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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/440

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sources of information—you may hear such people, I say, maintaining that, after all, the emanations of the cesspool are rather conducive to health than to disease; that their fathers lived and throve in such an atmosphere, and that, therefore, it has a healthy influence. I can point you to an exceedingly pleasant village which I have sometimes to visit, where, with a plentiful supply of water, there is an absolute want of any system of sewerage. Typhoid and typhus go zigzag through that town every year or two, making victims, yet you can't induce the people of that village to believe that their unsewered condition has any thing to do with it.

But it is not merely in the country districts that this state of things has existed. Up to a very recent period at least this same ignorance was manifested in a very surprising degree in this metropolis. It is now about five years since, with two other members of our State Senate, I visited this city, and sat in the Commission for examining into certain branches of the city administration, and especially into the conduct of that branch which had the care of the public health. The state of things revealed was such as could only exist under a great and wide-spread ignorance on the part of citizens of the first principles of Sanitary Science. To give an idea of this ignorance, let me recall, as nearly as I can, a little episode in the investigation: It happened that the late Judge Whiting, who had charge of the investigation on the part of the Citizens' Association, put on the stand a young physician, who testified that the Health Officers, or Wardens, or Inspectors, were men utterly ignorant of the first principles relating to the public health which they were appointed to preserve. In order to refute this, the head of the Health Department at the time brought on the stand, in perfect good faith, several of these Health Officers. Toward the close of the examination of the first (one) of these gentlemen, Judge Whiting asked this question: "Did you have a case of small-pox in your ward?" and he answered, "Yes, sir." Judge Whiting: "Did you visit the patient?" Witness: "No, sir." Judge Whiting: "Why not?" Witness: "For the same reason that you would not; that I was afraid of taking it myself." Judge Whiting: "Did the family have any care?" Witness: "Yes, sir; they were 'highjinnicks' (hygienics); they doctored themselves." As the other witnesses came in, Judge Whiting used this as a sort of test question—as a sort of key to unlock the system, and show the utter ignorance that prevailed in every department of it. Every witness was asked: "Well, have you any 'highjinnicks' in your ward?" Some of the witnesses thought they had; some thought they had not; some thought they "had them pretty badly;" some thought they had them in some parts of the ward, some thought they had them in other parts of the ward. At last the Judge asked a witness, who had been answering his question in this way: "Do you know what the word 'highjinnicks' means?" and he replied: "Yes, sir, I do; it means a bad smell aris-