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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/126

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

very careful in avoiding infected persons, and would even seek their company so as to get infected from them. The practice of intentionally rubbing one's skin with a pustule, or with bits of it, from an attacked person, must have been a subsequent stage.

Such or a similarly gradual development of ideas may explain why it is impossible to fix a date or place for this discovery, which indeed goes back to the darkness of antiquity. Research points to its practice among the Chinese and Hindus in very ancient times. The Chinamen induced a mild attack by inserting a crust from a smallpox pustule into the nostrils. The Hindus, on the contrary, used the fluid pus, which they inoculated under the skin of the arm. In either case, in the course of a week, the inoculated was attacked by some slight preliminary symptoms followed by an eruption, sometimes profuse, sometimes scanty, and then the disease would run its ordinary course. The only difference between an attack caused by inoculation and that caused by natural infection was, as a rule, the milder nature of the former, especially when the matter for inoculation was taken from a notoriously mild case. The result, however, was by no means certain. A mild form of an infectious disease may be due either to the virus being of a weak nature; and then such a virus would be the desired one for inoculating persons seeking artificial protection; or else the mildness of the case may be due to the patient himself being of a resistant organization, in which case, though exhibiting mild symptoms himself, he may be harboring an intense form of contagion, apt to cause a severe outbreak when transferred to other less resistant persons. Many plans were consequently adopted to secure with more certainty a mild artificial infection. Some of these were directed to the treatment of the patient preparatory to inoculation, others to the preparation of the infectious matter in order to attenuate its virulence. The Brahmans, who were the operators in India, in addition to selecting material from patients with a mild form of the disease, were accustomed not to employ the pus at once, but to keep it wrapped up in cotton wool for a period of about twelve months, and thus to weaken its power. They inoculated in the early part of the year, at the time when smallpox prevailed, and the practice they used was to moisten with water a bit of cotton wool prepared in the previous outbreak, to place it on the arm of the person to be inoculated, and to prick the arm, through the wool, over an area of about the size of a twenty-five cent piece. In a few days a vesicle would appear at the seat of the inoculation, which later on developed into a pustule and eruption. Notwithstanding these precautions, great variation in the results was observed, and many succumbed to the operation; but those that passed through it safely were proof against further attacks.

Besides the personal risk to the inoculated, the illness produced