Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/560

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by poisonous gases. The galvanic current also restores respiration in cases of poisoning by ether or chloroform, even when recovery seems hopeless. Surgeons who understand this effect, remember it whenever chloroform seems dangerous to the patient under its influence.

Electricity is transformed into heat with great ease. If an intense current is passed through a very short metallic wire, it heats, reddens, and sometimes vaporizes it. This property has been taken advantage of by surgeons for the removal of various morbid excrescences. They introduce a metallic blade at the base of the tumors or polypi to be extirpated, and when this kind of electric knife becomes incandescent, under the influence of the galvanic current, they give it such a movement that the diseased part is separated by cauterization, as neatly as with a cutting instrument. This method, which avoids effusion of blood, and is attended by only slight pain, has yielded excellent results in the hands of Marshall, Middeldorpf, Sédillot, and Amussat. Besides this application, in which heat plays the chief part, electricity has been used to destroy tumors, by a kind of chemical disorganization of their tissue. Crusell, Ciniselli, and Nélaton, have made decisive experiments of this nature. Pétrequin, Broca, and others, suggest the same method to coagulate the blood contained in sacs, in aneurisms. If this novel surgery is not so widely known and used as it deserves to be, the reason is that the manipulation of electric instruments requires much practice and dexterity, and surgeons find the classic use of the scalpel more convenient.

This rapid historical view shows that the method of treatment by electricity is useful in very many diseases. Whether resorted to to modify the nutritive condition, to quicken or check circulation in the small vessels, to calm or excite the nerves, to relax or stimulate the muscles, to burn or detach tumors, electricity, if managed rationally, is destined to do distinguished service in the healing art. The range of treatment by heat is less considerable, yet of some extent. The examination of the medical value of treatment by light has scarcely begun, nor has much been done toward the study of weight or pressure, in their relations to medical science. At all events, there is now forming and gaining increased development, alongside of the medicinal use of bodies, a medicinal use of forces—besides the physic of drugs, a physic of powers. It is impossible to say at present which of the two will definitely prevail—more probably both will be called on to render valuable services to art.

The first savants who studied the action of galvanic electricity on dead bodies, and saw them recover motion, and even an appearance of sensation, supposed they had touched the secret of life, likening to the vital principle that other force which seems to warm again the frozen organs, and restore their springs. Slight reflection on the facts collected in the foregoing pages reveals the thorough illusiveness of such a hope. Not only is electricity far from being the whole of life,