Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/49

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39
MODERN TROGLODYTES.

view. "There is a cure for consumption," says Dio Lewis, "though I doubt it' it will ever become popular. Even in its advanced stages the disease may be arrested by roughing it; I mean by adopting savage habits, and living out-doors altogether, and in all kinds of weather."

That low temperature in open air does not injure our lungs has been recognized even by old-school physicians, who now send their patients to Minnesota and Northern Michigan quite as often as to Florida; and is conclusively proved by the fact that of all nations of the earth, next to the inhabitants of the Senegal highlands, the Norwegians, Icelanders, and Yakuts of Northern Siberia, enjoy the most perfect immunity from tubercular diseases. Dry and intensely cold air preserves decaying organic tissue by arresting decomposition, and it would be difficult to explain how the most effective remedy came to be suspected of being the cause of tuberculosis, unless we remember that, where fuel is accessible, the disciple of civilization rarely fails to take refuge from excessive cold in its opposite extreme—an overheated artificial atmosphere—and thus comes to connect severe winters with the idea of pectoral complaints.

There is a rather numerous class of beasts whose lungs seem able to adapt themselves to an atmosphere almost devoid of oxygen, but the human animal and the Quadrumana do not belong to that class. Monsieur de la Motte-Baudin, who was connected with the scientific staff of the Jardin des Plantes as their "menagerie-doctor" for more than twenty years, never omitted to dissect his deceased patients before turning them over to the taxidermist, and invariably found that all monkeys had succumbed to some variety of phthisis, while the lungs of the badgers, bears, and foxes, were perfectly sound. The three last-named animals are natural cave-dwellers, and have been provided with organs especially contrived to resist the effluvia of their burrows; while the Simiæ, like man, are open-air creatures? whose proper atmosphere is the cordial air of woodlands.

Among the natives of Senegambia pulmonary affections are not only nearly but absolutely unknown; yet a single year passed in the overcrowded man-pens and steerage-hells of the slave-trader often sufficed to develop the disease in that most virulent form known as galloping consumption; and the brutal planters of the Spanish Antilles made a rule of never buying an imported negro before they had "tested his wind," i. e., trotted him up-hill and watched his respirations. If he proved to be "a roarer," as turfmen term it, they knew that the dungeon had done its work and discounted his value accordingly. "If a perfectly sound man is imprisoned for life," says Baron d'Arblay, the Belgian philanthropist, "his lungs, as a rule, will first show symptoms of disease, and shorten his misery by a hectic decline, unless he should commit suicide."

Our home statistics show that the percentage of deaths by con-