Professional and Popular Credulity.
Selected writings of A. Jackson Howe.
Pliny who for centuries was considered authority in matters pertaining to natural history, declared that pearls were formed by drops of dew falling into the open vahes of the oyster. It was a pretty fable, and told by a well known scientific writer. Nobody thought of questioning the soundness of so beautiful a story. Once charmed with the tale, who would stop to inquire whether the gaping valves of the animal were ever exposed to the tailing dew, whether the shell of the oyster ever opened except under water? Or, finally, whether, if the dew did fall in, it would assume the rounded form, and continue thus till the drops changed into pearls? Another classic author has informed us that if the blood of toads be topically applied to warts, it will cause them to disappear. Probably the resemblance between the knotty skin of the reptile and the warty excrescences led to the therapeutical hypothesis The earlier medical writers furnish plenty of similar incongruities A delusion once started, has never failed to find a host of believers, and few doubters.
In our time equally absurd fallacies have become popular among credulous members of the community and the profession.
It is useless to employ argument with individuals who are bewildered with the subject of medicine If they have embraced a wild theory, there is little hope of restoring their senses by words
The obsolescent doctor never doubts the universal efficacy of "hydrargi chloridum." The drug overcomes constipation and checks diarrhea, excites, the liver to action, and restrains bilious overflow, it is a gland stimulant and a sedative, and then it is so good when the physician does not understand the nature of the disease There is no medicine of equal value, except "antimonium tartanzatum." This infernal tormentor will, in skillful hands, keep a patient sick longer than any article in the materia medica It was, no doubt, this medicine which was employed in treating the woman spoken of in Scripture (Mark 5:26), who "had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse."
Medicine, like other sciences, needs to be enriched by well-attested facts, and the zealous supporters of parties and theories contribute nothing but confusion —A. JACKSON HOWE, M. D., Eclectic Medical Journal, 1864.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.