Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/621

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603
SPONTANEOUS GENERATION.

falls upon the wound, the lint and gauze employed in the subsequent dressing being duly saturated with the antiseptic. At St. Bartholomew's Mr. Callender employs the dilute carbolic acid without the spray; but, as regards the real point aimed at—the preventing of the wound from becoming a nidus for the propagation of septic bacteria—the practice in both hospitals is the same. Commending itself as it does to the scientifically-trained mind, the antiseptic system has struck deep root in Germany.

It would also have given me pleasure to point out the present position of the "germ-theory" in reference to the phenomena of infectious disease, distinguishing arguments based on analogy—which, however, are terribly strong—from those based on actual observation. I should have liked to follow up the account I have already given[1] of the truly excellent researches of a young and an unknown German physician named Koch, on splenic fever, by an account of what Pasteur has recently done with reference to the same subject. Here we have before us a living contagium of the most fatal power, which we can follow from the beginning to the end of its life-cycle.[2] We find it in the blood or spleen of a smitten animal in the state say of short motionless rods. We place these rods in a nutritive liquid on the warm stage of the microscope, and see them lengthening into filaments which lie side by side, or, crossing each other, become coiled into knots of a complexity not to be unraveled. We finally see those filaments resolving themselves into innumerable spores, each with death potentially housed within it, yet not to be distinguished microscopically from the harmless germs of Bacillus subtilis. The bacterium of splenic fever is called Bacillus anthracis. This formidable organism was shown to me by M. Pasteur in Paris last July. His recent investigations regarding the part it plays pathologically certainly rank among the most remarkable labors of that remarkable man. Observer after observer had strayed and fallen in this land of pitfalls, a multitude of opposing conclusions and mutually-destructive theories being the result. In association with his younger physiological colleague M. Joubert, Pasteur struck in amid the chaos, and soon reduced the whole of it to harmony. They proved, among other things, that in cases where previous observers in France had supposed themselves to be dealing solely with splenic fever, another equally virulent factor was simultaneously active. Splenic fever was often overmastered by septicæmia, and results due solely to the latter had been frequently made the ground of pathological inferences regarding the character and cause of the former. Combining duly the two factors, all the previous irregularities disappeared, every result obtained receiving the fullest explanation. On studying the account

  1. Fortnightly Review, November, 1876.
  2. Dallinger and Drysdale had previously shown what skill and patience can accomplish by their admirable observations on the life-history of the monads.