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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/October 1883/Correspondence

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 23‎ | October 1883



Messrs. Editors:

DR. F. L. OSWALD'S answer in your last issue to my criticism demands a reply, for the purpose of elucidating who is in the right on questions closely appertaining to every one's welfare.

His personal allusions may be at once thrust aside as irrelevant. The reading public can not be interested in me, but presumably in my statements, whether they are true or false—not whether I am assuming, which I am not, to represent some forty thousand physicians of the so-called orthodox school.

Dr. Oswald antagonizes my statement that the tendency to dyspepsia is an inherited one, by a glittering generality. Can I "deny that from the moment of birth millions of infants are overfed and drug-poisoned"? Well, what of the millions that are not? Are they the ones who do not show any such tendency, despite the fact that some of their progenitors do? Let him produce his proofs, or hold his peace. Such an answer to overthrow an established doctrine, unless verification be produced of causal relation between the antecedents and consequents, is not worth the paper on which it is written. To illustrate: I can with equal plausibility deny that insanity is hereditary by the assumption that it arises de novo from a source whose reality Dr. Oswald can not deny, that millions of children are from the moment of birth overfed and then over-taxed by brain-work at school; or, in the example of consumption, that heredity has nothing to do with it, for are not millions overfed and lung-poisoned by impure air from the moment of birth? Such is the style of sophomoric inanity which assumes to overthrow the doctrine established by vital statistics and by the observation of all competent men, that all organic defects, whether inherited or slowly acquired, are transmissible qualities.

Dr. Oswald answers to his inconsistency of cleansing his outside skin with soap and water, and allowing his much-abused and betimes very filthy inside one—the alimentary mucous membrane to cleanse itself, by the inquiry, "Does Nature ever protest against soap and water?" She does, as every practical physician well knows. Turn to any standard author on skin-diseases, and the use of any kind of soap will be found to be prohibited in some cases, especially in those whose cuticles, like homœopathic remedies, are far too tenuous. The striking benefit of a cleansing cathartic which men and women often feel, after having suffered for days from a dead, heavy, aching languor, is such a common realization that Dr. Oswald may save himself the trouble of elaborating a specious theory to prove them deluded, for facts are such stubborn things.

And this brings me to the silly slang characteristic of all kinds of quacks—their never-ending harping about "poison-drugs." It is their shibboleth, the great hope of gain to themselves by acting on the fears of the afflicted. What is a poison? It is any substance taken into the body which with more or less rapidity tends to destroy life. This embraces every substance except foods, air, and drink—from the clay eaten by the Brazilian, to the alcohol in the beer of the Teuton. Do a few grains of santonine, to expel lumbricoides from the bowels, tend to destroy life or to preserve it? Do a few ounces of alcohol, to tide failing vital power over a dangerous depression, tend to destroy life or to preserve it? Do a few doses of quinine, to arrest an ague-chill, tend to destroy life or to preserve it? Or, to put the query in another form, Do the effects of the santonine, the alcohol, and the quinine, tend to aggravate or to render the disorders for which they are given more dangerous? Even a Dr. Oswald, or a Dio Lewis, who contradicts the almost universal experience that they tend to preserve life instead of destroying it (that is, do not act as poisons), may be asked for the evidence to show that nearly all the world are wrong, and they only are right. If a few doses of quinine could produce profound and dangerous vital disturbances at all approaching those of the fever for which the medicine is given, then Dr. Oswald might have at least one string to his harp. If, after taking fifteen grains of quinine, he was seized with a severe chill—with burning fever, with aching misery in every bone and nerve of his body—with vomiting, with protracted debility and wasting of the body, and, after a few doses more, with a congestive chill, ending life in a few hours, then Dr. Oswald might with good reason take up the battle-cry of quackery, "Poison! poison!" Until Dr. Oswald proves that the quinine does not preserve from these very dangers to health and life, leaving no ill effects except those that belong to the disease—his ipse dixit about drug-poisoning is on the same level and has exactly the same value as the venal drivel of other quacks whose shibboleth he adopts. Let me say to him that enlightened therapeutists give medicines nearly always on account of the fact that they can communicate certain kinds of energy to deranged functions, to modify, exalt, or depress—as may seem needful—in order to save life.

