Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/138

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126
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Scientific Literature.
SPECIAL BOOKS.

The vivisection question has not yet created nearly as much stir in America as it has in England, where it has long been a rival of the Deceased Wife's Sister controversy as a provoker of agitation and rhetorical discharges. It has, however, recently come into view here through an attempt to induce Congress to pass a bill imposing severe restrictions on vivisection in the District of Columbia. For the reason above stated England is our chief source of literature on the subject, and in a little book by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson[1] which comes opportunely to hand, we have a calm and philosophical examination of the main question at issue. Each of Sir Benjamin's chapters is a reply to one of nine questions submitted to him from the Leigh-Brown Trust, which holds an endowment for a biological institution from which painful experiments are to be excluded, hence the scope of the book is somewhat limited. The first question propounded to him is, "In view of the difference of organization between man and the lower animals, do you consider that painful experiment has played any indispensable part in the study of medical substances and methods for the cure of disease?" He answers this in the negative; "because," he says, "if what has seemed to be indispensable had never been thought of, some other plan equally good would or might have led to the same results." Yet he holds that every experiment hitherto performed for the prevention or cure of such a disease as cancer has been justifiable. Hence his complete answer is, briefly, "Experiment may be expedient, it is not indispensable." The second question asks about anæsthesia in particular the same that the first does about all medical substances. Sir Benjamin answers with an unqualified negative; but as he has made a special study of anæsthetics, having tested so many as twenty-nine, he goes on to give a brief history of anæsthesia and then to point out some still unfilled wants in this field. In answering the question, "Do you approve of the instruction of students by means of experimentalism on living animals?" he states that he taught physiology in a medical school for many years without experiments and his classes got on well. Afterward he introduced a few experiments, which were rendered painless, and found that they required so much time as to crowd out other subjects; that two students rarely saw the phenomena in the same way; and that some students were led to give undue attention to the matters that were illustrated experimentally. He therefore abandoned the experiments. The eighth question relates to legal restrictions on vivisection. It appears that there is a license law in England similar to what the American vivisection prohibitionists are trying to have enacted for the District of Columbia. Sir Benjamin condemns it utterly. He says that "it prevents men of really original mind from working out valuable original inquiries. Men like William Harvey, Thomas Willis, John Hunter, or Wilson Philip could never have worked under it." Further, that most of the objections to it "are minor when com-

  1. Biological Experimentation. By Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, M. D., F. R. S. Pp. 170, 16mo. London: George Bell & Sons; New York: The Macmillan Co. Price, $1.