Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/July 1894/Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Modern Bacteriology
|LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU AND MODERN BACTERIOLOGY.|
By Mrs. H. M. PLUNKETT.
IN all the history of modern scientific progress there is no more beautiful instance of the way in which the torch of knowledge is passed from hand to hand as generation succeeds generation, each holder adding his increment of light to the flame, than that to be seen in the interlinking of the work of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Edward Jenner with that of Pasteur and Lister and Koch, and the multitude of illustrious seekers now striving to reveal to us the whole world of man's microscopical friends and enemies. It is to be noted that in each individual case the mind that was to aid in setting forward the hand on the dial of progress was specially gifted for its work, so that when the new truth was presented to it, it was like the seed that fell on good ground and brought forth fruit a hundredfold; while the knowledge of the same facts—always existent had, outside of these illuminated intelligences, fallen on the stoniest kind of soil.
The relation of the beautiful and brilliant and witty Lady Montagu to one of the most beneficent applications of knowledge to the abatement and mitigation of human suffering, is at the present time very inadequately understood. Even in this day of boasted intelligence nine out of ten among persons who consider themselves well informed will say, "Yes, I know Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was the woman who introduced vaccination into England," whereas it was inoculation for smallpox that she had introduced. This produced a mild form of the disease, perfectly protective, and left no marks. Others had observed this Oriental practice, and had brought the knowledge back to England before her time, and here and there a venturesome individual had tried the experiment, but it was generally done in secret, being looked upon as akin to suicide. It was Lady Mary's intelligent enthusiasm that brought it into repute; she explained the conditions necessary to success, and set the example of having all belonging to her subjected to it. Her only brother had died of smallpox, and she had had it severely; it disfigured her to the extent of destroying a fine pair of eyebrows, resulting in imparting a fierce and disagreeable expression to her eyes, in spite of which she had won the heart and hand of an accomplished gentleman. Remember, this was in the first quarter of the last century, when communication between distant lands was infrequent, and women's books were almost unknown.
Her husband had been appointed in 1710 ambassador to the Ottoman court, and she had accompanied him, being then twenty-six years old. They made the journey overland through Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Bulgaria, being the first Christians that had passed over the route since the time of the Greek emperors. It occupied more than four months, and, although hospitably entertained by the sovereigns in the large cities, as the representatives of their government, there were long reaches of country where they were obliged to use the beds and provisions that they carried along with them. She wrote back lively and brilliant descriptions of Eastern life in letters that to this day are "mighty interesting reading," the arrival of each being an event in the court coterie of her friends; they were passed from hand to hand, commented on, and enjoyed with a relish that the surfeited readers of to-day can not know, and one of them was appointed to exercise a potent influence on the destiny of millions of the human race, for it was eventually to lead up to the discoveries of Jenner. They were not printed till after her death, in 1762. The one which at last led to the establishment and popularization of inoculation for smallpox was written from Adrianople in 1717 to her friend Miss Sarah Chiswell. The passage relating to inoculation is here given entire: "Apropos of distempers, I am going to tell yon of a thing that I am sure will make you wish yourself here. The smallpox, so general and so fatal among us, is entirely harmless here by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it here. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the operation in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the smallpox. They make parties for the purpose, and when they are met—commonly fifteen or sixteen together—the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox, and asks what vein you will please to have opened. She immediately rips open the one that you offer to her with a large needle, which gives you no more pain than a common scratch, and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle, and after, binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell, and in this manner opens four or five veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the middle of the forehead and in each arm and on the breast, to make the sign of the cross; but this has a very ill effect, all the wounds leaving little scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who choose to have them in the legs or in that part of the arm that is concealed. The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health till the eighth; then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark; and in eight days' time are as well as before their illness. Where they are wounded there remain running sores during their distemper, which I doubt not is a great relief of it. Every year thousands undergo this operation, and the French ambassador says that they take the smallpox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one has died in it, and you may well believe I am very well satisfied of the safety of the experiment since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England, and I should not fail to write to some of the doctors very particularly about it if I knew any of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable part of their revenue for the good of mankind. But that distemper is too beneficial to them not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it. Perhaps if I live to return I shall have the courage to war with them. Upon this occasion admire the heroism in the heart of your friend."
