« PreviousContinue »
the case is much the fame here with respect to this febrifuge, as in mortifications, in which it is known to be of signal service* : and it was from a reflection, that mortifications are always accompanied with a fe. ver, that I have proposed the fame medicine in the bloody fmall-pox, interspersed with black spots, or, in other words, with small gangrenes t.
Here it may not be improper to lay down one general rule, which is, that whatever acute disease comes upon the fmall-pox, requires to be treated with its own peculiar medicines, and generally bears them very well.
By this time I hope I have thrown fufficient light on the most material circumstances of this part of my subject. But before I close it, it seems well worthy of notice, that this disease is generally very mild, when it is contracted foon after some considerable evacuation, whether natural or artificial.
Thus a woman in childbed has generally a kindly sort of the small-pox ; if she has recovered somewhat of strength, by the time fhe is seized with the distemper; and therefore reaps benefit from ber late sufferings. The fame thing 'may be faid of such as are newly recovered from fome acute disease. And I have formerly feen many patients in the hospital, who, after salivation for the venereal disease, caught the fmall-pox, while they were yet vastly emaciated ; and all of them went through it with great fafety ; a manifest proof, that any evacuation, by withdrawing fuel from the fire, agrees particularly well with this disease. Lastly, to all that I have hitherto faid, this one remark more is
* Vid. medical essays, Edinb. vol. v. part 1. artic. 10. 1 Chap. iii.
proper to be added. Though this be naturally a dreadful disease, yet it is fometimes found to produce very good consequences. For in constitutions, where the blood is vitiated, either from an original taint, or by the manner of living; and glandular tumours are occasioned by the viscidity of the lymph; the smallpox, by purifying the juices, contributes to a better ftate of health for the future.
'HE custom of inoculating, or transferring the
small-pox from an infected person to one that is found, has prevailed among us for some years. This matter has drawn our physicians into parties; fome approving, and others disapproving this new practice. I shall therefore freely interpose my opinion in the case.
Our nature is fo formed, that although we are always inclined to avoid whatsoever may be hurtful ; yet, when any evil is to be undergone, which can only be suffered once, this we are impatient to go through, even with a certain boldness; with this view, that the remainder of life may be passed without the uneasiness which arises from the continual apprehension of its coming upon us.
It having therefore been found by experience, that nobody was seized with the small-pox a second time, and that scarce one in a thousand escaped having it once ; men began to consult how the disease might be communicated; it manifestly appearing to be con
tagious, and it was obvious to conjecture, that the feeds of that contagion lay hidden in the pustules.
But I have often wondered how such a notion could come into the heads of people almost quite ignorant of what relates to physic. For, as far as I have been able to find out by inquiry, this was the invention of the Circassians, the women of which country are faid to excel in beauty ; upon which account, it is very common, especially among the poorer fort, to sell young girls for slaves to be carried away into the neighbouring parts. When therefore it was observed, that they who were seized with this distemper, were in less danger both of their beauty and their life, the younger they were ; they contrived this way of infecting the body, that fo the merchandise might bring the greater profit. Neither did the thing require the assistance of a physician or surgeon. It was sufficient to make a small wound in the skin, in any part of the body, and put into it a very little of the matter taken out of the ripe pustules ; and this even the women had learned to practise * : in like manner as our artists now, making a very night incision in each arm, and putting upon it a small thread of lint or cotton, imbibed with the corruption, very rarely frustrate the hopes of their desirous patients.
In process of time, not many years ago, this art began to be used at Constantinople and Smyrna ; not by the Turks, who imagining all things in life to come to pass by unavoidable fate, think it impious to oppose and resist it; but among the Grecians, Armepians, and the people of other countries living there,
See Philosophical Transactions, No
347. who reason
who gave the knowledge of it to our countrymen *.
But that I may omit nothing relating to this affair ; a learned + author has given an account, that the practice of fowing this disease, as they call it, has been known to the Chinese above these hundred years; and that they do it in another mapner, which is this. They take the skins of fome of the dried pustules, which are fallen from the body, and put them into a porcelain bottle, stopping the mouth of it very close with wax. When they have a mind to infect any one, they make up three or four of these skins, putting between them one grain of musk into a tent with cotton, which they put up the nostrils.
It was indeed not difficult for such ingenious people, when they saw those who were converfant with the sick, contract the same infection, to guess that the air, tainted with the foul breath of the diseased person, did, when drawn in, corrupt one who was found; and therefore they might rationally argue, that the fame contagious matter might be taken in at the nostrils. Nor were they mistaken in this point.
It is however certain, (whatsoever the author of this narration, more fkilled in theological than in medical learning, may say to the contrary), that this Chinese way of implanting the distemper is attended with much more danger than the Grecian one. For the morbid particles inspired violently offend the brain, by
* See Maitland's account of inoculating the small-pox, London, 1722; et Differtatio medica de Byzantina variolarum incisione, auctore Le Duc. 'Lugd. Bat. 1722.
+ Vid. Lettres edifiantes & curieuses des missionaires, recueil xx. page 304.
reason of its nearness to the nerves which perform the office of smelling; and we have in another place proved, that contagion is propagated, not by the blood, but by the nervous liquor *.
I myself have had an opportunity of making an experiment to this purpose. For, when in the year 1721, by order of his Sacred Majesty, both for the fake of his own family, and of his subjects, a trial was to be made upon seven condemned malefactors, whether or not the small-pox could safely be communicated by inoculation ; I easily obtained leave to make the Chinese experiment in one of them. There was among
those who were chosen out to undergo the operation, a young girl of eighteen years of age : 1 put into her nostrils a tent, wetted with matter taken out of ripe pustules. The event answered : for she, , in like manner with the others, who were infected by incisions made in the skin, fell fick, and recovered; but suffered much more than they did, bcing, immediately after the poison was received into the nole, miserably tormented with Marp pains in her head, and a fever, which never left her till the eruption of the pustules.
Since that time, this practice has been followed, without much fear, and indeed (as it usually happens in new experiments) fometimes with a degree of rashness; as promising a milder kind of small-pox, than when taken in the natural way. For, by + the accounts
* Introduction to the mechanical account of poisons.
+ See Dr Jarin's letter to Dr Cotesworth, containing a comparison between the mortality of the natural smallpox, and that by inoculation ; and His account of the success of inoculation in the years 1724, 25, and 26. VOL.II.