Diseases OF the Skin AND the Eruptive Fevers

1909 Journal of the American Medical Association  
after the application of the impelling force has ceased. So, according to Dr. Harris, does living protoplasm, by virtue of its "functional inertia," offer, as it were, resistance to ex¬ ternal stimuli and, having finally responded to such stimuli it, by its "inertia of motion," continues to exhibit functional activity after the stimuli per se have ceased to exist. The converse is equally true; for, as the wagon, once set in mo¬ tion, requires an arresting force to stop it-even though the
more » ... n though the impelling force has ceased-so also may the poststimulant activity of protoplasm be an expression of its functional in¬ ertia. In other words, the activity of protoplasm which is not the result of applied stimuli and which is, in fact, exhibited even under conditions which tend to suppress it, is inertia! This, briefly, is Dr. Harris' biologic philosophy; logically pur¬ sued it leads him far. In biochemistry the overproduction of receptors as antitoxin by which, according to Ehrlich's sidechain theory, "acquired immunity" is possible, is explained by Harris as katabolic inertia-"a response which has outlived the stimulus." The postmortem vitality of the tissues is another example of katabolie inertia. But if this property is fundamental to the cell it must needs be exhibited in the living unit which those cells compose-the individual; and, a step further, in the race. So, according to Harris, this prop¬ erty of functional inertia is "responsible for racial character¬ istics and national destinies." Reversion to type is thus but another manifestation of the tendency of the individual to retain his racial status quo-a hereditary functional inertia. As related to consciousness "habit" becomes the "expression of the functional inertia of psychic activity"; if the habit is one of long existence the more nearly will it approach pro¬ toplasmic, rather than psychic, inertia. That Dr. Harris' theory is new can hardly be claimed; in fact, he does not claim it himself. That he has expressed it more clearly and elaborated it more convincingly than has any previous writer is perhaps not too much to say. As a working hypothesis to explain much that is at present ob¬ scure the theory of "functional inertia" is valuable; but that it is distinctly a theory and lacks much in way of con¬ firmation should not be forgotten. To those who enjoy biology in its philosophic aspects and derive pleasure from the mere perusal of virile and not too technical English this little book can be commended. Diseases OF the Skin AND the Eruptive Fevers. Once in a while some genius succeeds in summarizing satisfactorily a complex and detailed subject. When we try, however, to give an illustration of such a successful summary in medical literature we are at a loss. Such masterpieces in epitome are rare in any department of literature, and when one does exist, as, for example, Darwin's "Origin of Species," it is usually dry reading. So, if we are critical in our estimate of the book under consideration, we believe that our position is due to the fact that Dr. Schamberg\p=m-\athoroughly competent dermatologist\p=m-\has undertaken an almost impossible task. He has written a book of 518 pages and, in emphasizing the eruptive fevers, to which he gives 138 pages, he has left himself 380 octavo pages in which he undertakes to consider all of the remainder of dermatology. Now, it may well be argued that dermatology is over-refined and that some day, after our knowledge has increased, some great mind will simplify it by a number of broad generalizations, as Duhring did in one field with his dermatitis herpetiformis; but the fact remains that at present there are about 200 distinct dermatoses that have to be described if one is undertaking to cover dermatology, and an average for each condition of less than two pages octavo, including illustrations and with gv od readable print, is not enough to permit anything but wholly unsatisfactory consideration. Dr. Schamberg's style is readable and clear, with the im¬ portant exception that he is apt so to err on the side of cau¬ tion as to be uncertain even about well-established facts. For example, impetigo "appears to be caused by inoculrtion with the germs of contagious pus." There hardly seeais to be any reason for hanging the student up in the air by an "appears" with such a well-established fact as the production of impetigo by infection with pus organisms. Another illus¬ tration might be offered in the discussion of the etiology of ecthyma-betw3en which tnd impetigo, by the way, is in¬ serted impetigo herpetiformis, a systemic disease of uncer¬ tain pathology. Blastomycosis is described twice, on pages 188 and 293. The illustrations are numerous and good. Instinct and Health. has given the public a book that is as delightful reading as it is blankly heretical. We do not, of course, approve of all the views therein put forward, but we do realize that it is by outspokenness such as this, on what may be deemed popular and professional superstitions, that healthy investigation is courted and the wholesale acceptance of the "science" of proverbs is deprecated. Among the subjects dealt with are diet delusions, "poison foods," exercise, sleep, sunshine and fresh air, baths and bathers, clothes and the woman, complexion, sins of the shoemaker, child-life, and the health of the middle-aged man. Hutchinson champions common sense against the fiddle-faddle of much so-called "scientific" dietetics, which persists in treating the living organism as on the same basis with a test-tube. He castigates the breakfast-food, vegetarian and other dietary fads, protests against the "deification of the disagreeable" in life, and against those attempts to reduce living to a machine-like process, robbing it of all individuality, which would make all men live on the same food, practice the same social habits, require the same maximum or minimum of sleep, rise at the same time, bathe and heat their rooms at the same tempera¬ ture, etc. He ridicules the gigantic non sequiturs whereby men who have attained to long life, robust health, or huge mus¬ cular development, instruct us how to arrive at the same re¬ sult by doing as they did, forgetful of the fact that if each one of us were to attempt to put in practice all the various methods we should have to attempt the impossible feat of sucking and blowing at the same time. "As well," he says, "might the elephant endeavor to explain the secret of how to weigh three tons, or the boa constrictor write a pamphlet on how to grow forty feet long." He rehabilitates spices as valuable intestinal antiseptics and scores the oatmeal diet craze as based on a syllogism of this kind: "The Scots are a great people; oatmeal is their principal food; therefore oat¬ meal is a great food." He regards the fact as the most con¬ vincing proof of the greatness of the Scots, though hardly of the oatmeal. "The secret," he says, "of their wonderful success, both mental and physical, lies in the fact that any nation trained to survive a'diet of oatmeal and the shorter catechism could survive anything and flourish anywhere." The book is not altogether free from dogmatism, due possibly to Dr. Hutchinson's epigrammatic style, but it abounds in humor and common sense and in a wholesome and cheery optimistic icouoclasm.
doi:10.1001/jama.1909.02540320076025 fatcat:p7bxijpjqvcbnmfizkrp7dykzu