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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/302

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE GREAT WHITE PLAGUE.
By Dr. JOHN B. HUBER,

NEW YORK CITY.

IT is with a very real sense of melancholy that one contemplates the long death-roll of those of the world's great men and women who have succumbed untimely to the tubercle bacillus, which is and has been through countless generations by far the most potent of all death dealing agencies. Had it not been for this detestable parasite, Bastien Le Page might have given us another Joan-of-Arc to feast our eyes upon; Rachel might for many years have continued to permeate the spirits of her audiences with the divine fire that was in her. Our navy did well enough in the 1812 war, as all the world knows; but what a rip-roaring time there would have been if John Paul Jones had lived to take a hand in it. We might be reading some more of Stephen Crane's splendid war stories; we might have had some more of Robert Louis Stevenson's delicious lace-work; Schiller might have given us another 'Song of the Bells'; we might have taken another 'Sentimental Journey' with Laurence Sterne; Henry Cuyler Bunner might have continued to delight us, and to touch our hearts; John Keats might have given us another Endymion. Had the tubercle bacillus permitted, Nevin might have vouchsafed us another 'Rosary'; von Weber another 'Euryanthe Overture'; Chopin might have dreamed another 'First Polonaise'; and the tender flute notes of Sidney Lanier might even now be heard. Maria Constantinova Bashkirtseff, Zavier Bichat, John Godman, Rene Theophile Hyacinth Laennac, Henry Purcell, John Sterling, Henry Timrod, Artemas Ward, Henry Kirk White, Henry David Thoreau, Baruch Spinoza—such names as these are but a moiety among those of the world's nobility, whose precious lives were cut off in their prime by the 'Great White Plague.'

And our sense of resentment is by no means mitigated when we reflect that this bacillus is so minute that it was reserved for Koch, in our own time, with the aid of an exquisitely high-powered microscope, to discover it, and to reveal its life history and its habits and properties. It were indeed worthy the pen of a Heine to set forth how, although our mastodons are extinct, although we easily destroy all other visible brute creation, although we hold ourselves to be world masters and universe compellers, the race has nevertheless until our generation been impotent in the presence of an organism, measuring in length one ten-thousandth of an inch and in breadth one fifty-thou-