When a supercilious theorizer, a man who has not for a long series of years anxiously wrestled with the problem every day of his life how the sick can best be made well, thinks he can solve it far better than the tens of thousands who have so wrestled, one can only feel contempt for his inordinate vanity—to be merged into pity when he carries his bigotry about drug-poisoning so far as to leave Nature to war unaided with the putrescence of syphilis rather than take the potassium iodide. The outcome to such blood is its evolvement into extinction, as it deserves to be.

It is, Messrs. Editors, scarcely likely that one who had the privilege in his youth of sitting under the tutelage of such a master of organic chemistry as the late Professor Draper should not know the very elementary fact that digestion is a chemical process, or that he would fall into the blunder of a Dr. Oswald, who, in the last paragraph but one of his answer, writes of digestion and assimilation as being one and the same thing. But better things can not be expected of any one who quotes Dio Lewis, Graham—et id genus omne—as authorities in sanitary science, in place of Pettenkofer, Parkes, and Richardson. It is allowable to speak to the popular reader of a large meal as a load for the stomach, but it is presumable that Dr. Oswald, in his wrath at the application of a mechanical term to that process, is not acquainted with the views of some acute, recent philosophers, who think that all the phenomena of the universe can be explained on the laws of mechanics, from the motions of molecules up to those of the celestial masses.

Dr. Oswald asks, has observation not taught me that "the chronic hunger of the dyspeptic is as abnormal as the poison-thirst of the confirmed drunkard." Few things could more conspicuously display a man's ignorance of physiology and pathology than such a question. Not to enter into the several forms of dyspepsia, let me take the most common—a chronic deficiency of gastric juice to convert food into peptone. In such instances there is a dread of eating on account of suffering, with hunger because of the poverty of the blood and the gaunt wasting of the body from inanition. Yet the normal craving for food in a state of semi-starvation is held by our doctor as identical with the abnormal craving for alcohol by the diseased nervous system of the drunkard! The true remedy for the craving of the drunkard is complete abstinence from alcohol. Does Dr. Oswald, to carry out his parallel, recommend entire abstinence from food as a cure for the hummer of dyspepsia? Or would our astute M. D. prescribe a good large "drunk" once in twenty-four hours, even as he recommends one good large meal at a like interval for the dyspeptic? The ability to carry out the latter plan would take the tough physique of savages to endure, these being the order of men which he holds up for us to copy in our gastric performances. Dr. Oswald is apparently unable to discern that all the customs and habits of savages are intimately correlated to their vital organism, and that for us to adopt only one of them might prove murderous to civilized beings. For instance, among the sixty generations of barbarians of which he writes, all the weaklings were killed off in infancy by its perils; now, we nurse them up to adult life, and Dr. Oswald proposes to cure them of their weakness by the adoption of a savage habit—the one-meal-a-day system.

Perhaps Dr. Oswald will find that, in uttering a gratuitous insult in the closing sentence of his communication to that large body of medical men to whom alone is due the entire credit for all the great discoveries and improvements in anatomy, physiology, etiology, hygiene, pathology, surgery, gynecology, materia medica, and practice, he has only succeeded in belittling and defiling himself.

J. R. Black.



Messrs. Editors:

I noticed in a recent issue of the "Monthly," a note in the "Miscellany," referring to the presentation of fossil remains of the primitive horse by Professor Leidy, that the remark was made by Professor H. C. Lewis that, while evidences of post-glacial man were frequent, it was not known that any scientific observations of pre-glacial man had been found either in Europe or America, etc., etc. I wish to bring to the notice of the scientific men of America and Europe an incident which occurred in the town of Chatham in this State, some six or seven years ago, and which seems to me to distinctly prove the existence of pre-glacial man more decidedly than anything else that has come under my observation.

