Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/581

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.



��struments used in the operation have been re- covered from the prehistoric remains in differ- ent countries, the chronological dates of which range from the earliest neolithic age to his- toric times. Hippocrates was not a stranger to these processes, but performed them in cases of accidents to the skull, and even of headache. The Montenegrins submit to the operation ; and it has been suggested as prob- able that in both instances the procedure is simply a custom surviving from primeval ages. A paper reviewing this subject, by Dr. Eobert Munro, records a strange blend- ing of medicine and theology in the earlier periods of this treatment, for he shows that during the neolithic period the operation was performed on children afflicted with cer- tain internal maladies, and that the skulls of those who survived the treatment were considered possessed of special mystical qual- ities. When such persons died, fragments were often cut from their skulls and used as amulets ; and pieces cut from the margin of the cicatrized opening were preferred. The process in prehistoric times was practiced chiefly on children, partly, probably, because it could be more easily accomplished upon them, and possibly, also, as an early precau- tion against certain supernatural and demo- niac evils. The Chaldean magic, according to Lenormant, mentioned " the wicked de- mon which seizes the body, which disturbs the body," and taught that " the disease of the forehead proceeds from the infernal re- gions ; it is come from the dwelling of the lord of the abyss." We have a right to sup- pose, in view of these evidences, as Broca has suggested, that many of the convulsions peculiar to children were regarded as the re- sult of demoniacal possession. It would be natural, then, to try to assist the escape of the imprisoned spirit by boring a hole in the skull by which it was confined. The belief in the medicinal efficacy of cranial bones per- sisted till the beginning of the last century ; and such bones have been worn in recent years by aged Italians as charms against epi- lepsy and other nervous diseases. When once the dogma was promulgated that sanc- tity and a perforated skull were correlated, fond relatives might bore the heads of the departed to facilitate the exodus of any ma- lignant influence still lingering within, and to insure them, by the venerated aperture.

��a satisfactory position in their new existence. For similar reasons the bone was buried with the deceased, and sometimes it was even placed within his skull. Dr. Munro, while accepting Broca's view and amplifying upon it, suggests further that the post-mor- tem trepanning may have been such a pious endeavor to carry sacramental benefit beyond the grave as induced the early Christians to be baptized for the dead, and that it points to a belief in the supernatural and in the ex- istence of a future state.

Prof. Hnxley and the late Sir Audrew Clark. Prof. Huxley has furnished the Lon- don Lancet with the following reminiscence of his first meeting and subsequent acquaint- ance with Sir Andrew Clark, the eminent English physician, who has recently died : " I was appointed assistant surgeon to H. M. S. Victory at Portsmouth in March, 1846, and was, in the ordinary course, detailed for duty at Haslar Hospital until such time as the Admiralty might be pleased to order me to join a seagoing ship. Some time after I think two or three months a young Scotch- man joined our mess. He was very slender, of somewhat stooping carriage, and with that florid delicacy of complexion which common- ly marks the poitrinaire. Most of us were tolerably vigorous young men, and we thought that our new colleague, Andrew Clark, had a good deal less prospect of standing the life that was probably in store for him than we had. In fact, he looked just the sort of man to die of consumption before the age of thirty-five. Now it so happened that three out of the small company of assistant sur- geons at Haslar during the five months of my residence Alexander Armstrong, John Watt Reid, and myself were destined to prove our competency to go through a fair share of hard work, official and other; and it would have very much surprised us to hear that Clark was not only to work harder, but to go on working for years after we had been put upon our respective shelves as retired veterans. I doubt if a good deal more wis- dom and experience than any of us possessed would have divined in our very quiet, and even retiring, young messmate the prodigious store of mental and physical energy upon which he was able to draw in later life ; and I venture to be certain that, of all careers

�� �