Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/483

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rheumatic and other pains, as well as incite mental distress and discouragement.

This fact, concerning which some have been skeptical, is as demonstrable as any general fact of the kind can be, and the opportunities for testing it among the nervous patients in this country are exceptionally abundant. Sensitive patients are oftentimes prophets of the weather; without error they can predict, even twenty-four hours beforehand, an approaching northeast storm, and, before a rising thunder-squall, they are sometimes excessively miserable. There are those who are utterly prostrated before and during a thunder-storm, thrown into vomiting and convulsions; and these spasmodic disruptions are followed by hours or days of exhaustion.[1]

Now, it is just before thunder-storms that the atmospheric electricity is so apt to be negative, and during a thunder-storm the changes in the electrical condition are very rapid.

At the Sussex County Insane Asylum, in England, the chaplain of the institution made for several years a series of experiments which showed very clearly that attacks of epilepsy and mania correspond, in a very large number of instances, to changes in electrical and other conditions of the air, and he believes that electricity is the main factor.

There is nothing strange in all this, for all naturalists know that many plants predict storms with wonderful precision hours before they appear. Man, with his exalted and complex nervous system, and especially civilized man, is far more impressible than any animal or flower.

It is not wise nor scientific nor humane to despise these subtile, storm-anticipating pains from which our patients suffer. If these are not real, nothing is real, and all existence is a delusion and a sham. They are as truly realities as small-pox, or typhoid fever, or a broken leg, and should be considered accordingly. When, therefore, the Danbury News man dedicates his almanac to that distinguished collaborator and weather predicter, the inflammatory rheumatism, he is as scientific as he is funny.

4. The beneficial effects of sea and mountain air on invalids may be explained in part, if not largely, by the fact that there is more ozone in the sea-air than in the land-air, and more ozone and more electricity in high than in low altitudes.

In elevated regions the air is, of course, rarer than in low-lying regions, and the quantity of oxygen inhaled must, of necessity, be less

  1. These nervous perturbations, in their various degrees, have seemed to me to be sufficiently frequent and distinctive to entitle them to be regarded as a separate disease. To this disease I have given the name Astraphobia. A brief description of this disease, with cases and remarks, can be found in Beard & Rockwell's "Medical and Surgical Electricity," p. 604. Strictly speaking, it comes in the category of affections allied to hysteria, like agoraphobia that Westphal has described. Astraphobia is more common in women than in men, though I have seen it in both sexes. The tendency to the disease appears to run in families.