Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/17

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11
RESEARCH IN MEDICINE

domestic methods of canning and preserving solid and fluid foods are based on the laboratory experiments of Pasteur one obtains an adequate idea of the importance of his observations and likewise appreciates his satisfaction at the practical application of his methods.

As the silkworm problem began to clear up, Pasteur's thoughts turned more and more to the etiology of the acute infectious diseases of man and animals and their experimental study. This is shown in his appeal to the government (1867) for a laboratory. In this appeal he refers to the advisability of investigating splenic fever and asks. "How can researches be attempted on gangrene, virus or inoculations, without a building suitable for the housing of animals?" and in 1871, in his book on beer, with the diseases of which he had busied himself, we again find a reference to the possibility of the disease of man and animals being due to microorganisms. Here again it is evident that he was influenced by the idea of microorganisms invisibly introduced into fermentable fluids, for in this connection he says, "it is impossible not to be pursued by the thought that similar acts may, must, take place in animals and in man "; but without experimental proof he refused to go further.

Pasteur's attack on animal diseases was, however, delayed, first by a cerebral hemorrhage in 1868 which left him partly paralyzed, and then by the Franco-Prussian war which interrupted all scientific efforts in Paris.

Here it is well to pause a moment to consider the attitude of the medical profession towards the theory which was beginning to take shape as the "germ theory." The following decade was to see the bacterial etiology of several important diseases established, Lister's practise of antisepsis in surgery quite generally accepted, and the principle of specific vaccine treatment demonstrated. To-day no phase of medicine is so well understood by the world at large as that of bacteriological principles and aims. Germs and sera, prophylaxis and quarantine, antisepsis and pasteurization, are matters of common knowledge and of ordinary conversation, but it is difficult for one unfamiliar with pre-bacteriology days to appreciate the views which had to be combated only forty years ago. A brief glance at the conditions in 1873 may therefore give you a better appreciation of the events of the succeeding decade. If it is necessary to fix the period, let me remind you that 1873 was the year the University of California removed to its present site.

The Franco-Prussian war had come to a close. Surgeons remembered that though soldiers were killed in battle by tens and hundreds, they died of surgical diseases by thousands.

In the hospitals surgical sepsis ran rampant. Secondary hemorrhage, erysipelas, pyemia and "hospital gangrene" were endemic. Sometimes wards, wings