Macaulay has this eloquent passage on this disease when describing the miseries of the old times: "Smallpox was always present, filling the churchyards with corpses, leaving in those whose lives it spared the hideous traces of its power, turning the babe into a changeling at which the mother shuddered, and making the eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maiden objects of horror to her lover." No wonder that the Lady Mary underscores the part which says it leaves no mark—a womanly touch for which we love her.
She had Mr. Maitland, surgeon to the embassy, procure variolous matter from a suitable subject, and a very experienced old Greek woman was employed to insert it; she inoculated one arm and Maitland the other; the disease ensued in due course, with the production of about a hundred pustules. This was the first time that the Byzantine method was employed on an English subject.
Mr. Montagu was attending to his ambassadorial duties at Belgrade at the time, and she wrote to him on March 23, 1718: "The boy was ingrafted last Tuesday, and is at this time singing and playing, very impatient for his supper; I pray God my next may give as good an account of him. I can not ingraft the girl; her nurse has not had the smallpox." Persons who have smallpox by inoculation impart it to others just as if they had acquired the disease in the natural manner, but we may be quite sure that the little lady was submitted to the operation that would preserve her beauty as soon as possible after she was weaned. Her husband being politically promoted, they returned to England after having lived in Turkey but little more than a year, and Dr. Maitland at once endeavored to establish the practice in London, being enthusiastically seconded and supported by her. Not till 1781, as its expediency had been agitated by scientific men, was an experiment sanctioned by the College of Physicians and allowed by Government. Five persons condemned to death willingly encountered the danger, with the hope of life. Upon four of them the eruption appeared on the seventh day; the fifth was a woman on whom it never appeared, but she confessed that she had had the disease when an infant. Lady Mary strove so earnestly to introduce the practice among mothers of her own rank in life that we learn from her letters that much of her time was given up to consultations and superintending the success of her plans. Steele, in his Plain-Dealer of July 3, 1734, wrote of her: "It is an obserxation of some historian that England has owed to women the greatest blessings she has been distinguished by. In the case we are now upon this reflection will stand justified. We are indebted to the reason and courage of a lady for the introduction of this art, which gains such strength in its progress that the memory of its illustrious foundress will be rendered sacred by it to future ages. . . . She consecrated its first effects on the persons of her own fine children; and has already received this glory from it that the influence of her example has reached as high as the blood royal. It is a godlike delight she must be conscious of when she considers the many thousands of lives that will be saved every year after the general establishment of the practice—a good so lasting and so vast that none of those wide endowments and deep foundations of public charity that have made most noise in the world deserve at all to be compared with it." To understand how great the deliverance was, it should be known that then it killed one in seven of all that were born; it caused about one third of all the blindness in those pitiable victims, and it disfigured multitudes frightfully. Mrs. Croasdale, an English lady born early in this century, mentions in a recent book of reminiscences that in her childhood so many were "pitted" that a person with a smooth face was notable.
Notwithstanding this eulogy from a highly intelligent source, it is pretty certain that, like all those persons who are overmasteringly possessed with one idea, she was considered an unreasonable "crank." The very friend to whom she wrote the minute description of the process died of smallpox; and the Lady Mary's sister. Lady Mar, had that most precious of English aristocratic possessions—an only son. She offered to inoculate him, and promised to take him into her own house and care for him personally till he should be recovered; but the sister failed to be convinced, and the boy died in childhood of the disease.
People still remained so skeptical that Lady Mary used to take her little daughter into houses where people had been inoculated, and whose convalescence she was superintending, to prove her own immovable conviction of it as a protective measure.
