Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/441

This page has been validated.

ing from dirty water." Of course the exhibition was vastly amusing, but, after all the guffaw was over, a sad after-thought necessarily came to every thinking man as to the condition of the great metropolis which allowed all its dearest material interests to be placed in such hands as this. It may be said that this was the result of a political system, but it was not. Had there been a tithe of the instruction which should have prevailed—of that simple knowledge that should have existed on this subject—such a thing would have been impossible, no matter what the political exigencies or arrangements were.

So much for the need of popular enlightenment on this subject. Look, now, at a higher range. It is only a few years since the country was startled by the outbreak of a malignant type of fever in one of the leading boarding-schools in New England. The result was, that several ladies from the most respectable families in the country lost their lives. The school had always been considered an admirable one. It was under the charge of a principal and instructors in every way worthy of their calling; but an investigation by competent persons showed that causes of zymotic disease lurked at every corner of the edifice, and that the only wonder was that the disease had not come earlier and spread even wider.

Look now at the want of special and technical instruction. It is little over ten years since the International Commission on Quarantine Matters sat in Paris. They did a great and noble work, but their labors have taken no such hold upon the policy of various States as they ought to have taken. What is the reason of this? There are admirable sanitarians in our own country and in others. We have several of whom the country may justly be proud; but the difficulty is, that our institutions have not given us enough of them to create and spread a healthy public opinion on this subject. One or two, or half a dozen, cannot, in so great a country as this, accomplish so great a work, and especially they cannot if they are burdened with the laborious duty of a metropolitan physician. There is a great want of special instruction in our medical colleges in public hygiene—hygiene in its relation to quarantine matters, in regard to the prevention of epidemics, in regard to sanitary provision for the wants of great cities and districts. Again, if you go into any of our interior States, you will find that any thing like a thorough or carefully-thought-out or wrought-out system of sewerage is a very rare exception to a very wide-spread rule. Nothing can be more inadequate than the system of sewerage of nine-tenths of our cities; and, indeed, until recently, the city of New York, with all its magnificent provision of water-supply, and in spite of its splendid position for drainage, was very improperly provided for in this respect. So much for the want of these different branches of instruction in this great science, and now as to the remedy which I would propose.

First, as regards Public Schools, I would make provision for simple