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and responsibility, and then make him impotent to do good for fear he may be inclined to do evil. In most local matters the Legislature may be content to stand neuter, but in matters of health it does not even pretend to be impartial; it is decidedly for the clean and against the dirty party. In some matters impartiality is a virtue—in this it is a crime.—Times.
The Use or The Microscope In The Diagnosis Of Cancer.—The microscope alone—that is, independently of all other kind of observation—can seldom determine in the living subject the presence or absence of cancer. At the same time, the author feels himself bound emphatically to declare, that he thinks it capable of being as serviceable to the surgeon in cases of morbid growth, as the stethoscope is to the physician in cases of diseased heart or lungs. Neither instrument is infallible ; both require to be studied in an especial manner; both demand long practical experience, and judicious reasoning power; and both require to be conjoined with all the aids to be derived from other modes of observation. With the stethoscope, it is not that the crepitating rale in pneumonia, or the mucous rale in bronchitis, differ from similar rales which accompany tubercular disease, but that these signs, conjoined with other symptoms, clearly establish the diagnosis. So, likewise, it is not the recognition, by means of the microscope, of certain cells and fibres, which will enable us to assert with certainty the existence of cancer; but that their detection in particular places, and accompanying peculiar forms of growth, permits us to do so. In proportion as our knowledge of morbid anatomy advances, instrumental assistance becomes the more valuable for the purposes of diagnosis ; and it is now manifest that, to this end, a microscope is as necessary to assist our sense of sight, as is a stethoscope to assist our 6euse of hearing, or a probe to assist our sense of touch. —Professor Bennett on Cancerous and Cancroid Growths.
Chloroform.—The most noticeable new facts of late have been some novel views of Dr Murphy as to the action of chloroform, and the excellent observations of Mr Syme of Edinburgh on the same subject. Mr Syme, who has been treated very harshly by a portion of the medical press (almost a sign in these times there is something good in him), entertains an opinion that we need not watch the pulse during the action of chloroform, but watch the respiration. Murphy, from an opposite point of view, comes to the same conclusion; and looks upon anaesthetics (copying an idea of Dr Bence Jones) as active in proportion to their amount of carbon. The Germans, fond of a little bit of mysticism, say if charcoal be ever made soluble, it will be the most powerful poison and antesthetic in existence. These points are a great relief to the eternal fine writing on the subject by men who know nothing whatever about the thing. The Lancet has done infinite good by bringing out these views of Mr Syme, and breaking through old routine and prejudices. If we are ever to improve, and hand on the flickering lamp of our little brilliance in London, it is by hearing what every man has to say, whether Irish or Scotch.—Dublin Med. Press.
The Use Of Spirits Is Not The Cause, But An Effect Of Poverty.—It is an exception from the rule when a well-fed man becomes a spirit-drinker. On the other hand, when the labourer earns by his work less than is required to provide the amount of food which is indispensable in order to restore fully his working power, an unyielding, inexorable law or necessity compels him to have recourse to spirits. He must work, but in consequence of insufficient food, a certain portion of his working power is daily wanting. Spirits, by their action on the nerves, enable him to make up the deficient power at the expense of his body, to consume to-day that quantity which ought naturally to have been employed a day later. He draws, so to speak, a bill on his health, which must be always renewed, because, for want of means, he cannot take it up; he consumes his capital instead of his interest; and the result is the inevitable bankruptcy of his body.—Liehig's Letters on Chemistry.
Extract From An Official Letter.— January 6, 1855.—Sir,—" I am directed by the commander in chief to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th of April last, which has been referred, in the regular course, to the field train department of the Ordnance-office, and by them to the medical department of the Ordnance and of the War-office, and to the Commissariats department. I have now to request that you will, in the first instance, address your proposition to her Majesty's Secretary of State for the War department, in order that he may move their lordships, who will consider the expediency of placing at the disposal of the proper authority the funds necessary to enable that authority to act upon your suggestion, should that authority, on mature consideration, be of opinion that the interest of the service will be advanced by so doing."—Punch.
Surgeons For The Armt.— Several medical students are allowed to present themselves for examination at the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, who intend to join the army in the Crimea, although they have only completed two months of the last and most important years of their medical studies. We have already noticed that a similar relaxation of the minimum curriculum has been allowed by the London College. Whether this step is a beneficial or hurtful one, has yet to be determined. But as every account shows, that what is required, is more medical than surgical knowledge, and as this is exactly what will be most deficient in the education of such candidates, how the poor soldiers individually, and the army generally, are to be advantaged, we are at a loss to conceive.
Statistics Of Syphilis And Prostitution.—Dr Holland, of Cork, is occupied in obtaining from public Hospitals, Infirmaries, Medical Societies, sanitary officers, etc., a return of the statistics and status of syphilis and prostitution in Great Britain and Ireland. We sincerely trust that his self-imposed task may lead to an improvement in the sanitary condition of the people, and hope our readers will co-operate with him in his arduous and useful labours, by returning—carefully filled up—any schedules they may have received from him.
On the mode of communication of Cholera. By John Snow, M.D., etc. Second Edition. London. 8vo. 1855. Pp. 162.
A Manual of Elementary Chemistry; being a Practical Class-Book. Bv Robert Mortimer Glover, M.D., F.R.S.E., etc. Illustrated. London. Small 8vo. 1855. Pp. 321.