At one time such unreasonable prejudices were excited that clergymen and physicians became violent anti-inoculators. Pamphlets appeared in which it was described as the outcome of "atheism, quackery, and avarice"; it was denounced from the pulpit as "an impious interference with the just and inscrutable visitations of God"; and Dr. Wagstaffe, of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, said that "posterity would marvel that a practice employed by a few ignorant women, among an illiterate and unthinking people, should have so suddenly been adopted by one of the politest nations in the world." That this was a narrow and unmerited piece of severity is shown by the facts that these "unthinking" people had discovered that there is a difference in the features of the disease in different cases—hæmorrhagic, confluent, discrete, etc.; that those artificially produced follow closely the character of the cases from which they are planted, each yielding "seed after Ms kind"; that it is important to liave the system in a healthy condition, which they tested by making a slight wound, and if it healed kindly and normally, they concluded that the inoculation would come out all right; they chose the most favorable month of the year, and they isolated, not individuals, but parties, for, as the Turks were not a reading people, we can imagine that social aggregations saved them from the ennui of sickness and convalescence. After the practice was introduced among the "politest peoples," some serious disasters came from neglecting the precautions that had been found absolutely essential to oriental success. As to the "sudden" adoption: in spite of her enthusiastic advocacy, it was not till fifty years after Lady Mary's children were inoculated that the practice became established in her native land, and then not till the Princess of Wales, having had some charity children operated on to satisfy herself of its safety, caused her sons to be inoculated, thus giving that royal sanction so needful there to make a thing "go." Having thus acquired the royal stamp, the College of Physicians formally indorsed it. No less than eighteen individuals had died in Lord Petrie's family alone, in the twenty-seven years preceding 1762, and among the royal families of Europe fifteen persons had perished within the compass of a single year.
The Lady Mary resided in Italy for twenty-two of the later years of her life, returning to die of cancer in 1762, aged seventythree. In the cathedral at Litchfield a cenotaph is erected to her memory bearing this inscription:
"SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
THE RIGHT HONORABLE
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU,
WHO HAPPILY INTRODUCED FROM TURKEY
INTO THIS COUNTRY
THE SALUTARY ART
OF INOCULATING THE SMALLPOX.
CONVINCED OF ITS EFFICACY
SHE FIRST TRIED IT WITH SUCCESS
ON HER OWN CHILDREN
AND THEN RECOMMENDED THE PRACTICE OF IT
TO HER FELLOW-CITIZENS.
THUS BY HER EXAMPLE AND ADVICE
WE HAVE SOFTENED THE VIRULENCE
AND ESCAPED THE DANGER OF THIS MALIGNANT DISEASE.
TO PERPETUATE THE MEMORY OF SUCH BENEVOLENCE
AND TO EXPRESS HER GRATITUDE
FOR THE BENEFIT SHE HERSELF RECEIVED
FROM THIS ALLEVIATING ART,
THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED BY
RELICT OF THEODORE WILLIAM INGE, ESQ.,
AND DAUGHTER OF SIR JOHN WROTTELSEY, BART.,
IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1789.
The monument itself is a mural marble, representing a female figure of Beauty weeping over the ashes of her preserver, supposed to be inclosed in the urn inscribed with M. W. M. intertwined in Lady Mary's cipher. In the literary remains of the time, the fact that she had preserved the beauty of her countrywomen is mentioned ten times to one of the preservation of life.
Lady Mary's thoroughly intelligent account of the process shows that in her case the new idea had fallen into a hospitable and enlightened mind, and although she did not live to see the fruition of her efforts in the immense amelioration of the condition of her countrymen that took place later, there was wrapped up in the process she had naturalized the germ of a mighty fact of biology destined to spring up and bear a myriad of those leaves that are "for the healing of the nations." When the value of the operation was thoroughly appreciated there came upon the scene some enterprising doctors who established what they called "inoculation houses"—we should say now smallpox sanitariums—for isolation was needed to preserve the community, as the disease communicated itself as surely through voluntary sufferers as when it had been taken unwittingly. Here the candidate was put through a course of medication that to-day seems nothing less than ferocious; and one doctor—Dimsdale—rendered himself so conspicuous as to be knighted, and the Empress of Russia sent for him to inoculate herself and her son Paul. The bold experiment was first tried on two young gentlemen of the cadet corps, and afterward, a second experiment was made on four more cadets, before royalty ventured. Then the exalted candidates passed safely through it, and Dimsdale says, "the Empress and the Grand Duke were pleased to permit several persons to be inoculated from them, and by that condescension the prejudice which has reigned among the inferior ranks of people that the party would suffer from whom the infectious matter was taken was most effectually destroyed." Dimsdale was made Baron of the Russian Empire and physician to her Imperial Majesty, and awarded ten thousand pounds in addition to an annuity of five hundred pounds. As up to this time every seventh child born in the Russian Empire had died of smallpox, the royal conduct is to be commended.
