To help the sick and distressed appeals to the kind-hearted always, but to help the investigator who is striving successfully to attack the causes which bring about sickness and distress does not so strongly attract the giver of money. The first appeals to the sentiments overpoweringly, but the second has the head to deal with. Yet I am sure we are making wonderful advances in this field of scientific giving. All over the world the need of dealing with the questions of philanthropy with something beyond the impulses of emotion is evident, and everywhere help is being given to those heroic men and women who are devoting themselves to the practical and essentially scientific tasks. It is a good and inspiring thing to recall occasionally the heroism, for example, of the men who risked and sacrificed their lives to discover the facts about yellow fever, a sacrifice for which untold generations will bless them; and this same spirit has animated the professions of medicine and surgery.
How far may this spirit of sacrifice properly extend? A great number of scientific men every year give up everything to arrive at some helpful contribution to the sum of human knowledge, and I have sometimes thought that good people who lightly and freely criticize their actions scarcely realize just what such criticism means. It is one thing to stand on the comfortable ground of placid inaction and put forth words of cynical wisdom, and another to plunge into the work itself and through strenuous experience earn the right to express strong conclusions.
For my own part, I have stood so much as a placid onlooker that I have not had the hardihood even to suggest how people so much more experienced and wise in those things than I should work out the details even of those plans with which I have had the honour to be associated.
There has been a good deal of criticism, no doubt sincere, of experiments on living dumb animals, and the person who stands for the defenceless animal has such an overwhelming appeal to the emotions that it is perhaps useless to allude to the other side of the controversy. Dr. Simon Flexner, of the Institute for Medical Research, has had to face exaggerated and even sensational reports, which have no basis of truth whatever. But consider for a moment what has been accomplished recently, under the direction of Dr. Flexner in discovering a remedy for epidemic cerebro-spinal meningitis. It is true that in discovering this cure the lives of perhaps fifteen animals were sacrificed, as I learn, most of them monkeys; but for each one of these animals which lost its life, already scores of human lives have been saved. Large-hearted men like Dr. Flexner and his associates do not permit unnecessary pain to defenceless animals.
I have been deeply interested in the story of a desperate experiment to save a child’s life, told in a letter written by one of my associates soon after the event described; and it seems worthy of repeating. Dr. Alexis Carrel has been associated with Dr. Flexner and his work, and his wonderful skill has been the result of his experiments and experiences.