Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/22

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vading microbes, thus explaining, by the principle of auto-vaccination or auto-toxination, why an individual may at certain times be immune to contagious disease.

And here, permit a parenthetical word upon vivisection. This vast amount of research had entailed much experimentation with living animals; and, as might have been foreseen, certain false humanitarians raised a great outcry about it. In England this went so far as to lead to the enactment of an antivivisection law, since repealed, I believe, although organized societies there, and on the continent, and in America still carry on an agitation. However kind the surgeon or pathologist may be, he can not avoid inflicting some pain in his efforts to prevent more. Nor can it have escaped your observation that, no less than man, the lower animals profited from these discoveries which could not have been made in any other way. It is also worthy of note that no antivivisectionist has ever offered to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity. The colleagues of Pasteur testify that he always used anesthetics in his work on animals and at such times evinced the most acute sympathetic suffering; only the end in view gave him courage to go on with the experiment. He said of himself that he could never have the heart to shoot a bird for sport.

Pasteur's discoveries were epoch-making, and revealed in him the Copernicus of medicine. Prior to his researches, the causes and rational treatment of disease were no better understood than in the stone age. Naturally, his conclusions were not accepted by medical men till every possible opposition had been exhausted. Physicians resented instruction from a man devoid of medical training. "A mere chemist" was the sneer most frequently on the lips of his adversaries. When they could no longer deny the existence of microbes, adherents to the old school still vehemently asserted that they were merely an epiphenomenon. I recall a choleric colleague of my own in the faculty of a medical college where I was teaching twenty years ago, who in the heat of debate was wont to call out loudly—"Bring on your microbes. I'll eat a pint of any variety!" Fortunately for him no one took him at his word. The distinguished Professor Pettenkofer, of Munich, having made the same remark concerning Koch's bacillus of cholera, he was supplied with the beverage—and actually drank it. Heroic efforts of physicians enabled him to keep his soul between his teeth, and after recovery he had the manhood to publish an admission of error.

In 1880 Huxley estimated that the practical results of Pasteur's discoveries had yielded France a return in excess of the war indemnity wrested from her a decade before—one billion francs. It is safe to assert that at present they represent to the world not less than that sum annually. And how shall an estimate be made of the relief of suffering and the preservation of life?