Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/756

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The experiments of Galvani in 1785 attracted great attention. The most extravagant expectation of the practical value of galvanism in curing disease gradually spread among non-experts all over the scientific world. Various empirics appeared claiming remarkable results based on this new force. Finally, in 1796, Dr. Perkins, of Connecticut, announced that he had discovered two metals which, combined in a secret way, possessed marvelous powers of galvanism, which he called tractors, or pullers-out of disease. These tractors resembled a piece of gold and silver fitted together, about four inches long, and were used, by being moved up and down over the part affected, to draw out the disease and restore the vital forces. Almost every disorder known was cured or relieved by this means. The discoverer challenged the world of science everywhere, and invited criticism, and pointed to the persons cured for irrefutable evidence. The psychological soil was prepared, and the army of credulous enthusiasts were all ready to welcome him. In two years these tractors attained great popularity in this country. They were literally recommended and indorsed by the faculties of three medical colleges, and vast numbers of clergymen, members of Congress, and public officials. A special patent was issued, and signed by George Washington, as a slight recognition of the great service the inventor had rendered the world. Pamphlets, sermons, lectures, papers, and even books were written and scattered everywhere, giving the theories and results following the use of these tractors. In 1798 Perkins went to London. His boldness and dogmatism immediately commanded popularity. After a time a hospital was established, called the Perkinson Institute, officered by the nobility, with Lord Revois as president. Large sums of money were given for the treatment of the poor by this method. Free dispensaries were opened, and trained assistants used these tractors for all cases, with boasted success. Lectures were given on the philosophy of this method, and students were instructed and sent out to open branch institutes. The rich purchased these tractors and became their own doctors, and the poor were obliged to accept treatment from others. With empiric shrewdness, certificates of cure were gathered, which exceeded ten thousand in number, and were signed by princes, ministers of state, bishops, clergymen, professors, physicians, and wealthy laymen. The inventor was recognized as a great public benefactor and pioneer, also one of the few immortals who would live down the ages. Perkinsism seemed to have won a place in the scientific history of the world. By and by this gilded cloud of popularity burst, and the charm was dissolved. Two physicians made tractors of wood and sold them as the original, producing the same results and the same crop of certificates of cure. After making a respectable sum of money, they pub-