The Harvard Classics Volume 38 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 478 pages of information about The Harvard Classics Volume 38.

This inquiry is not now so much in its infancy as to restrain me from speaking more positively than formerly on the important point of scrophula as connected with the smallpox.

Every practitioner in medicine who has extensively inoculated with the smallpox, or has attended many of those who have had the distemper in the natural way, must acknowledge that he has frequently seen scrophulous affections, in some form or another, sometimes rather quickly shewing themselves after the recovery of the patients.  Conceiving this fact to be admitted, as I presume it must be by all who have carefully attended to the subject, may I not ask whether it does not appear probable that the general introduction of the smallpox into Europe has not been among the most conductive means in exciting that formidable foe to health?  Having attentively watched the effects of the cow-pox in this respect, I am happy in being able to declare that the disease does not appear to have the least tendency to produce this destructive malady.

The scepticism that appeared, even among the most enlightened of medical men when my sentiments on the important subject of the cow-pox were first promulgated, was highly laudable.  To have admitted the truth of a doctrine, at once so novel and so unlike any thing that ever had appeared in the annals of medicine, without the test of the most rigid scrutiny, would have bordered upon temerity; but now, when that scrutiny has taken place, not only among ourselves, but in the first professional circles in Europe, and when it has been uniformly found in such abundant instances that the human frame, when once it has felt the influence of the genuine cow-pox in the way that has been described, is never afterwards at any period of its existence assailable by the smallpox, may I not with perfect confidence congratulate my country and society at large on their beholding, in the mild form of the cow-pox, an antidote that is capable of extirpating from the earth a disease which is every hour devouring its victims; a disease that has ever been considered as the severest scourge of the human race!

The contagiousness of puerperal fever
by
Oliver Wendell Holmes

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 29, 1809, and educated at Phillips Academy, Andover, and Harvard College.  After graduation, he entered the Law School, but soon gave up law for medicine.  He studied first in Boston, and later spent two years in medical schools in Europe, mainly in Paris.  On his return he began to practise in Boston, but in two years he was appointed professor of anatomy at Dartmouth College, a position which he held from 1838 to 1840, when he again took up his Boston practise.  It was soon after this, in 1843, that he published his essay on the “Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever,” his only contribution of high distinction to medical science.  From 1847 to 1882 he was Parkman professor of anatomy and physiology in the Harvard Medical School.  He died in Boston, October 7, 1894.

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The Harvard Classics Volume 38 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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