Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/439

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423
SANITARY SCIENCE, ETC.

investigation, until we have now hardly three or four in possession of the means to present any new subject of study involving any outlay for investigation or for demonstration. The time has come when such provision should be made. Whether it is to be made by the munificence of private individuals, or by State endowments, is not here the question.

The proposition to which I shall speak especially is this: that provision should be made for instruction in Human Physiology, Hygiene, and Sanitary Science, in all departments of public instruction in our public schools, by providing fundamental instruction, especially in the simple principles of physiology and hygiene; in colleges and universities, by presenting this general instruction in a more extended way, and by promoting investigation; in medical colleges, by giving more special instruction in matters relating to public and international hygiene; and that, in our departments of engineering and polytechnic and technological schools, especial provision should be made for instruction in sanitary engineering.

In regard to the first of these provisions, that for popular instruction, few probably are aware of the need of them. Take, for example, the revelation made within the past year, at the outbreak of yellow fever in a Southern city. Two things in relation to that revealed very clearly the evils of which I speak: First, the cause assigned to the disease shows the utter want of sanitary knowledge in the people at large; and, secondly, the real cause, since revealed, shows the absolute blindness to the simplest principles of sanitary science on the part of those immediately concerned. When the yellow fever broke out at Shreveport, it was telegraphed all over the country that it was caused by the removal of the obstructions in the river above the city. That statement went all over the country unchallenged. So far as I know, no one thought of expressing doubt publicly as to the statement that the yellow fever was caused by a more plentiful supply of water at the wharves of that city—the fact being that this would conduce rather to the removal of the causes of the disease than to the prevention of them. At last came information as to the real cause, and it was found that in that hot climate men had been allowed to heap up the material in which disease-germs arise abundantly; that the simplest truths of sanitary science had been ignored, and that the consequence was perfectly simple and natural.

But it is not merely in such outstanding parts of the nation that such ignorance exists. It is spread throughout our own country districts, even the most enlightened districts, and you will find prevailing in many of our country towns traditions and superstitions in regard to this matter that are most surprising. You will find some of these things which are known to be absolutely deadly considered on the whole as healthful. Strange as it may seem, you may hear people who take the papers, who are supposed to be within reach of the great