Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/618

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

XIII. FROM FETICH TO HYGIENE.

By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,

EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

II.

WE have now seen how powerful in various nations especially obedient to theology were the forces working in opposition to the evolution of hygiene. We shall find this same opposition, less effective, it is true, but still acting with great power in countries which had become somewhat emancipated from theological control. In England, during the mediæval period, persecutions of Jews were occasionally resorted to, and here and there we hear of dealings with witches; but, as torture was rarely used in England, there were few of those torture-born confessions of persons charged with producing plague which in other countries gave rise to wide-spread cruelties. Down to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the filthiness in the ordinary mode of life in England was such as we can now hardly conceive: fermenting organic material was allowed to accumulate and become a part of the earthen floors of rural dwellings; and this undoubtedly developed the germs of many diseases. In his noted letter to the physician of Cardinal Wolsey, Erasmus describes the filth thus incorporated into the floors of English houses, and, what is of far more importance, he had an inkling of the true cause of the wasting diseases of the period. He says, "If I entered into a chamber which had been uninhabited for months, I was immediately seized with a fever." He ascribed the fearful plague of the sweating sickness to this cause. So, too, the noted Dr. Caius advised sanitary precautions against the plague; and in after-generations, Mead, Pringle, and others urged them; but the prevailing thought was too strong, and little was done. Even the floor of the presence-chamber of Queen Elizabeth in Greenwich Palace was "covered with hay, after the English fashion," as one of the chroniclers tells us. In the seventeenth century, aid in these great scourges was mainly sought in special church services; the foremost English churchmen during that century being greatly given to study of the early fathers of the Church, the theological theory of disease, so dear to the fathers, still held sway, and this was the case when the various visitations reached their climax in the great plague of London in 1065, which swept off more than a hundred thousand people from that city. The attempts at meeting it by sanitary measures were few and poor; the medical system of the