An Address on the Value of Pathological Experiments

R. Virchow
1881 BMJ (Clinical Research Edition)  
of those three qualities which have the greatest chanr for pure and active minds-novelty, utility, and charity. These three, which are sometimes in so lamentable disunion, as in the attractions of novelty without either utility or charity, are in our researches so combined that, unless by force or wilful wrong, they hardly can be put asunder. And each of them is admirable in its kind. For in every search for truth we can not only exercise curiosity, and have the delight-the really elemental
more » ... eally elemental happiness-of watching the unveiling of a mystery, but, on the way to truth, if we look well round us, we shall see that we are passing among wonders more than the eye or mind can fully appre. hend. And as one of the perfections of nature is that, in all her works, wonder is harnmonised with utility, so is it with our science. In every truth attained there is utility either at hand or among the certainties of the future. And this utility is not selfish: it is not in any degree correlative with money-making; it may generally be estimated in the welfare of others better than in our own. Some of us may, indeed, make money and grow rich ; but many of those that minister even to the follies and vices of mankind can make much more money than we. In all things costly and vainglorious they would far surpass us if we would compete with them. WVe had better not compete where wealth is the highest evidence of success ; we can compete with the world in the nobler ambition of being counted among the learned and the good who strive to make the future better and happier than the past. And to this we shall attain if we will remind ourselves that, as in every pursuit of knowledge there is the charm of novelty, and in every attainment of truth utility, so in every use of it there may be charity. I do not mean only the charity which is in hospitals or in the service of the poor, great as is the privilege of our calling in that we may be its chief ministers; but that wider charity which is practised in a constant sympathy and gentleness, in patience and self-devotion. And it is surely fair to hold that, as in every search for knowledge we may strengthen our intellectual power, so in every practical employment of it we may, if we will, improve our moral nature; we may obey the whole law of Christian love; we may illustrate the highest induction of scientific philanthropy. Let us, then, resolve to devote ourselves to the promotion of the whole science, art, and charity of medicine. Let this resolve be to us as a vow of brotherhood; and may God help us in our work. To-rrENsITA.-There is especial need for sanitary activity in this very large and rapidly growing London suburb. Although there have been many improvements effected, yet the new buildings need to be very rigidly looked after, for, in the words of Dr. Watson, "sone cannot but see, looking round on every side, that there are very many houses inhabited, and ready to be inhabited, that are not such as are likely to improve the health of the community at large. With the increase of houses, there is an increase of the sources of contamination, and too much attention cannot be paid to the manner in which houses are built, the drains connected with them, and the watersupply." Duringg rSSo, plans for as many as 3,ooo houses were approved, the greater number of these being of a poor character. A total of 1,657 births and 727 deaths were registered last year, 249 of the latter beina children under one year, and 117 between the ages of one and five years. The general death rate was t6.5 per i,ooo, against 17.6 in 1879 and 17.3 in i878. Zymotic diseases caused I12 deaths, 20 of which were from measles and 47 from diarrhoea. In speaking of small-pox, Dr. Watson draws attention to the need for power to close shops on occasion, giving, as an instance of such necessity, the case of a hairdresser, who passed to and fro with towels, hot water, etc., to his customers, while his unvaccinated child, of five months, covered with confluent small-pox, was lying in its mother's arms in the room next the shop. As Dr. Watson says, it is hardly possible to conceive a more favourable way of spreading disease; and, as a matter of fact, other cases from this source did actually occur. The health-officer adverts to the great unwillingness to admit fresh air, which he has found wherever small-pox has broken out; and he remarks that it is amazing how people will use chloride of lime, carbolic powder, or almost any disinfectant, and, at the same time, exert themselves to exclude Nature's great disinfectant, which is the best and cheapest. Of the 47 diarrhbea deaths, 33 were of children under one year and 12 of children between one and five years old. Dr. Watson devotes much attention to a consideration of the causes of this mortality, and remarks that, with hardly an exception, the deaths were all amongst the lower classes, whose dwellings, as a rule, are damp and unhealthy, and whose habits are dirty and thriftless. Added to this, is the most deplorable ignorance of the proper manner of feeding children and of nursing them when ill; in fact, Dr. Watson is persuaded that more deaths of young children arise from careless feeding than all the other causes put together. Pulmonary diseases caused 129 deaths, the greatest fatality being recorded in the months of May and November.
doi:10.1136/bmj.2.1075.198 fatcat:zqzv3xwmrbfklf67wktbxtdnta