Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/70

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The United States is confessedly one of the most powerful of nations and governments, but its entire military force can not crush the illicit traffic in refined opium, under a temptation of the realization of six dollars contingent on every pound of this commodity that is successfully smuggled into the country.



THOSE twin monsters of human misery, Famine and Disease, are now holding high carnival in India. Death follows in their wake and gathers in a rich harvest. Appeals to the charitable of the world are being made, and the civilized nations of Europe and America are looking apprehensively toward the East. The great plague, which has confined its ravages for the most part to certain limited districts of Asia for the past two hundred years, seems to have grown strong enough to threaten to take a journey abroad. The black death has unfurled its banner in the face of modern civilization. For a period of more than a thousand years this disease once held dominion over Europe. The story of the horrors of the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries has seemed a history of a past so remote that it has been nearly forgotten save by those especially interested in the progress of medicine. Is history to repeat itself in this form of human suffering? What is the bubonic plague? Do we know anything of its specific cause, of its methods of invasion, of the means necessary to combat it? These are questions which I have thought might at this time be of more than passing interest.

Oribasius was physician and friend of Julian the Apostate, and lived in the fourth century of our era. He wrote a medical encyclopædia, composed principally of extracts from older medical authors. This encyclopædia remained unknown in the Vatican Library until the early part of the present century, when it was discovered by that indefatigable student of old manuscripts, Cardinal Mai. In the forty-fourth book of this collection there is a note from Rufus, who states that the physicians of the time of Dionysius were acquainted with a disease which is described as "Pestilentes bubones maxime letales et acuti, qui maxime circum Libyam et Egyptum et Syriam observantur." There follows a description of this disease sufficiently accurate to leave no doubt that it was identical with the bubonic plague. Now, this Dionysius lived about three hundred years before Christ. There is