A careful sifting of all the methods and recorded experiences of all the inoculators shows that the essential vital kernel of the process grazed closely on Pasteur's "attenuated virus," and that all their "cooling" and "dieting" and "strengthening" sank into insignificance beside the one dominating point of using a benign virus, if such a contradiction in terms is allowable. Much valuable knowledge in reference to inoculation was accumulated, and some brilliant foreshadowings of modern knowledge as to the way in which infection spreads were seen, but these discoveries were soon to be thrown into eclipse by those of Edward Jenner.
This great benefactor of humanity was born in Berkeley, in Gloucestershire, in 1749, and at the time of Lady Mary Montagu's death, was thirteen years old, but he already had evinced a strong taste for natural history—had begun an orderly and well-kept cabinet of new and original specimens, and had formed the valuable habit of recording in a note-book his observations on physical phenomena. His father had died when he was six years old, but he was reared with great care and tenderness by an elder brother, who, perceiving his strong natural bent, apprenticed him to a surgeon, with whom he diligently studied and worked till he was twenty-one, when he went to London to become the pupil of the celebrated John Hunter, in whose family he lived for two years. Hunter had a large private menagerie at Brompton, where he solved for himself some important questions in physiology. Jenner, filled with admiration at the large and unselfish way in which Hunter pursued knowledge for its own sake, formed a friendship for his great master that ceased only at Hunter's death, whose letters to Jenner are among the most interesting extant.
While yet a surgeon's apprentice, before he went to London, he had written in his note-book that he had heard a milkmaid say "she could not have the smallpox as she had had cow-pox"; and the Duchess of Cleveland, when taunted that she might lose her beauty, had replied, "I have no fear of that, for I have had a disease that will save me"; and he was familiar with the general tradition in the dairies of Gloucestershire that those who had contracted cow-pox from the cows would never have smallpox. The thought came to him, Can this virus he inserted voluntarily in the human subject? He mentioned his speculations on the subject, that was even then taking a firm hold on his mind and inexorably marking out his rôle in life, to Hunter, who listened with interest, thought they were "curious," but was too much absorbed by his own engrossing themes to more than repeat his famous instruction, "Don't think, but try." That the new idea in biological science that was to rescue millions from premature graves came to a trained intelligence is further shown by the fact that, while Hunter's pupil, Jenner had been employed to prepare and arrange the valuable zoölogical specimens brought back by Captain Cook's first expedition in 1771, and did the work so acceptably as to be invited to accompany the second expedition as naturalist—an honor which he refused, preferring to return to his country home and engage in the practice of his profession near the brother to whom he was devotedly attached; and those who believe in the "destiny that shapes our ends" will say, where he could study the mysteries of cow-pox in its native haunts. He soon had a large practice, and he formed a society of the medical men of his vicinity they discussed medicine first and dined afterward—Jenner contributing his full share both of the solid work and the fun. Hunter wrote him, "I am very happy that some of you have wished to communicate your ideas to each other." On these occasions he would often bring forward his suspicions on the subject of the relations of small-pox and cow-pox—a theme that was taking commanding possession of his mind. His medical friends treated his ideas with indifference, or brought forward instances that militated against his theory; called him a "dreamer"—how often "Behold this dreamer cometh" greets advanced ideas!—and finally they began to consider him a bore, and threatened to expel him if he did not cease to trot out his hobby. Meantime, while not neglecting his practice, and while following up many lines of physiological and pathological investigation, he continued to collect all the facts and observations, and what other people thought counter facts, that had a bearing on the relation between cow-pox and smallpox; and in 1788 carried a drawing of the cow-pox, as seen on the hands of a milkmaid, to London, and showed it to Sir Everard Home, the President of the College of Surgeons, to convince him of the identity of the two diseases. Sir Everard condescended to assure him that "it was a curious and interesting subject."
