Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/303

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JULY, 1888.


IT was a little more than five years ago that Dr. Frank Hastings Hamilton wrote for "The Popular Science Monthly" an article on sewer-gas, in which he vigorously arraigned science for its failure to keep pace with civilization in the disposal of household wastes. The effect of Dr. Hamilton's article was quite unprecedented. His forcible presentation of facts and theories so affected the popular mind as to create an almost universal distrust of sanitary science, and, even at the present time, the idea prevails that plumbing fixtures in our houses are always a source of danger. In magazines and newspapers the discussion has been from time to time renewed, and the same pessimistic views are almost invariably held that were first advanced by Dr. Hamilton.

It is a subject of vital interest now to determine if this unfortunate condition of things described as existing five years ago still continues. We should know the truth or falsity of the assertion that there has been in late years a retrograde movement, hygienically considered, in substituting house-drains and sewers for the old earth-vaults and cess-pools. Can we have plumbing fixtures in our houses without danger to health, or must we make great concessions in comfort and convenience for the sake of safety? The question has lost none of its interest since Dr. Hamilton called into question the trustworthiness of sanitary science. Let us examine the evidence upon which the indictments have been made. We shall find, in the first place, that there is a surprising popular ignorance in regard to the literature of the science. How many well-informed persons are there, who know of the work of Pettenkofer, of Carmichael, of Naegeli, and Wernich,