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is diseased. For disease is very often synonymous with decomposition, and decomposition is the beginning of death. Now death is altogether obnoxious to nature, and accordingly we find that she loses not a moment in transforming death into life. A bird falls to the ground, and in a few hours a host of insect scavengers are at work converting its lifeless substance into the living tissues of their own bodies, while the bones and feathers are gradually dissolved, mingle with the soil, and eventually re-enter the current of life in the shape of vegetable substance. Nature pursues the same process in regard to ourselves.
We carry about with us during life the scavengers which will sweep away the ruins of the human tenement after it has been vacated by the mind. To quote the words of Mrs. Somerville
“It is not the worm that destroys our dead bodies. It is the infusoria, the least of living beings. The intestinal canal of the higher animals, and of man, is always filled during life, not only with the germs of vibrois, but with adult and well-grown vibrois themselves
They are inoffensive as long as life is an obstacle to their development, but after death their activity soon begins. Deprived of air, and bathed in nourishing liquid, they decompose and destroy all the surrounding substances as they advance towards the surface. During this time the little infusoria, whose germs from the air had been lodged in the wrinkles and pores of the skin, are developed, and work their way from without inwards, till they meet the vibrois, and after having devoured them, they perish, or are eaten by maggots.”
As most persons are aware, the air we brea the, and the water we drink, abound with microscopic life, with minute organisms, which develop all the acts of a highly active vitality, by means of an extremely rudimentary organisation, and are endowed with enormous powers of reproduction. If some of these are introduced into the stomach and the intestines, and there find the conditions favourable to their existence, they multiply with what may be called frightful rapidity. They are invariably found, I believe, in the dejections of persons suffering from cholera, and they have also been noticed in those of patients afflicted with typhoid fever. They are described by specialists, who have made a study of them, as being "endowed with great mobility and vivacity, and so numerous that from 20 to 25 of them may be found in a single drop of mucus.” But they are rarely observed, it appears, in the dejections of healthy persons. They cannot subsist and persist, and reproduce their kind, except under certain favourable conditions. What is their meat, is our poison. If they begin to flourish, we begin to decay. Their health is correlative with our disease. Their vitality is contingent upon the beginnings of death in ourselves. The balance of life, in effect, seems to be in perpetual process of adjustment. As it is diminished
in one direction it is increased in another. Their plus is our minus.
Then, again, as has been shown by Professor Fairfield, of New York, healthy mucous secretion, normal perspiration, indeed, all animal fluids, contain a small number of those monad organisms, which afterwards develop into bacteria; the form they ultimately assume depending, to a great extent, upon the constitution of the fluid in which it is placed. These organisms are sometimes not more than the one-hundred-thousandth of an inch in diameter, and they multiply with prodigious rapidity in all febrile and inflammatory diseases.
According to Professor Fairfield, these little creatures are not introduced into the system from without, but originate in the decomposition of the red corpuscles of the blood; and some experiments which he instituted upon healthy blood, by means of heat and magnetism, enabled him to demonstrate that the decomposition of the red corpuscles can be artificially produced, and that these resolve themselves into a number of globular bodies, in active movement, identical with the monads observed in fevers, and capable of further development into bacteria.
The question next arises—What purpose do these microscopic forms of life subserve in the economy of nature? The question has been already answered by Professor Tyndall in regard to the analogous vegetable organisms which occa sion the ferments of beer. "They exercise a useful and valuable function," he observes, “as the burners and consumers of dead matter, animal and vegetable, reducing such matter, with a rapidity otherwise unattainable, to innocent carbonic acid and water." In a word, they are the scavengers of nature. And so, also, are the disease germs which establish themselves in the more accessible portions of the human system, and there multiply with such wonderful velocity. I venture to suggest, with the diffidence becoming one who is not a member of the faculty, that the presence of these living germs is not the cause, but the consequence, of disease; that they are nature's expeditious agencies for the prompt removal or destruction of morbid tissue. And when I use the word “destruction," I do so conventionally; for, of course, nothing is destroyed, but everything that seems to disappear is merely transformed. into life.
Each of us, it is known, besides being an individual entity, is a corporate body, a sort of confederation, composed of myriads of
microscopic cells, every one of which is endowed with a separate as well as a co-ordinated life. Each organic atom is a little rounded vesicle or cell, and constitutes in itself a vital unit. “ The result most clearly ascertained by vivisections in experimental physiology, and by observations in microscopic anatomy," writes one of the most famous of the French physiologists, “is that living beings are agglomerations of infinitely fine and delicate particles, real individualities, each endowed with characteristic and consubstantial properties. These active units—forms and forces in one-bring about, following upon manifold interminglings, the whole organisation and the whole working of animal and vegetable parts. As Leibnitz has said, “every living being is made up of an infinity of living beings." They are, so to speak, born in us, where they live their little term of life, and then pass away. In the processes by which blood, and flesh, and bone, and nerve, and muscle, are built up out of living organisms, which become incorforated with ourselves for a very brief space, we may perceive, if we reflect upon the matter with a sufficient amount of attention, that each human being is a community of living creatures—a city of corpuscles, which changes its inhabitants just as regularly as a city of brick and stone changes its population; one generation of anatomical elements following another, with the same periodicity which we observe in the succession of generations of men and women. The lifetime of a human generation is roughly estimated at three-andthirty years; the lifetime of the tissues of our bodies does not exceed from twenty-five to thirty days. In other words, this city of the human frame—this confederation composed of millions of living units, is entirely repeopled once a month or oftener. Well, health is the normal condition of each and all. But what is health? According to an old and excellent definition of it, “It is harmony in its most considerable meaning-harmony of the parts of the body with themselves,-harmony of the mind with the body, and harmony of both with the circumstances and ordinances into which we are born;-harmony, also, of the human frame with the climate that it inhabits, and with external nature in its variety.” Now, the moment we destroy this harmony, by the infraction of a natural law, in the methods I indicated at the outset, we bring in disease. Some of these multitudinous cells are either impaired in structure or weakened in power; and nature is down upon us at once. Deterioration having commenced, destruction follows; for nature, as I have said, hates disease. The invisible creatures which people the air, or those which are latent in our bodies, are immediately attracted VOL. III.-No. 13.
