Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/654

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

at Dubuque, Iowa, commencing Wednesday, August 21st, at 10 o'clock a. m. On the evening of the same day a formal reception will be extended to the Association by United States Senator Wm. B. Allison, of the reception committee; after a response from the Association, Prof. Asa Gray, retiring president, will deliver his address, and give up the chair to his successor, Dr. J. Lawrence Smith. The British Association for the Advancement of Science will convene this year at Brighton; the first general meeting is appointed for August 14th, at 8 o'clock p. m., when Prof. Sir William Thomson, F. R. S., will resign the chair, and Dr. W. B. Carpenter, F. R. S., will assume the presidency, and deliver an address. The forty-fifth annual session of the German Society of Naturalists and Physicians will be held in Leipsic, commencing Monday, August 12th, and ending Sunday, August 18th.

 

Providence in Physical Affairs.—The Archbishop of York lately stated, at a meeting of the supporters of the Palestine Exploration Fund, that the progress of the human mind is from vagueness toward precision. In conformity with this tendency, it has been proposed to arrive at more precise ideas in regard to the efficacy of prayer in affecting the course of physical events. An anonymous letter, proposing a plan by which this may be done, was sent to Prof. Tyndall, who approved the suggestion, and forwarded the communication to the editor of the Contemporary Review, in which it has just been published.

The writer states that prayers are regularly offered by the Church, designed to secure preservation from pestilence, famine, and battles, the fertility of the soil, and weather suitable for the growth and preservation of vegetable products, for the protection of all that are in danger, and for the preservation of travellers and of sick persons. He proposes to test the efficacy of this influence, and to determine its degree, by a grand experiment, and selects the case of "sick persons" as best suited for his purpose. His plan is thus stated:

The following appears to me to indicate the manner of conducting the inquiry: it should be pursued on a system somewhat analogous to that which is pursued by the Faculty, when a question arises as to the value of any particular mode of treating disease. For example: a new remedy has been proposed, or is said, on high authority, to be efficacious, and, as authority does not suffice in medicine, further than to recommend a given course, and never to prescribe it, the remedy is carefully tested. Usually a hospital or a ward is assigned for the purpose. All the patients suffering from the disease to be treated are, during a certain period, divided into two classes, and all are subjected, as far as possible, to the same conditions, that single one of treatment alone excepted. The ages, sexes, and many other particulars of the patients, are taken into account, and duly noted. The one class is treated by the old system, and the other by the new remedy. When a very large number—for in large numbers only is there truth—has been thus dealt with, the results are compared, and the value of the remedy can be definitely expressed; that is, its influence above or below that of the old treatment, as the case may be, will appear in the percentage of recovery, or of other results.

Now, for the purpose of our inquiry, I do not propose to ask that one single child of man should be deprived of his participation in all that belongs to him of this vast influence. But I ask that one single ward or hospital, under the care of first-rate physicians and surgeons, containing certain numbers of patients afflicted with those diseases which have been best studied, and of which the mortality-rates are best known, whether the diseases are those which are treated by medical or by surgical remedies, should be, during a period of not less, say, than three or five years, made the object of special prayer by the whole body of the faithful, and that, at the end of that time, the mortality-rates should be compared with the past rates, and also with that of other leading hospitals, similarly well managed, during the same period. Granting that time is given, and numbers are sufficiently large, so as to insure a minimum of error from accidental disturbing causes, the experiment will be exhaustive and complete.

 

Alcoholic Hallucinations.—Dr. Magnan has been investigating the psychical and physiological effects of alcoholism upon the lower animals, and has described the symptoms of hallucination that followed in certain cases of prolonged alcoholic action. He had drugged certain ill-fated dogs for some time with liberal doses, and from the fifteenth day to the end of the experiment the following is what he observed:

One of the dogs remained almost unaffected by the protracted action of alcohol;