Page:Hospitals, medical science and public health.djvu/20

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16
HOSPITALS, MEDICAL SCIENCE,

then to knock under. For from the hands of our leaders the kings of the earth and its merchants have received the keys of Suez and Panama, the gates of the hemispheres, their wardens, the twin ogres of malaria and yellow fever,[1] being by our art if not dead yet toothless and impotent as Pope and Pagan; we have tortured the secret out of the demons of tuberculosis, sleeping sickness, plague, Mediterranean fever, wool-sorters' disease, cerebro-spinal meningitis, tetanus, syphilis, puerperal and surgical fevers—need I prolong the list of these modern discoveries, so brilliant as to shine best by their own light?— and where we have not yet extorted the whole secret, as from smallpox, scarlet fever, infantile diarrhoea, hydrophobia, we have so far mastered the tactics against them as to be reducing them to phantoms of their former malignity. Sadly late then as we have come into the field, we are in time to be the saviours of the nations as well as the guardians of the family; and to endow mankind with vast and fertile territories hitherto under the desolation of disease. Yet to be ministers of a newborn profession is not all loss. When Athene sprang full-grown from the head (and heart) of Zeus, were not the Olympians at first a little disdainful and aloof, and the divine maid a little wondering and shy? And probably the ægis was not quite ready; these artificers are always behindhand. Is not Medicine, born full-grown from the womb of our own time, if a little wistful at first, spared the hamper of a long past? Her gospel is not hidden behind an ancient and creaking machinery, nor is she buried under a huge inheritance of undigested facts and opinions. The engineer, it is true, is a new demi-god; but he deals with far more elementary things, with means, not with ends. Joyfully we are putting on a hundred legs for one in the hope of escaping from ourselves, yet so far it seems very much in vain.


Ministry of Health.

What is now needed in England is no halt by our leaders, but the establishment of a General Staff of Medicine, to rebuke the purblind and inveterate habit in our countrymen of devoting their magnificent energy and their treasure to mopping up effects, in disregard of causes; to teach them better than to

  1. To yellow fever in Havana, year by year for some 200 years until 1902, about 750 lives were sacrificed. In the last three years not one death from this plague has been recorded there.