Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/329

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TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE.

The most glaring of all sanitary errors a quarter of a century ago was ignorance of the danger that lurks in an impure water supply, and the early efforts of most of the boards was directed to the protection of inland waters from pollution, and to inducing people in the older sections of the country whose ancient wells proved incomparable disease-breeders, to provide themselves with "piped"—i. e., protected—water wherever obtainable from an uncontaminated source. The legislative appropriations of money made it possible for the frontier and coast States to put in force efficient quarantine against those incursions of infectious disease that every now and again will strive to enter, in the person of the irrepressible immigrant. The newer, far western States have been the stamping-ground of quacks of every type, and the place where men with credentials bought from some "diploma mill" have passed as physicians, and where others, honest enough, have established themselves as doctors after acquiring so little of medical knowledge that an eastern man would not trust them with the care of a favorite cat. All those States have made a uniform push for registration of physicians, and in those where there are medical colleges, for a longer and more thorough course of medical education. The early boards had to make headway against prejudice and vested abuses, but they labored to enlighten and educate the people, and they reached a turn of the tide at about the end of the first decade, so that those that have been formed since were able at once to set about positive measures for good, and did not have to waste strength on combating obstacles. The history of the health boards supplies a beautiful example of the evolution of a sustaining public opinion—certainly "at the top" among the educated.

To the query, "What obstacles did it encounter?" there comes up one uniform chorus of groans over the apathy, indifference, and ignorance of the populace, and in some cases hostility from the medical profession itself, of whom better things might have been expected. If they tremble lest the world shall educate and sanitate itself into such perfect health that there will be no demand for their services, they can dismiss their foolish fears, for the more intelligent a man becomes in the structure of this "harp of a thousand strings," and the delicate adjustments on which its harmony depends, the less willing will he be to trust to an ignoramus when it gets out of tune. A long history might be made up of actual instances where greed of money has attempted


    M. Lewis, M. D.; North Dakota, F. H. De Vaux, M. D.; Ohio, C. O. Probst, M. D.; Oklahoma, J. O. Overton, M. D.; Pennsylvania, Benjamin Lee, M. D.; Tennessee, J. Berrien Lindsley, M. D.; Washington, G. S. Armstrong, M. D.; West Virginia, N. D. Baker; Wisconsin, U. O. B. Wingate, M. D.