A Hundred Years Ago
A Hundred Years Ago
N Engl J Med 1948; 239:315-316August 19, 1948DOI: 10.1056/NEJM194808192390813
A bright morning sun, on Wednesday last, gave promise of a pleasant meeting of the State Medical Society, which was fully realized. Nearly four hundred medical gentlemen dined together at a spacious hall on Hudson Street, instead of Faneuil Hall as previously announced. The entertainment was elegant, and satisfactory, we believe, to all present. Last year the income to the treasury was $1351.87 and the outgoes, $1038. About $200 are now on hand. The permanent fund of the Society, securely invested, in January next will amount to $11,000. A large and respectable committee, consisting of one from each medical district in the State, was raised to receive the delegates to the American Medical Association, who will assemble in Boston next year. A motion was made to authorize this committee to draw on the treasury for three hundred dollars. But this was voted down by an overwhelming majority, and a more lastingly mean act was never perpetrated by the Society. How is it possible to show the civilities of the Society, or exhibit even a semblance of sincere attention, without the means of doing so? The plea was raised in extenuation that the Society was poor. Yet there is the sum of eleven thousand dollars at interest, which if sunk in Lake Superior Copper Stock, would not have been considered by some of the members so great a loss as that occasioned by this parsimonious act. A spirit of false economy saved the money, while it disgraced the institution. Is it credible, as was said, that the Massachusetts Medical Society never exhibited more vigor, enterprise and soundness of constitution, than at the present moment? — Through the influence and at the expense of a lodge of Odd Fellows in Boston, the community have been furnished with a printed lecture by Charles E. Buckingham, M.D., on Circumstances affecting individual and public health. If the Odd Fellows pass their evening conclaves in listening to instruction like this, it will be at once conceded that they are persons of excellent taste and judgment, who contemplate the sufferings of the afflicted with a view to administering to their relief. The spirited author has an independent manner of giving his opinion, which reminds us of the tense style of his father. Dr. B. is no friend to physic, unless it is positively indicated. After the simple manner of the prophet, he would have all men wash and be clean — breathe fresh air and be well. On the subject of sewerage, which is of immense importance in cities and appreciated in Boston more than in most other cities, Dr. Buckingham is particularly emphatic. If the appropriate filth of sewers is suffered to run into the gutters of city streets, working its sluggish way, and exhaling, as it goes, a pestiferous stench, the health of no one can remain safe, within the reach of its baneful influence. A new impulse has been given to the great inquiry — how shall apartments be supplied with pure air? No wonder that the victims of pulmonary consumption are multiplied to a fearful extent in New England, where close sleeping apartments, air-tight stoves, and almost air-tight rooms, are considered necessary to everyday comfort. A profound sense of the destruction of life from these and kindred sources, is happily manifesting itself by the public generally, as well as by influential individuals, so that the hope of a better sanitary constitution of society may reasonably be indulged. While thanking Dr. Buckingham for this strong argument in favor of reform, the lodge of Odd Fellows are entitled to the gratitude of all who are not odd, for their kind intentions in giving publicity to the discourse. — A kind of ring mania is existing in New England. It is enough that a penny paper advertisement declares that Dr. Cristy's Galvanic rings are a positive remedy for human maladies and many weak-minded people not only cover their fingers and neck, but their toes, with metallic hoops, which they imagine are charged with extraordinary medical powers. It is certain, however, that Dr. Cristy has no right to claim the practice of this nonsense, as his own discovery. It seems that in 1812 galvanic beads were all the rage in Boston, promising to accomplish nearly the same blessed results expected to flow from the more recently devised galvanic rings. — Another pamphlet on The Ether Controversy may soon be expected. Report says that Mr. Bowditch, one of the trustees of the Massachusetts General Hospital, is the author. The contest is likely to be perpetuated while the several claimants to the honor of having discovered the value of ether inhalation continue able to write and publish. — One of the anomalies of the present day, is the radicalism of practitioners of medicine. The community rings with the whims and caprices of those whose vocation is to interpret the language of nature, and medical schools are as much at variance with each other as individual practitioners. This creates confusion, engenders distrust in the public mind and lessens the confidence in those educated expressly to minister to human maladies. Indeed, there is an elevated class of citizens who countenance quackery in its thousand protean forms, because of the non-agreement of physicians, their radicalism and their want of confidence in the resources of medicine. — Extract of dandelion is becoming a new article of domestic manufacture. The dandelion possesses a medicinal value far above the estimate often placed upon it. As a detergent and aperient, and especially as a diuretic, it might well take the place of some other articles in use. — The approved modern treatment of acute gout has become well standardized. It should commenee with a purgative, which may be a smart one if the patient is robust and plethoric — from ten to twenty grains of jalap, and from three to eight of calomel, followed in from two to five hours with a draught, consisting of equal parts of the infusion of rhubarb and senna, containing a drachm of sulphate of potass, and a scruple of that alkali. After this, a diaphoretic tisane, consisting of one or two drachms of ipecacuanha wine and four drachms of the solution of acetate of ammonia, in a pint and a half of weak tea, is to form the patient's drink. The patient is to eat little or nothing for twenty-four hours. At night, a full dose of Dover's powder may be given. This will relieve pain, secure sleep, promote diaphoresis — each an important object. On the third day, the use of colchicum may be begun. It is efficacious when given simply in doses of from twenty to sixty drops of the wine in four or six ounces of distilled water, along with from five to ten grains of the nitrate of potass. To this, two drachms of the compound spirit of juniper, and a half a drachm of the spirit of nitric ether may be added. Few persons can bear or will require a dose of sixty drops of colchicum wine oftener than twice in the twenty-four hours. Many cannot endure a half or third of that quantity. — Extracted from the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, June–July, 1848.