Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/673

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653
A COMBAT WITH AN INFECTIVE ATMOSPHERE.

are some melon-tubes all putrid, all gone into a state of fermentation. I ask you to compare those with some other melon-tubes that I have operated upon in a different way and that are as clear as crystal. The others are all gone, simply through a defect in the mode of manipulation.

The defeats that I at first described to you were due entirely to the contaminated atmosphere in which we worked. It ought to be noted that, in the earlier experiments in this inquiry, the results were always in accordance with those brought before you last year. By degrees, however, masses of hay were introduced into the laboratory—old hay and new hay from various places; and they ended by rendering the atmosphere so virulently infective that everything was contaminated by the germs set afloat. It resembled the case of a surgical ward of a hospital, where gangrene and putrefaction have attained such a predominance that the surgeon has, in despair, to shut up his ward and abandon it to disinfection. Desiring to free myself from this pestilential atmosphere, I wrote to my friend the President of the Royal Society, Dr. Hooker, and I found that he was able to furnish me with a means of getting away from it. In Kew Gardens, there is a beautiful new laboratory, erected by the munificence of that most intelligent supporter of science, Mr. Thomas Phillips Jodrell. He, at his own expense, has had this beautiful laboratory built—being designed, I believe, by Dr. Thiselton Dyer. It is one of the neatest things I have ever seen, and it is to me a great gratification that the first experiments made in that laboratory were those to which I have now to refer. I broke away from the contaminated air of the Royal Institution. It is very well for you that I can tell you that all the germs referred to are perfectly innocuous to human beings, for I have no doubt the air of this room is contaminated with them. A series of chambers was made—not of wood, for I wanted to get rid even of that, but of tin and—I would not allow Mr. Cotterell to carry those chambers into the Royal Institution at all. They were carried from the tinman's where they were made to the laboratory at Kew. There, with the greatest care, the tubes were treated first with carbolic acid and then washed with water, and then with caustic potash to get rid of all traces of carbolic acid, and finally drenched with distilled water. Carbolic acid, as you know, is a deadly foe to these germs. In this way I hoped that every contamination that might be adhering to the tubes would be destroyed, and that, having got clear of an infected atmosphere, we might get the same results as we invariably obtained last year. The temperature was raised to between 80° and 90°, and once a little above 90°, so that the warmth was all that could be desired for the development of those organisms. It gives me the deepest gratification to find that what was foreseen has occurred, and that this very day these chambers have come back from Kew perfectly intact. They comprise the most refractory substances that I had experimented