The town of Chatham, as may be seen by reference to the map, lies at what has been termed the "elbow of Cape Cod." It is exposed to the full sweep of the waves from the broad Atlantic, which during the storms from the southeast beat upon its shores with tremendous force. It was during such a storm—the exact date of which I can not now state—that the bluff upon which stood the two light-houses, was rapidly undermined; the bluff here was, on an average, some forty or more feet in height, and, like all the rest of the cape, was composed of drift. The lamps were removed from the two towers, and one of them soon after fell over; the previous morning they had stood nearly four hundred feet from the bank. The detritus, by the heavy pounding of the surf, was cleaned out, revealing the fact that the bottom, for half a mile along the Hue of coast, and more than one hundred yards landward, had been uncovered, and consisted of a hard blue clay, in which were imbedded many trunks of trees, and that the whole surface was covered with tracks of animals of different sizes and shapes; while, proceeding in a diagonal direction from the still-overhanging bluff, to the sea, were the perfectly preserved tracks of five pairs of naked human feet, evidently those of a woman and four children of different ages; three were upon one side of the woman and one upon the other. The tracks, as I have been assured by the most intelligent men of the place.[1] were as distinct and perfectly preserved in the clay bottom, as though made but the day before; they all had the same peculiarity noticed in those who live a free and unrestrained life—that the toes were not turned out, but that the step was straight forward. Around one stump, broken off several feet above the surface upon which these tracks appeared, were many confused tracks, and much hair,[2] From reports made me, I judge it must have been some animal of the deer or bison family, scratching himself upon the sharp, broken fragments of the stump. I sent some of the hair to the Secretary of the Museum of Natural History of Boston for a microscopical examination. Although quite a number of months have elapsed, no report has been made to me as yet of the result of it, although one was speedily promised at the time I sent it.

The question that appeals to the scientist for solution is, "When were these human foot-prints made?" It is one more easy to be asked than answered; yet it is plain to any observer that they could only have been made prior to the Drift epoch, which piled, by glacial action, over forty feet of stones and dirt above them. This deposit was made—or at least begun—suddenly. We see too many tracks to allow us to believe that this bottom could have been at the ancient sea, for then the tidal action and storms must have obliterated the impressions; for they were too numerous and of too diverse a character to permit the idea that they did not require a considerable period of time for their formation; the children were walking along by the side of their adult companion, without fear or hurry; close by where they passed, an animal "with feet as large as a big ox's, and the same shape," before or after they passed, relieved himself of his winter's growth of hair; for the hair was all of four or five inches long, and was trodden into the clay, and adhered to the stump in large quantities. There were also marks of feet showing a most perfect facsimile to the bear of to-day—some form of plantigrade, surely; and they would not have taken the course they did had not the coast been clear. It was spring when this was covered by the drift, for this animal was not only getting rid of a heavy coat of hair, in immense quantities, but the woman and children were barefoot, conclusively proving that the weather, at the time these impressions were made, was moderately or quite warm, and that it was in the early spring; that a severe winter was the rule, by the length and great abundance of the hair rubbed off by this bison, moose, or elk, or whatever he might be; that the coast-line was lower than it now is, as proved by the growth of trees, which served the people living near the beach for fuel many weeks. But the great question of when all this took place, is one that I leave for others to answer. The fact that the whole of Barnstable County, commonly known as Cape Cod, shows, in all its parts, unmistakable proofs of long-continued glacial action, with large bowlders thickly planted in many localities; while, by boring for wells in nearly all parts of the town of Chatham, down to a depth of thirty feet or thereabout, evidences of the drift only are found, and then a stratum of blue clay to an unknown depth; and that this same clay is found all over the cape at varying distances from the surface would mark it as the original pre-glacial bottom, and the impressions I have mentioned those of the true aboriginal inhabitants, belonging to the Pliocene period.