Owing to the rarity of the disease in the dairies, or to its concealment, for which there was a strong motive, it was a long time before he found an opportunity of testing his theories by experiment. On the 14th of May, 1796, he took lymph from the hand of a dairymaid who had caught the disease in milking, and inserted it by two superficial incisions in the arms of James Phipps, a healthy boy about eight years old. He passed through the disease in a regular and satisfactory manner, but the most anxious time was yet to come; it was necessary to show that the boy was proof against the contagium of smallpox. In the following July this was settled, for variolous matter taken directly from the pustule was inserted by several incisions, but no disease followed. He wrote to the friend, Mr. Gardner, in whom he had always confided his hopes, "You will be gratified in hearing that I have at length accomplished what I have been so long waiting for: the passing of the vaccine virus from one human being to another by the ordinary mode of inoculation." After minutely detailing the process, he adds, "I shall now pursue my experiments with redoubled ardor." It was now twenty-five years since he had mentioned his "suspicions" to Hunter, a fact to be remembered when, afterward, he was rebuked by pompous arrogance in the person of Dr. Ingenhousz, for too hastily rushing into print, which he did not do till he had collected twenty-three cases, all of whom had passed through vaccination successfully, and had been tested subsequently by the inoculation of variolous virus and shown to be proof against it.
This was the high tide of happiness in Jenner's life—he was under a great degree of mental exaltation, although he maintained his humility and disinterestedness. In-writing of this period he says, "While the vaccine discovery was progressive, the joy I felt was at the prospect before me of being the instrument destined to take away from the world one of its greatest calamities."
What he really accomplished during those twenty-five years of preparation and waiting is, succinctly, as follows:
1. He perceived that some profound modification of the effects of the virus of smallpox occurred when it was introduced through a puncture in the skin, instead of finding its way to the system through the natural channels of the lungs and the stomach.
2. That cow-pox was really smallpox in cows, but that the disease in passing through the tissues of that animal underwent a still greater modification, by which its period was lessened, and that it became non-contagious, unless a person brought in contact with it had some abrasion of the skin.
3. That persons who had accidentally acquired it from the cow did not give it to others while passing through it, and were henceforth secure from attacks of smallpox.
It was his putting of "this and that together" that made the great step forward: could this modified virus be inoculated successfully into the human system as smallpox had been; and, if so, would it protect against smallpox? James Phipps had furnished the triumphant answer, and his other twenty-two cases had confirmed its truth. He did not find a second opportunity for putting his hypothesis to the test till 1798; he then repeated his inoculations with the utmost care, and prepared his book for printing. Before giving his work to the press, he devoted the most solemn and conscientious care to it, reading it sentence by sentence to a few of his most intimate friends and asking for their unsparing criticism. Its title was. An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ (Cow-pox). These friends saw in it a great victory of the sagacity of man over one of the most fatal of diseases, and they urged him forward in his purpose of opening for the benefit of all "the stream of life and health he had been permitted to discover"; in their enthusiasm they said "he seemed to hold in his hand one of the gates of death, with power to close it." In addition to the great fact that constituted the vital kernel of his discovery, he had incidentally learned much besides. He was convinced that there were two similar-appearing diseases affecting cows that could be imparted to man, one of which he named "spurious," and which afforded no protection against smallpox. He also learned that there were rare cases where persons had had a second attack of smallpox, and that there were cases where people who had acquired what they thought cow-pox in the natural manner had been attacked by smallpox later. He set himself to study these anomalies, and became convinced that there is one "right," strictly limited time for taking the vaccine virus, and that matter taken later will produce a pustule and severe illness, but affords no protection. Also, he learned that there is a right and a wrong way in which to insert the virus—in short, that the operation is a nice exercise of medical art. He discovered that certain eruptive diseases occurring at the same time make the best virus inoperative, and he ascertained that there are many circumstances that rapidly destroy the vitality of the virus when not properly cared for. He left the fruits of all these observations embodied in a set of rules of procedure that nearly a century of experience and medical advance has not improved upon. Of course, he could not foresee the wonderful evolution in the methods of the production of the virus that now puts, such a large and safe supply into the hands of the practitioner.
