Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/485

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469
ATMOSPHERIC ELECTRICITY AND OZONE.

of autumnal catarrh or hay-fever that is found in regions lying all the way from five hundred to twenty-five hundred feet elevation above the level of the sea.[1] It has already been shown by the experiments of Becquerel on the plateau of St. Bernard, and by other observers, that there is more of atmospheric electricity as we rise above the earth, and the same has been proved also of ozone. If these results shall be confirmed by a larger induction, by observations among the Catskill and White Mountains, then we should have a potent and suggestive explanation, so far as it would go, of the powerful hygienic effect of mountain residence.

III. In times when certain epidemics are abroad, such as cholera, throat-distemper, scarlatina, etc., let observations made of the atmospheric ozone be compared with observations made at the same season and same place in other years. Of course, whatever the facts may be, we cannot rush to conclusions in this matter. If ozone be absent, may not its absence be due to the fact that it has all been consumed in deodorizing the impurities of the air, which impurities may be the cause of the epidemic?

IV. Let the physiological and therapeutic effects of ozone on the human system be studied by a large and copious induction from a wide variety of temperaments and diseases.

The criticisms that you will make on this paper I can easily foresee. You will say—and not unjustly—that in all these researches, and especially in those that relate to ozone, there is much of vagueness, little of precision—that an enormous margin yet remains wherein we may study or conjecture.

All this I admit freely and fully, but is it not so with the incipience of every science and of all forms of knowledge whatsoever? Shall we wait until our knowledge becomes absolute before we reveal it? Does it not rather become those of us who are seeking truth, as often as may be, to take account of stock of our discoveries? Is it not well, now and then, to take an inventory of our ignorance, and see how little we know? In this grand and long campaign against the kingdom of darkness we must forage on the enemy's country, and sustain ourselves for the toils of the future by the best we can get as we go along. I would be inspired by the words of Confucius: "What we know, to know that we know it; what we do not know, to know that we do not know it, that is knowledge." I would be inspired by the example of Lessing, who preferred to seek after truth, than to find it.

  1. Blakeley, in his work on "Hay Fever," has shown by experiments that more spores and pollen, by far, are found a thousand feet or so above the earth than at the ordinary breathing level. These experiments would indicate that the cure of this disease, by removed to elevated regions, must at least be explained in some other way than by the theory that the mountain air contains less irritating substances. This subject I hope to be able to investigate at the White Mountains during the coming summer.