Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/453

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447
QUACKERY.

QUACKERY.[1]
By DUDLEY F. SICHER,

YALE UNIVERSITY.

WHAT impresses one in reviewing the literature, is the extent and ancient origin of quackery, and the ineffectual fight against it. Eight pages of the 'Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office' are taken up with a bare list of books, pamphlets and addresses, exploiting quackery or aiming at last to deal it the long-evaded death-blow. As early as 1605 we find good Dr. Guybon riding out to the charge with 'Beware of Pickpockets. Or a Caveat to sick folkes to take heede of unlearned phisitions and unskilfull chyrurgians'; but neither this heavy artillery nor the unbroken fire of subsequent English doctors could daunt the brave hosts of mountebanks who have marched on through the decades, healing the well and making the sick remember their pains. English sovereigns down through Queen Anne continued to exercise the 'Royal Touch'; in 1665 one Valentine Greatrakes successfully laid claim to this same healing power; a certain Dr. John Ward gloriously humbugged King George the Second; somewhat later, Elisha Perkins (1741-1799), of Norwich, Conn., son and father of Yale graduates, enthralled two continents—laity and physicians alike—with his Metallic Tractors. Then, in the early nineteenth century, floruit (on pickings estimated at fifteen thousand pounds per annum) suave John St. John Long, of whom Dr. Francis E. Packard says: 'The list of his patients reads like a directory to the fashionable quarter of London.' These are only a few, the more gigantic, vermin from out the dirty swarm. Everywhere and everywhen we meet with exploiters of secret remedies, unfailing panaceas, advanced treatment (sic), and all other alleged cures which stand as quackery (in the words of Dr. A. T. Schofield) 'when used by unqualified men, or if they are advertised or puffed unprofessionally, or connected with any fraud or wilful exaggeration.' But it was left for the modern era to furnish that strangest chapter—of an enormous spread of quackery, along with progress in scientific medicine and the growth of education. Berlin, capital city of the world's least hysterical people, reports an increase of 1,600 per cent, in the number of resident quacks since 1874. For England the roll-call is answered by The British Medical Journal


  1. Paper read before the Yale Biological Club, March 23, 1905.