We, who tranquilly enjoy the fruits of the great deliverance from the horrible and universal plague of smallpox, see and know so little of it as not to be able to form any just conceptions of the monstrous proportions of the scourge when unchecked. The average death-rate from it throughout England was such that if applied to the present population it would give 70,000 per annum; in London alone before 1804 the annual deaths were 2,018 in a population of a million; in 1890, in a population of four millions there was just one death from smallpox. In the year 1886 there was not a death from it in Massachusetts.
Jenner went to London in April, 1798, intending to bring out his book and illustrate his doctrines on the spot. He was prepared with a pure and efficient virus that had been already tested, but to his surprise and chagrin, although he was known in the highest medical circles as a man worthy of undoubted credit and of thoroughly established scientific repute, he could not find one individual willing to submit to the operation. His pamphlet—a quarto of seventy pages—was published on June 21, 1798. Seldom has a book appeared fraught with greater consequences to mankind. When he went home he left some virus in the hands of a friend—Mr. Cline—who at the end of July inserted some of it by two punctures on the hip of a child who had hip disease, under the notion that the counter-irritation produced by it might cure the trouble. It made no difference with the original disease, but by a thorough inoculation afterward with smallpox virus the child was found proof against that disease.
When the book had had time to make its due impression, with its thoroughly wrought-out and carefully written-out series of twenty-three cases, the most advanced minds among doctors at home, as well as in all the capitals of Europe, were hospitable to the discovery and perceived the immense benefits likely to flow from it. On the 27th of November, 1798, Jenner vaccinated two children of a Mr. Hicks with lymph taken from a farm at Stonehouse, this gentleman being the first private subject to allow the experiment on his children.
Lady Ducie was the first person of rank who gave tangible support to the practice by having her only child vaccinated. No better comment on the better day in which we live exists through the diffusion of knowledge by the newspaper press, daily recording the discoveries of scientists, than the audacious attempt made in London to supplant Jenner, which came near being successful, and during its progress beclouded his discovery and caused him great anxiety, notwithstanding which the story of the triumphant adoption of the practice in all the enlightened countries of the earth reads like a fairy tale. Monarchs honored him, decorations and gifts were showered upon him, and, in the height of his joy, there was not wanting the one black drop to keep him humble and sober, in the existence of a knot of anti-vaccinationists whose pestilent successors are not yet vanished from the face of the earth, though very recently towns in which their influence has ruled have been scourged with smallpox. At this juncture he wrote to his friend Gardner: "At present I have not the most distant doubt that any person who has once felt the influence of perfect cow-pox matter would never be susceptible of smallpox, but on the contrary, when the disease has been excited by the matter of cow-pox in an imperfect condition, the specific change of the constitution necessary to render the contagion of smallpox harmless is not produced; and in this point of view there is a close analogy between the propagation of the cow-pox and the smallpox. Therefore, I conceive that it would be prudent, until further inquiry has thrown every light on the subject that it is capable of receiving, that—like those who were the objects of my experiments—all should be subjected to the test of variolous matter who have been inoculated for smallpox."
Another circumstance of a different sort at times tried Jenner's accurate and scientific soul. He had vaccinated thousands gratuitously, and taught many persons to perform the operation correctly; clergymen and noblemen and women learned to perform the operation, strictly according to his instruction, and applied their knowledge on thousands of the people dependent upon them with perfect success; but doctors, wise in their own conceit, caused every now and again disaster, by not being careful enough about the exact "right time" to take the lymph in the arm-toarm practice that had generally disseminated itself.
Still, he had the satisfaction of seeing compulsory vaccination established in many of the countries of Europe, and knew that it was making its way among enlightened peoples everywhere, before his death in 1833, which occurred in his native rural home, where he had returned after a short and distasteful residence in London. Ten days before his death he got a letter, on the back of which he wrote the following: "My opinion of vaccination is precisely as it was when I first promulgated the discovery. It is not in the least strengthened by any event that has happened, for it could gain no strength. It is not in the least weakened, for if the failures you speak of had not happened, the truth of my assertions respecting the coincidences which occasioned them could not have been made out."
