severe and contagious character. Certainly there are no scriptural references to any disease which is unmistakably the leprosy of the present day. We read that when Moses put his hand into his bosom and took it out again at the command of the Lord, "Behold his hand was leprous as snow." When the anger of the Lord was kindled against the sister of Moses, "Behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow." Again, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was told by the prophet: "The leprosy, therefore, of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed forever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow." Now, there are certain affections of the skin, met with at the present day, to which the expression "white as snow" would be applicable, but leprosy is not one of them. Indeed, in this disease, the skin usually becomes dark rather than light in color, and in none of the few score of cases which I have had the opportunity of observing would the phrase "white as snow" be other than highly inappropriate.

The somewhat detailed description of leprosy which is found in the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus is almost unintelligible in the light of