to the morbid tissue, and proceed to prey upon it. To them it is like congenial soil to the seed of a plant. They take root in it, feed on it, and begin to multiply. They are, I repeat, nature's scavengers. And we cry out against her, in our blindness and ignorance; and bewail what we profess to regard as a “visitation of Providence!” What wretched infatuation! Every disease is entirely of our own procuring. We sin against nature, and nature promptly punishes us. Whatsoever is contrary to her health and harmony, she removes without delay. And the laws of health are really very simple. " They are all summed up in this," wrote the late James Hinton: “to provide for the due maintenance, and the unhindered performance of the chemical changes on which the activity of the body depends. To do that is to insure, so far as it is in our power, the perfection of our instrument. To fail in it is to incur inevitable loss. Life has no exemptions, is treated with no favour. We can no more live with the conditions of chemical change within our bodies wanting or deranged, than we can fire a canpon with damp gunpowder, or with none."
If our minds had not become so warped and enfeebled by mischievous systems of education-falsely so called—which, instead of educing the intellectual faculties, too often impair or suppress them, by the exclusive cultivation of the memory, and by leaving our powers of observation, reflection, comparison, and deduction to “fust in us unused,” I am convinced that our instincts would instruct us as to the true modus vivendi. They do so in the case of the savages, who, as Sir John Lubbock tells us, “are rarely ill,” until they are brought into contact with us; and then, as many travellers have concurred in remarking, they seem to be poisoned by our very breath, and by the pernicious exhalations that proceed from our diseased bodies; of which some remarkable instances are cited by Mr. Bates, in his “Naturalist on the Amazons," and in Mr. Darwin's “Journal of the Researches in the Beagle.”
But so long as people were taught that epidemics, for example, were supernatural visitations, and capricious and vindictive interferences with the sublime order and majestic sequence of nature, so long were they accustomed to look outside of themselves for the origin of diseases, and to attribute—with unconscious blasphemyto God, evils of which we ourselves are the authors exclusively. And when by a systematic and protracted violation of the laws of health, and the warnings of experience, whole communities were swept away by hosts of microscopic scavengers, by cholera and typhus, they called assemblies and solemn meetings, appointed days
of fasting and humiliation, and made many prayers.
With what effect ? With that of aggravating the general panic and increasing the number of deaths. For what is the answer of a just Creator to all such mockeries? Has it not been conveyed to us in His own words :-“Wash you, make you clean : put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well.” Have we not here the very foundation principles of sanitary science? Before all things, cleanliness; then the abstinence from evil habitsand every habit repugnant to nature is necessarily evil—and then the ascertainment of, and strict obedience to, her laws.
I heartily wish these were expounded and enforced from the pulpit, and that our Sunday teachers would occasionally vary their discourses about another world, concerning which we can know so little, by instructing their hearers how to live more healthily and happily here, how to lead decent, and natural, and mutually beneficent lives in the world which we inhabit. People are literally perishing for lack of knowledge—knowledge of the simplest and most elementary truths—knowledge of the bodies they inhabitknowledge of how to maintain them in soundness and vigour for the full term of human life, namely a century.
I suppose there is no rational being who, if he had received the gift of a chronometer, constructed with such exquisite skill, and of such rare materials, as to have cost a thousand guineas, would not take the utmost care of it, and would not prize it at something like its actual worth. He would never dream of powdering its works with triturated sandstone, or soaking them with train-oil, or experimenting on the main-spring with a rough chisel, or converting the minute and hour hands into toothpicks. Yet, compared with the finest chronometer ever fabricated, or with the most complex and admirable piece of mechanism ever designed and executed by human ingenuity, the body we inhabit is “as sunlight unto moonlight;" while the way in which we abuse and maltreat it, deface and disease it, poison and pollute it, is simply infamous. I am lost in wonder and adiniration-I am filled with feelings of awe and amazement when I study the physiology of the nervous system, or investigate the structure and functions of a single organ only; and I begin to entertain serious doubts of the sanity of the civilised races as often as I reflect upon the incredible pains which we take to impair the healthfulness, undermine the vigour, destroy the harmony, and bring about the premature dilapidation and ruin of this cabinet of wonders, this museum of curiosities, this living miracle—the human body.