In the seventy years since, evidence has accumulated as to the inestimable value of the original discovery; wide observations among thoroughly trained medical men have also demonstrated the value of revaccination—after maturity—of persons who had been vaccinated in infancy; but the most glorious result of all was to be the illumination of Pasteur's great scientific mind, as to the possibility of the production of a modified virus in other diseases than smallpox.
Modern science contains no more interesting chapter than the one which shows how that, after the achromatic compound microscope—magnifying close on to two thousand diameters—was put into the hands of scientists, step by step it was shown that what we call zymotic or "catching" diseases are caused by the living germs of parasitic plants entering the blood, and there multiplying and growing, deriving the needed sustenance from the blood itself. Pasteur caught the idea of a modified growth from Jenner's experiments, as he distinctly said in his original paper on anthrax, read before the French Academy. That it is within the power of man to modify plants outside the body, any one who has tasted a native astringent crab and a delicious Baldwin apple will believe, but it remained for a devotee of science for its own sake—like Pasteur—to observe and experiment and think till he achieved that "attenuated virus" which annually saves millions of animals in Europe from the ravages of anthrax, and multitudes of men from death by hydrophobia through the bites of wolves, dogs, and cats. The statistics of the Pasteur Institute of Paris show that in the five years from January 1, 1886, no less than nine thousand four hundred and thirty-three persons were treated, of whom fifty-eight died, or 0·61 per cent. The instrument of this merciful exemption was a modified—i. e., attenuated—virus.
With such results, such victories of the wit of man over Nature, while bacteriology is yet in its early infancy, it is no wonder that Pasteur predicts the time when "these diseases will be made to disappear from the face of the earth"; and as a fine example of the way in which mind kindles mind, we will cite the way in which Pasteur's study of pébrine in silkworms, and his formulation of the germ theory of disease, put into Lister's hand the true key to the havoc of bacteria in wounds, and enabled him to lay the foundation of modern antiseptic surgery which annually saves its thousands from death.
He noted that when a man broke a rib he had no "surgical fever," but made a safe and rapid recovery, unless the bone had penetrated the lung, when he died of pneumonia; but that other surgical wounds behaved very differently—that some exterior substance got into them; and Pasteur's studies taught him what was the element of mischief, so that we are justified in drawing out a certified pedigree as follows:
It was Lady Mary's observation of the difference in its consequences whether that which she called "matter," but which we now know to be the infinitesimal seeds of microscopical plants, came into the human system unconsciously through the lungs and stomach, or whether it was deliberately inserted artificially, of course making its way through the lymph-channels, that led Jenner to ask himself whether the seeds of the disease as modified by passing through the tissues of the cow might not also be inserted artificially. Fifty years after his death Pasteur, inaugurated the science of "microscopical botany," and had convinced himself that all the contagious diseases are the result of parasitic growths, and in his original papers, read before the French Academy, says he was put upon thinking whether the Jennerian application of a modified, "attenuated," less virulent virus could not be made in other diseases by the success in vaccination, and like a true knight of science he did not rest till he had produced and used such a remedy, saving millions of animals annually from the ravages of anthrax and thousands of men from hydrophobia. Continental flocks and herds are now as regularly "inoculated" as our children are vaccinated, but the greatest result of all is Lister's establishment of what is known as antiseptic surgery. In the thousand laboratories where splendid work for humanity is to-day progressing a picture of the Lady Mary, as inspiring genius, ought to be hung up; and it certainly is pleasant to the wide-awake women of the last decade of this nineteenth century to find, as we follow the unbroken chain backward, its first link in the delicate hand of an intelligent and courageous woman who dared to confer a priceless benefit, at the risk of obloquy, in the first quarter of the last.
- ↑ An opinion confirmed by an account of experiments published in La Semaine Médicale, December 31, 1890, made by Elternod, of Geneva; Haccius, the Director of the Vaccine Institute of Lancy; and of Dr. Fischer, Director of the Vaccine Institute at Carlsruhe in Germany