Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/581

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567
POPULAR MISCELLANY

struments used in the operation have been recovered from the prehistoric remains in different countries, the chronological dates of which range from the earliest neolithic age to historic 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 probable that in both instances the procedure is simply a custom surviving from primeval ages. A paper reviewing this subject, by Dr. Robert Munro, records a strange blending 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 certain internal maladies, and that the skulls of those who survived the treatment were considered possessed of special mystical qualities. 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 precaution against certain supernatural and demoniac evils. The Chaldean magic, according to Lenormant, mentioned "the wicked demon which seizes the body, which disturbs the body," and taught that "the disease of the forehead proceeds from the infernal regions; it is come from the dwelling of the lord of the abyss." We have a right to suppose, in view of these evidences, as Broca has suggested, that many of the convulsions peculiar to children were regarded as the result 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 persisted till the beginning of the last century; and such bones have been worn in recent years by aged Italians as charms against epilepsy and other nervous diseases. When once the dogma was promulgated that sanctity and a perforated skull were correlated, fond relatives might bore the heads of the departed to facilitate the exodus of any malignant 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-mortem 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 existence of a future state.

 

Prof. Huxley and the late Sir Andrew Clark.—Prof. Huxley has furnished the London Lancet with the following reminiscence of his first meeting and subsequent acquaintance 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 Scotchman joined our mess. He was very slender, of somewhat stooping carriage, and with that florid delicacy of complexion which commonly 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 surgeons 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 wisdom 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