C. J. Ricker, M. D.
Newton, Mass., May 12, 1883.


Messrs. Editors:

In the June number of "The Popular Science Monthly" is an article on "Quacks and Quackeries," which, in its allusion to homœopathy, should not go unnoticed. The very fact of homœopathy being classed with quackeries is an insult to the nearly nine thousand physicians of that school in the United States, and their hundreds of thousands of patrons from the most intelligent and enlightened portion of the community. The writer of the article makes an utterly unfair and garbled presentation of our system of medicine, and some of his statements are absolutely false; as, for instance, he pretends to quote from an address delivered at the meeting of the American Institute of Homœopathy, held in Milwaukee in 1880. I have before me the proceedings of that meeting, and there is absolutely nothing, from the first page to the last, that could be even willfully distorted into such a statement as he makes regarding the progress of homœopathy. As for the legal recognition of homœopathy, let our fifty-four hospitals, our twelve fully-equipped colleges, our forty dispensaries, our medical departments in State universities, our insane asylums and hospitals under State and city patronage, speak for themselves.

As a reader of your excellent journal for many years, I protest against such treatment of a recognized system of medicine, and trust that you will permit a fair and just presentation of homœopathy to be made in the journal.

Respectfully yours,

H. R. Stout, M. D.
Jacksonville, Fla., July 2, 1883.


Messrs. Editors:

The article on the "Mental Capacity of the Elephant," in the August number of "The Popular Science Monthly" was of much interest, and I beg to add a few more instances of the intelligence shown by these animals. . In my childhood, when circuses or menageries exhibited near my home, it was my custom to rise early the next morning and feed the elephants with biscuit and grass. On one occasion, an elephant seemed to be trying to attract my attention, and when I approached he began moving the end of his trunk over the surface of his body, as if to rub himself, but not touching it. It was his method of begging in pantomime for a piece of wood. I picked up a piece of the thin end of a shingle, about the size of a page of "The Popular Science Monthly," and gave it to the elephant, so that he would be obliged to take it on the side, thinking that he would break it when it was put to use. To my surprise, after looking at the piece of shingle, he dropped it and picked it up by the end, and scratched himself, without breaking it. It has always seemed to me that this act of pantomime, and subsequent use of a piece of wood in thee direction of maximum strength, involved a higher degree of animal intelligence than I ever saw exhibited elsewhere.

I attended Forepaugh's circus at Brockton, Massachusetts, on the 8th of last June, and I recollect seeing other feats than those cited by Mr. Homaday, such as tilting on a see-saw, sitting with the fore-legs straight, "like a cat," and then saluting with the trunk; also dancing in various steps. But, shortly after the afternoon performance, two of the elephants were called upon to perform a task requiring more intelligence than any of the conventional ring feats. The facts are given in the following extract from the Boston "Herald" of June 10th:

The incident referred to took place on the fairgrounds at Brockton, where Mr. Forepaugh's show was exhibiting. Shortly after the matinée performance had concluded, a one-story frame building, used as a police-station, caught fire, and in a few moments the entire building was enveloped in flames. Attached to the station-house was a row of horse-sheds, and connecting with the latter was the grand stand, in close proximity to which were Mr. Forepaugh's tents. There being no fire appliances on the grounds, it may well be assumed that the burning building gave serious alarm to the circus-people, as] well as to the citizens, many of whom had not yet left the grounds. At this juncture, Mr. Forepaugh and his general manager, C. W. Fuller, appeared on the scene. It was plainly apparent that, unless the horse-sheds were torn down, the grand stand would burn, and, in that event, the destruction of the circus-tents was inevitable. While all were excited and making futile attempts to pull down the building with their hands, Adam Forepaugh, Jr., came running up, and, taking in the situation at a glance, called his colored assistant and hastened to the elephant quarters, soon after appearing with Bolivar and Basil, the latter being next to the former in point of size. The two huge beasts were hurried over to the fire, and, much to the surprise of the spectators, began pulling down the horse-sheds, in obedience to the direction of the junior Forepaugh. The by-standers removed the débris as fast as it accumulated under the mighty blows of the elephantine firemen, who seemingly looked upon the affair as a matter of little moment. In an incredibly short space of time the horse-sheds were demolished, the grand stand was saved, and the circus-tents loomed up as proudly as ever.
C. J. H. W.
Boston, August 1, 1883.


