Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/381

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Lady Mary's cipher. In the literary remains of the time, the fact that she had preserved the beauty of her countrywomen is mentioned ten times to one of the preservation of life.

Lady Mary's thoroughly intelligent account of the process shows that in her case the new idea had fallen into a hospitable and enlightened mind, and although she did not live to see the fruition of her efforts in the immense amelioration of the condition of her countrymen that took place later, there was wrapped up in the process she had naturalized the germ of a mighty fact of biology destined to spring up and bear a myriad of those leaves that are "for the healing of the nations." When the value of the operation was thoroughly appreciated there came upon the scene some enterprising doctors who established what they called "inoculation houses"—we should say now smallpox sanitariums—for isolation was needed to preserve the community, as the disease communicated itself as surely through voluntary sufferers as when it had been taken unwittingly. Here the candidate was put through a course of medication that to-day seems nothing less than ferocious; and one doctor—Dimsdale—rendered himself so conspicuous as to be knighted, and the Empress of Russia sent for him to inoculate herself and her son Paul. The bold experiment was first tried on two young gentlemen of the cadet corps, and afterward, a second experiment was made on four more cadets, before royalty ventured. Then the exalted candidates passed safely through it, and Dimsdale says, "the Empress and the Grand Duke were pleased to permit several persons to be inoculated from them, and by that condescension the prejudice which has reigned among the inferior ranks of people that the party would suffer from whom the infectious matter was taken was most effectually destroyed." Dimsdale was made Baron of the Russian Empire and physician to her Imperial Majesty, and awarded ten thousand pounds in addition to an annuity of five hundred pounds. As up to this time every seventh child born in the Russian Empire had died of smallpox, the royal conduct is to be commended.

A careful sifting of all the methods and recorded experiences of all the inoculators shows that the essential vital kernel of the process grazed closely on Pasteur's "attenuated virus," and that all their "cooling" and "dieting" and "strengthening" sank into insignificance beside the one dominating point of using a benign virus, if such a contradiction in terms is allowable. Much valuable knowledge in reference to inoculation was accumulated, and some brilliant foreshadowings of modern knowledge as to the way in which infection spreads were seen, but these discoveries were soon to be thrown into eclipse by those of Edward Jenner.

This great benefactor of humanity was born in Berkeley, in Gloucestershire, in 1749, and at the time of Lady Mary Montagu's