Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/165

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153
FERMENTATION AND DISEASE.

these changes, traced them to their living causes, and showed that the permanent health of the vinegar was insured by the destruction of this life. He passed from the diseases of vinegar to the study of a malady which a dozen years ago had all but ruined the silk-husbandry of France. This malady, which received the name of pébrine, was the product of a parasite which first took possession of the intestinal canal of the silkworm, spread throughout its body, and filled the sack which ought to contain the viscid matter of the silk. Thus smitten, the worm would go automatically through the process of spinning when it had nothing to spin. Pasteur followed this parasitic destroyer from year to year, and, led by his singular power of combining facts with the logic of facts, discovered eventually the precise phase in the development of the insect when the disease which assailed it could with certainty be stamped out. Pasteur's devotion to this inquiry cost him dear. He restored to France her silk-husbandry, rescued thousands of her population from ruin, set the looms of Italy also to work, but emerged from his labors with one of his sides permanently paralyzed. His last investigation is embodied in a work entitled "Studies on Beer," in which he describes a method of rendering beer permanently unchangeable. That method is not so simple as those found effectual with wine and vinegar, but the principles which it involves are sure to receive extensive application at some future day. Taking into account all these labors of Pasteur, it is no exaggeration to state that the money value of his work would go far to cover the indemnity which France had to pay to Germany.

There are other reflections connected with this subject which, even were I to pass them over without remark, would sooner or later occur to every thoughtful mind in this assembly. I have spoken of the floating dust of the air, of the means of rendering it visible, and of the perfect immunity from putrefaction which accompanies the contact of moteless air. Consider the woes which this wafted matter, during historic and prehistoric ages, has inflicted on mankind; consider the loss of life in hospitals from putrefying wounds; consider the loss in places where there are plenty of wounds but no hospitals, and in the ages before hospitals were anywhere founded; consider the slaughter which has hitherto followed that of the battle-field, when those bacterial destroyers are let loose, often producing a mortality far greater than that of the battle itself; add to this the other conception-that in times of epidemic disease the self-same floating matter has frequently, if not always, mingled with it the special germs which produce the epidemic, being thus enabled to sow pestilence and death over nations and continents—consider all this, and you will come with me to the conclusion that all the havoc of war, ten times multiplied, would be evanescent if compared to the ravages due to atmospheric dust.

This preventable destruction is going on to-day, and it has been permitted to go on for ages, without a whisper of information regard-