A Few Notes on Rome and the Late International Medical Congress
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
place about those two tables may be imagined. The position of the two waiters, who were pelted with hard rolls of bread and an occasional plate, was not an enviable one. The crowd was jolly, good-natured and noisy. It almost seemed to be a fit occasion for a repetition of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The festivities wound up with a " Battle of Roses " upon the " Corso " in the afternoon, and a torch-light procession in the evening. To those not familiar with the famous carnivals of
... us carnivals of Rome, it may be said that the " Battle of the Roses " consists of crowds of people in carriages and on foot, promenading up and down this, one of the principal streets, and throwing flowers to whomsoever they choose. When friends meet the scenes are often animated and exciting. The windows are crowded, as well as the streets ; everybody is happy, and to a stranger the scene is a novel and interesting one. The Italians seem highly pleased at the success of the Congress, and certainly great efforts were made by them to make it a success. There were rumors that the next meeting would be held at St. Petersburg. Very truly yours, A little more than two years ago, (Oct. 8, 1891), it was my privilege to have a short communication published in the columns of the veteran Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, on "Rome, Her Sanitation and Her Facilities for Holding a Polyglot Medical Congress," in which I ventured to predict, from what I could then learn from a tour through the Eternal City and her suburbs, that though the medical brethren might mobilize from every point of the compass, over all those roads which lead to Rome, yet the old city could abundantly and comfortably provide for all ; that the city was well drained, healthy and delightful at every season of the year, though she was at her best in the early spring. Well ! the weary pilgrims came ; they have held their Congress, and again scattered, over land and water, to their own countries. All were well-fed and housed, at moderate rates. All were received with a royal welcome, in which the King himself and his beautiful Queen actively participated; luncheon parties and banquets were held on a munificent scale ; transportation of every kind was accessible and moderate ; and more than five thousand visiting medical practitioners and their friends have left for home without any serious cases of illness developing which could be ascribed to local causes. Never before did the medical profession, to a greater extent or in a more substantial manner, demonstrate to the world its cosmopolitan character and its integral common brotherhood. Here, they massed, many of the most eminent and distinguished members of their profession, to offer from a common altar, the fruit of their life-long studies, observations and investigations, not for the benefit of any sect, nation or race, but for the alleviation of the sufferings, and for the well-being of all humanity. The Policlinico, the building in which the Congress convened, was well adapted for the purpose. In it eighteen sections daily convened and all the national committees assembled simultaneously. It consisted of a series of eight large, two-storied, lofty pavilions, with superb marble stair-ways, large windows and porticos, and immense areas or courts for light and ventilation. It is intended, as its designation intimates, to be the principal Infirmary and centre for teaching for all Italy. Its capacity when complete will be for about fourteen hundred beds, which, with the extensive laboratories and spacious operating-theatres and lecture-rooms, will be one of the best-equipped institutions for teaching in all Europe. The only possible objection to it, as a visiting place, was its distance from Piazza-Colonna, or the centre of the city about two miles and because of its newness it was yet rather damp and chilly. The language most generally spoken at the Congress was French. All the Italian doctors seem to have a speaking knowledge of this tongue, and even the Spaniards from South America could make themselves readily understood, through its employment. German came second, although the Germans did not attend iu very large numbers. English came in a poor third ; and he whose linguistic capacity was limited to this language, was at a great disadvantage. It might be stated, without fear of over-stating the truth, that English-speaking readers were barely tolerated. Essayists who read English or discussed contributions, were restrained within the severest limits ; while the French, Italians and Germans had carte blanche and consumed as much time as they liked. Perhaps the Romans were not so much to blame for this, as the French element was there in great strength, and seemed to vastly predominate in influence. Moreover, there seemed to be a disposition on the side of both Italians and French to reestablish the old entente cordiale so long interrupted. The attendance from the United States was not large, nor representative of the leading members of the profession. This, no doubt, was attributable to the season of the year, when all the schools were in session, and many famous teachers were unable to be present. In the committee rooms of the American delegation, however, one hundred and seven registered ; the greater number of them being from the West and South. But our army, navy and marine-hospital services were amply represented by medical officers of advanced rank, who attended the sessions in full uniform. The general sessions were held in the Eldorado on the via Genova, every afternoon during the five days of the Congressional sessions, at three in the afternoon. Here, only on the last day, was America accorded the privilege of entertaining the assembled multitude with a public address. This was presented by Dr. Abram Jacobi of New York, whose effort was well worthy of the distinguished speaker and the country of his adoption. As might be expected, the scientific portion of it dealt chiefly with the maladies of children ; but, as he proceeded, he considered the present status of the healing art in the United States, and dealt the over-specializing tendencies of modern times some crushing blows. The reckless, useless mutilations so often practised, at present, as current operations, he declared were little short of murder ; and he anathematized the performers of them as those whose hands were so stained that no amount of sterilization could purify ; and whose souls were so corrupted that no chemical fluid could preserve or restore them. Modern antipyretics he declared had killed more than they cured, and the profession was responsible for the position which proprietary medicines occupied.