The Scale of Fahrenheit's Thermometer

S. Wilks
1900 BMJ (Clinical Research Edition)  
Sterilisation.-Opening Lecture and Presentation to Professor Raymond at the Salpetrie're.-The Conseil d'Hygiane and the Prevalence of Typhoid Fever.-Dr. Yersin's return to the East.-Small pox in Paris. PROFESsoR TERRIER, belore bPginning the regular work of the session in his surgical clinique at the Piti6 Hospital, gave a lecture indieating to his students the principles of his surgical methods. Ills constant aim, he said, was to simplify, and he had reached a method of asepsis which, without
more » ... sis which, without being so absolute as that of the laboratory, was such as was practicable in surgery. This plan was employed not only in aseptic operations, but also, generally speaking, in septic operations. ¶iine water is sterilised. For small quantitieg this was done by using glass flasks ia an autoclave. For large quantities, ho vever, prolonged ebullition for at least three-quarters of an hour was neeessary. M. Morax had shown-and this was the opinion of Pasteur-that water so treated only contained spores in small number, and that in practice these might be neglected. Professor Terrier in his new operating theatre has had two coppers (chauf bains) fixed, one to supply hot water and the other cold boiled water during the operation. The water used for washing the hands or cleaning instruments during the operation was ordinary sterilised wateror sterilised saline solution. Chlorideof sodiumwould be rendered aseptic by melting it in a crucible. The ,physiological saline solution of 7 in I,000 was sterilised in large flasks placed in the autoclave. When operating M. Terrier never washed his hands with antiseptics, but used the saline solution exclusively. The great question, however, was not so much to wash the hands, but rather to avoid infecting them; a septic operation (for example, on an -empyema) could be performed without soiling the hands. Professor Terrier never used either alcohol or ether; the patient's skin was washed with soap and boiled water, then it was washed with saline solution and dried. The results had been excellent. An important point was the necessity of dipping the hands into tne sterilised saline solution as often ,as possible during the operation, and then wiping them with a sterilised compress; this wiping cleansed the hands, and allowed of greater dexterity. M. Morax had shown that if the hands were not washed during an operation the sweat glands rendered them septic, owing to the presence of staphylococcus albus in the ducts. Instruments were placed in copper boxes sterilised at dry heat, i6o0 to 1800 C. during 35 to 40 minutes. Dressings (compresses. tampons, gauze, wool) were sterilised in the autoclave. MM. Terrier and Qaenu, to make certain that the necessary temperature had been reached, in the centre of the boxes of compresses or gauze employed tubes containing either (a) benzoic acid, which melts at I2 1°C., and with which may be mixed some metbyl green, or (b) phthallic anhydride, which melts at 1290 (C., to which some eosine may be added. These salts were ecoloured if the point of fusion has been reached. (c) Exceptionally M. Terrier used salicylic acid, which melts at I560 C. For sutures he used silk almost exclusively, and catgut only ,exceptionally. The silk thread, which was fine, was arranged in small round boxes and sterilised in-an autoclave, as used in a bacteriologist'd laboratory. In order that its resistance might not deteriorate, the temperature was never raised above 1190 C. tO 12LO C. Professor Raymond recommenced his clinical lectures on November 20th in Charcot's clinique at the SalpOtriore, and showed many interesting cases, including examples of neurasthenia, general paralysis, and a man with syringomyelia. The amphitheatre was crowded, and at the close of the lecture, in honour of the professor's nomination to the Acade'mie, his many students (past and present) and friends presented him with his portrait in the form of a bronze medallion executed by the artist Vernier. At a recent meeting of the Conseil d'Hygi6ne of the Department of the Seine, as a consequence of the great prevalence of typhoid fever in Paris, the tollowing motions were proposed and agreed to, with the object of exercising an efficient control over thp citv engineers: xI flih tt the coitrol of the Conseil d'Hygibae Publique et de Salubritd be rendered efficient, in a positive and permanent manner, over the collect iug, carrying, and distribution of the domestic water supply of the department of the Seine. 2. That a sufficient protecting zone be established round the collecting ground of spring water. 3. That the Paris spring waters be carefully watched at their source, in order to at once eliminate any which may be recognised as suspicious. 4. That these waters be protected in their whole course to avoid any contamination. 5. That these waters be eventually purified, either by filtration or by otner methods of purification, and that for this object experiments be undertaken in the sterilisation of large volumes of water. 6. That in Paris the different sources of domestic water supply be separated with the shortest possible delay. Dr. Yersin, who has been staying in the Pasteur Institute, left Marseilles recently on his return to the Far East. Daring the week ending November 24th small-pox caused 8 deaths in Paris, a diminution as compared to the numbers registered during the preceding weeks; 74 fresh cases of the disease were notified, but in the following week a further increase occurred (IO9 fresh cases and 17 deaths). The number of small-pox patients in the hospitals on December ist was 169 (males 77, females 92) ; during the preceding four weeks the numbers under treatment in the hospitals have been 179, 190, 174, and 178 respectively. Citizens are taking advantage of the facilities offered for free vaccination and revaccination, and nearly 2,000 persons were so treated on two days in one week at the Acade'mie de Medecine. CORRESPONDENCE. THE SCALE OF FAHRENHEIT'S THERMOMETER. SIR,-I sihould like to add a few words in corroboration of what I have already stated1 as to the origin and meaning of Fahrenheit's scale. This is not a question of supposition, as many have made it, but one simply of history. There was, first of all, the instrument described in the Philosophical Transactions in a paper whichI said was supposed to be written by Sir Isaac Newton. It was an oil thermometer, with a scale starting from freezing, and making the first fixed point above this the temperature of the body; and this he called by the round number 12. This determined the scale. I now find in Brewster's Life of Newvton an account of this paper, which is simply and without hesitation called Newton's. dir David Brewster describes the instrument, as I have said, which makes the freezing point zero and the temperature of the blood 12, followed by the higher temperatures of the melting pcints of different substances. I have also had given me a paper on thermometers written in the year I884 by Mr. R. H. Scott, the late Secretary of the Meteorological Council. He therein says: Newton comes next on our list, and in the Philosophical Transactions for 1701 we find a paper certainly from his pen on the scales of thermometers, and in it he announces that his instrument filled with linseed oil is marked I2 at the temperature of a man's blood. This is the first notice we have of blood heat on the scale. Then comes a new point of interest by the appearance of the name of the great Dutch physician in the question. Mr. Scott, when speaking of Fahrenheit, says that he gave up a scale he had been using by the advice of Boerhaave in favour of one which marked blood heat, but doubling this to twentyfour for the sake of convenience. "He afterwards divided these degrees into quarters, and this gave him 96 for blood heat, a reasonably close approximation to the true value of the armpit temperature of a healthy subject." I stated in my paper that in the Encyclopedia Britannica it is said that Fahrenheit founded his scale on that of Newton. Since I wrote this I have had an interview with Dr. Mill, Librarian to the Royal Geographical Society, the writer of the article, and he informs me that from the researches he then made, this certainly was his conclusion-that Fahrenheit took Newton's scale as his standard. To my mind it seems quite conclusive that the thermometer now in use was originated by Sir Isaac Newton, and that he took the temperature of the human body as the starting point of this scale.-I am, etc.,
doi:10.1136/bmj.2.2085.1744 fatcat:3bn4remd5ndqhgn7pndko5a4de