Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/111

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
103
MICROBES AS FACTORS IN SOCIETY.

In the aspects of a linguist, the founder of society, and the patron of religion, in all of which Mr. Mason exhibits woman as a leader, we have not space to follow him. We therefore leave her here, as the founder of some of our most useful material arts.


Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Flare Left - 12px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 5px.svg Rule Segment - Circle - 6px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 5px.svg Rule Segment - Flare Right - 12px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg


MICROBES AS FACTORS IN SOCIETY.[1]

By M. L. CAPITAN.

IN an address delivered before the Anthropological Society of Paris, July 2, 1867, Paul Broca very neatly emphasized the fact that the population of a country can not increase indefinitely. As the population multiplies on a territory that is extensible, the more undesirable lands are gradually improved and occupied. The holdings are made smaller, woods are cleared, barren tracts are fertilized, and marshes are drained. Till these works are completed all goes well, but the time comes at last when every place is occupied. The resource remains of emigration to unsettled countries. Our planet, however, is not elastic; when all of it is occupied and bears all the population it can sustain, what will then become of the human race? The balance of population and resources is kept up by death, which cuts down the living and leaves the places they filled to the newborn.

Dead beings, too, must be got out of the way. Even in that condition they claim too much space. They, moreover, fix an important quantity of matter — that of which their tissues are constituted. Matter, we all know, is not infinite in amount; it is undergoing incessant transformations, and is never created. It is therefore necessary that dead organic matter, which is essentially insoluble, be disaggregated, dissociated, and dissolved, to be fixed again by new beings. This is accomplished through the intervention of the phenomenon of decomposition or putrefaction. Putrefaction, Pasteur has demonstrated, is the function of microbes. Without them the disaggregation of matter which would probably be produced by solar radiations would be absolutely insufficient; consequently matter would accumulate in continually multiplying and insufficiently dissociated organic combinations. Without microbes, therefore, life would not be able, for lack of available matter, to continue on the globe. Applying these data to the accumulations of human beings which make up societies, we find that they are rigorously exact. We have, then, in this reduction of fixed matter to conditions under which it can be

  1. An address {Conference Broca) delivered December 14, 1893, before the Anthropological Society of Paris.