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Winds, and far voices wailing, threnodies
The blue horizon fades far, far away;
The rocky ramparts soften to a dream,
I raised the tinted amphora, and lo,
And yeasty gobbets, pulpous growths that blurred
The ashes sputtered as I stood alone.
I leaned against a marble pedestal,
And though a soughing wind, half curse, half kiss, Oozed from the sanctuary, and the hall
Writhed in the dusk, I watched, calm courage mine, Unmoved, as one who makes the future his,
The smouldering altar and the wailing shrine.
OME there are who would not take one step in the direction of removing from the path of the human race the plagues which decimate its ranks. In these altruistic days, say they, this is the last and only means of eliminating the unfit and the inefficient. The race is multiplying all too rapidly. Why not then permit the disease germ to work its will? It will settle upon the unfit and the future hardy races will grow up to bless the prescience of our modern Spartans. Apart from the natural instinct of humanity to care for its weak and sickly folk there is the strong argument that much that is desirable in the race might in this way be swept into oblivion. There are of course the stock examples of Sir Isaac Newton, a premature, weak and feeble child, and Robert Louis Stevenson who only just managed to struggle to adult life. But there is a vast concourse of lesser lights who, had Spartan methods obtained, would never have completed their life work, and the human race would have been very much poorer. No, mere physical fitness is not the best criterion in working for race progress. When we are relatively powerless we may look cynically on at famine and pestilence wiping out provinces of Russia and China, but it would never do to adopt similar methods amongst ourselves. Infectious disease is an evolutionary agent too uncontrollable to permit to linger in our midst except in so far as we must allow it. So here we are struggling, as our instinct is after all, to keep alive our weaklings and to protect ourselves from the invisible agents of death and disease.
Needless to say this method of preventive medicine is a comparatively modern one. In ancient times when disease was believed to be due to the anger of the gods or the malign influence of some evil spirit, preventive methods consisted in propitiatory offerings or in the burning of the witches. Even in comparatively modern times attention was focussed upon treatment almost entirely. Prevention is better than cure is a modern saw, at least it is only recently we have acted on it. Preventive Medicine as a science in fact began with the
sciences of pathology and bacteriology. But so interdependent are the sciences on one another that one may just as rightly claim that the microscope was the determining factor. Had Loewenhoeck, the lens maker of Leyden, been able to make his objectives only a trifle more efficient, the germ theory of disease might have been promulgated in the seventeenth century instead of in the nineteenth century. As it was, the initial steps were taken by that superman of science, Louis Pasteur, the centenary of whose birth we are celebrating this year.
Once started, the progress of preventive medicine was rapid. It commenced, not in the domain of human disease at all, but in that of the vegetable and animal world. Pasteur, a chemist by training, was faced with the pathology of fermentation, silk worm disease and sheep anthrax before he met the problem of human ills such as hydrophobia. Then came the work of Lister in preventing hospital gangrene and in starting modern antiseptic and aseptic surgery on its way. Then in 1882 came the discovery of the tubercle bacillus by Robert Koch, and the first of the great human plagues was tracked to its lair. Then rapidly one after another the bacterial diseases were unearthed and traced to their origins-Cholera, Typhoid, Diphtheria, Tetanus, etc. After that a period of marking time while again microscopic and cultural methods caught up; then in 1905 came the discovery of the spirochaete of syphilis by Schaudinn, whose career by the way was cut short by an attack of appendicitis. Meanwhile in the tropics the scientists had been at work and Laveran, Manson and Ross had discovered the protozoon of malaria and the life history of the parasite in the mosquito. Then came the splendid work of the American Medical Service in Panama in eliminating yellow fever even before the germ was seen. In recent advances particularly in the domain of the ultramicroscopic germ the name of the Japanese worker Noguchi has bulked largely and we now know the germ of yellow fever and can probably see the organism of sleeping sickness and infantile paralysis.
Enough has been said to establish the contention that advance in pathology, bacteriology and protozoology is at the