Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/217

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217
EHRLICH'S SPECIFIC THERAPEUTICS

heat, light, electricity, hydrotherapy, climate, dietetics, hypnotism and psychotherapy, out-door exercise and simple living, the physician has many strings to his bow, apart from the more special arms of treatment like operative surgery, ophthalmology, orthopædics, etc. In respect of drugs, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that scarcely more than a double baker's dozen are strictly reliable. Even the average practitioner of to-day will admit that in regard to general treatment of disease with drugs we are almost where we were over 2,000 years ago. Among the greater Greeks, the divine Hippocrates created surgical diagnosis and taught physicians how to group symptoms and to describe different diseases; Theophrastus Eresius, the friend and pupil of Aristotle, was the founder of scientific botany; Dioscorides made the first materia medica and Galen, the father of the experimental idea, taught the Romans how to apply it. Of the two great founders of European medicine, Galen was the abler and keener therapist, but inclined to brag about his cures. Hippocrates, who told of his failures also, was the truer clinician. The complicated and elaborate polypharmacy which Galen imposed upon medicine was exaggerated into the most filthy extremes during the Byzantine period and was further enlarged by the superior chemical knowledge of the Saracens. To this day, what Osier calls "the heavy hand of the Arabian" is sensed in the enormous bulk of our pharmacopœias. After the Revival of Learning and during the Renaissance period, the chief concern of medicine was the development of anatomy and surgery, and while a few original spirits like Saliceto, Mondeville and John of Arderne were good healers, yet down through the eighteenth century, treatment was largely an affair of lengthy "gunshot prescriptions," compounded of multifarious ingredients on the hit-or-miss principle, well-deserving of Mark Twain's comment "serve with a shovel." The tendencies of this picturesque therapy, founded upon the "doctrine of signatures," have been very prettily rhymed in the envoy to Kipling's recent story about old Nicholas Culpeper, the most famous of the seventeenth century quacksalvers, herb-doctors and "judicial astrologers":

Excellent herbs had our fathers of old—
Excellent herbs to ease their pain—
Alexanders and Marigold,
Eyebright, Orris and Elecampane,
Basil, Rocket, Valerian, Rue,
(Almost singing themselves they run),
Vervain, Dittany, Call-me-to-you—
(Cowslip, Melilot, Rose of the Sun.
Anything green that grew out of the mould
Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old


Wonderful little when all is said,
Wonderful little our fathers knew.
Half their remedies cured you dead—