Messrs. Editors:

In the August number of your "Monthly" you present a translation of a notice on the "Association of Colors with Sounds." The phenomena in question occur also in the sphere of other senses. Two Zurich students[3] notice association of sounds with lights: e. g., to one subject the full moon looked at through a red glass brings up the sound of an l joined to an o. Tastes, smells, even the shapes of bodies, pains, warmth, and cold arouse color visualizations in some subjects. All these are far less common than "color-hearing," and more vague as well as individualistic. While in some instances the "photism," or associated color, is distinct for every note in the octave, and even for the overtones, in the associations with sounds, those with tastes, smells, etc., are barely more distinct than that tine, pleasant tastes and smells suggest bright colors, and contrariwise.

There seems to be an appropriateness in these general associations somewhat as we find in such expressions as a "sweet child." No one, I venture to say, if asked to associate colors with sounds, would make light colors correspond to low notes. More than this: Bleuler and Lehmann give a table of the number of cases in which certain colors are the "photisms" for the different vowel-sounds. On asking several persons to force themselves to make similar associations, I was surprised to find how well their answers agreed with the table. The answers were sometimes given with great reluctance, and, when evidently little more than guess-work, often disagreed with the tables.[4]

In the case of musical notes, tastes, smells, etc., the association seems to be effected by the "sensational element chiefly, if not entirely," in the vowel associations, and still more, in those with words, an "intellectual element seems to play a part." The sight as well as the sound of some letters and words brings up the "photism." We all know that some words have a character; words alike in meaning, the one of Latin, the other of Anglo-Saxon origin, often differ more in character than in anything else. In some cases it seems to be the character that forms the ground of association.

We find also visualizations of numbers; by some they are seen rising in a scale up to ten or twelve, and then breaking off, by others going around the body, and in one case even moral character and sex are attributed to them. These associations seem to be taken out of the sphere of the senses into that of the intellect. It is to be noticed that the intellectual associations are more individualistic than the sensational ones. The "photism" of the same tone is probably similar in two persons; if the same word, probably entirely different.

Of 596 persons (383 males, 213 females) examined, 76 cases were found, i. e., about 1212 per cent. Slightly more (proportionately) cases were found in females than in males. The young seem to be subject to these visualizations rather than the old; the educated than the uneducated. The tendency to these phenomena seems to be hereditary.

There are many interesting and curious facts to be noted in these phenomena; the time for their explanation has not yet come. The method that seems most promising is that of careful compilation and judicious comparison of individual cases; and I take the liberty of adding that I would be very much indebted to your readers for any reports of similar phenomena observed in themselves or others.

Joseph Jostrow.
Germantown (Philadelphia, Pa.),
August 1, 1883.

  1. One of the principal gentlemen from whom the above information was derived is Captain George Eldredge, author of "Eldredge's Charts," "Eldredge's Coast Pilot," etc. Another is Levi Atwood, Esq., editor of the "Chatham Monitor." Both these gentlemen live in Chatham, and from long personal acquaintance I can speak highly of them as men of truth and general trustworthiness. Both they, and many others, equally reliable, will confirm all the facts I have stated above.
  2. Captain Eldredge told me he should judge that, were it all collected, there would be two quarts of it. He showed me some that he had gathered and preserved; it was coarse, reddish-brown, and about four inches in length, or varying from three and one half to four and one half inches long. It may be well to state that after a few storms the whole of the uncovered portion was covered once more with sand, and all these wonderful phenomena were obliterated. Under the bluff are yet concealed sights, perhaps still more useful to archæology.
  3. Bleuler and Lehmann, "Zwangsmässige Lichtemptndung durch Schall," etc., Leipsic, 1881.
  4. In one case the answer to the call for an association with o was "orange, but it may be because that begins with an O". Bleuler and Lehmann give an exactly similar case when the color was visualized. Even more accidental circumstances than this form the ground of such associations. I found one person to whom Sunday always calls up the color blue (similar cases are reported by the Zurich students, and who traces the circumstance to his having worn a blue frock on Sundays in early childhood.