Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/787

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765
MISCELLANY.

These wise judges declare M. Robin to be incapacitated, by his religious belief, from serving on a jury. They used to order such things better than this in France, but just at present there is an effervescence of emotional religionism in that country, and, as M. Robin is not in sympathy with it, he must be put down. The disqualified doctor is one of the foremost medico-legal authorities in Europe, and can well smile at the pettishness of the justices and their backers.

 

Causes of Horse-Influenza.—Prof. James Law contributes to the Lens a highly-important paper on "The Causes of Influenza in Horses." This is by far the ablest study on the subject which has yet been published, and we earnestly advise those of our readers who take an interest in the matter to procure the January number of the Lens, and peruse the discussion in full. We have space only for a brief summary. The author considers, one by one, the various causes assigned both by men of science and by empirics, for the outbreak and propagation of the disease. As regards the influence of soil and elevation, he finds that these cannot be proved factors in the problem, since the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire were visited by the epizoötic no less than the flat and malarious sea-coast of New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Again, it has been supposed that a low temperature is an active agent in aggravating the disorder; but Fulton County, Ga, showed a mortality threefold greater than that of Dodge County, Wis. And yet, after the outbreak of the disorder, in the last-named locality, there occurred a great and sudden fall of the thermometer. The author shows very clearly indeed that sudden changes of weather are not the cause of the outbreak, from the meteorological tables of Toronto, where the equine influenza first appeared. These tables show that during September, 1872 (the month of the outbreak), there was the average barometer and thermometer, and that the relative humidity of the atmosphere and the direction and velocity of the wind were normal.

Another cause often assigned is acrid or fetid fogs. But, in this respect, the month of September, 1872, showed nothing peculiar. With regard to the amount of ozone in the air, the author had no estimates; but he shows that, even were that gas proved to be in excess in September, it cannot be regarded as the cause of the rise or spread of the disease. His facts on this point are entirely conclusive.

He next considers what influence is to be attributed to the action of electrical disturbance. It is certain that September, 1872, was, at Toronto, marked by a high degree of electrical disturbance. But then was that the cause of the outbreak? That is by no means proved. If it were the cause, then we should have influenza at all periods of great electrical disturbance, which is not the case. The author is, however, disposed to allow that this disturbance may have "predisposed the system to the attack of a poison which existed previously."

There remains the theory of contagion, and this the author adopts. The contagion in this case is specific, confined to one species. Breaking out first in Toronto, it radiated in all directions, following the great routes of travel, and its progress is in nearly every instance traceable to the importation of animals from infected districts. But what is the nature of the contagion here—of the diseased or morbific matter transmitted from one animal to another? On this point there are two theories. One of these holds that the specific poison consists of fungi or the like. The other, which is that of our author, sees in the granules, existing abundantly in the diseased organs, the morbific agent. These multiply very rapidly, and are conveyed to a considerable distance through the atmosphere, in the clothing of human beings, etc.

The first-named theory, that which attributes the origin and propagation of influenza to vegetal organisms, is adopted by Mr. G. W. Morehouse, in the American Naturalist. He found in the matter from a diseased horse's nostrils, and also in the air, the spores of three different cryptogamous plants, of which he gives engravings. But he fails to tell us whether or no these same spores were in the air long before or after the disorder, as well as during its prevalence. Also whether these vegetal organisms are not equally to be found in the mucous discharges of sound horses. On this point, however, we are not left to conjecture,