The Retrospect of Medicine; being a Half-
Chloroform; its Properties and Safety in
Transactions of the Belfast Clinical and
Letter to the Right Honourable the Secretary-at-War on the Medical Department of the Army. By Sir George Ballingall. 8vo. Pp. 10.
On the Chemical Equivalents of certain bodies, and on the Relations between Oxygen and Azote. By Professor Low. As read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Dec. 4,1854. Royal 8vo. Pp.20.
The Micrographic Dictionary. Part vi.
Case of Mixed Aneurism of Aortic Arch,
Remarks on the Examining Medical Board
Wc shall give the list of exchanges in our next, which we request, our Continental friends to consider carefully. This list is so lengthy, whilst the irregularities of many arrivals are so great, that we shall be compelled to make a great reduction.
The papers of Drs Markham, Peacock, Reeves, and others, in our next.
We have mislaid the letter of Medicut, but will auswer his queries in our next.
ARTrCLE I.— On the Properties of the Ordeal-Bean of Old Calabar, Western Africa. By Robert Chrtstison, M.D., V.P.R.S.E., Professor of Materia Medica in the University of Edinburgh, etc.
(Read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Feb. 6, 1855.)
Various travellers, and other authors on the manners and customs of the negro tribes of Western Africa, make mention of the ordeal by poison as a mode of trial in that part of the African continent, when a suspicion arises of the commission of one of the more heinous offences. Of these none seems more frequent than the offence of effecting death or ether injuries by means of witchcraft;—a crime so held in abhorrence, that the accused will often himself demand the ordeal, rather than lie under suspicion. We have no right, however, to express any astonishment at this folly of the benighted pagan African, when we reflect how short a time has gone by since witchcraft was generally believed in throughout civilised Christian Europe; and when the only way of meeting a charge, no less easy to make than difficult to repel, was by undergoing an ordeal of some kind quite as preposterous as that by swallowing a deadly poison.
The ordeal-poison of the native tribes on the River Gambia appears to be the bark of a leguminous tree, which has been described and figured under the name of Fillaa siiaveolens by MM. Guillemin and Perottet, in their Flore de Senegambie (1830-33, p. 242, tab. 55). This tree is considered by Dr Hooker and Mr Bentham in their Flora Nigritiana (1849, p. 424) to be synonymous with the Erythrophleum Guineense of Mr George Don (Gard. Diet., ii. 424), the bark of which yields, by infusion, the Red-water, or ordealpoison of our negro colonists around Sierra Leone. And this again has been thought identical, or nearly so, by Mr Brown, with the Casa, or Cassa, whose bark was found by Captain Tuckey to be used as an ordeal-poison by the natives on the banks of the Congo River (Xuckey's Narrative, Appendix v., p. 467). It is possible that more than one species of the same genus may be used for the same purpose; but, judging from the bark of the Gambia and Sierra Leone
NEW SERIES.—SO. HI. MARCH 1855. 2 B
plants in my possession, it is improbable that Fillwa snaveolens and Erythrophleum Guineense are the same species.
I have not yet met with a good account of the effects of the redwater tree, or cassa tree; and they certainly have not been hitherto examined scientifically, although the subject cannot fail to repay J inquiry. The red-water bark would seem, from the statements of" Dr Winterbottom in his "Account of the Native Africans in the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone" (1803, p. 130), to possess the property of causing, in various circumstances, vomiting, purging, paralysis of the limbs, and death. Judging from the quantity which he says is required for the ordeal, it cannot be a very subtile poison. ( But the bark presented to me by Dr W. F. Daniell, of the; Army Medical Service, as the bark of Fillcea saaveolens must be 4 energetic; for when a grain or two is tasted, it causes slowly an intense numbness and tingling of the part of the tongue to which it is confined. That which I have received from him as the bark of Erythrophleum Guineense has on the contrary a purely astringent taste,- without bitterness or subsequent numbness or acrimony. Its texture is also full of a red concrete resiniform matter, probably a kind of kino; which is entirely wanting in the other. Hence, these barks cannot be produced by the same species; so that if there be no mistake about the barks, the two plants must be different species.
According to Dr Winterbottom, when a culprit is to undergo the red-water ordeal, proclamation is made, and thenvhole proceedings take place in public before a great concourse of people, among whom the women are conspicuous by their number and their finery. The bark is publicly pounded, and half a pint of powder is switched in water till it froths like soap. After certain ceremonial observances, the culprit drinks repeatedly, and as quickly as possible, a' calabashful of the poison, amounting to eight ounces. Sometimes he dies after drinking the fourth calabashful; sometimes he will take twelve before any effect results. If he is seized with violent pains in the bowels, without vomiting or purging, he is declared guilty, and if he recovers he is sold for a slave. Should he vomit and sustain no other injury, he is pronounced innocent. But if the poison cause purging within twenty-four hours, or if he lose the use' of his arms and legs, and so cannot run away when liberated, the red-water is said "to be spoiled;" and in that case, too, he is sold into slavery, or a relative for him, if he be himself too old.
I should have gladly examined a poison possessing such properties as these. But, unluckily, the quantity with which I have been hitherto supplied is too small for an adequate experimental inquiry. ^
Meanwhile I have fallen in with another African ordeal-poison, of much greater energy and interest, and not hitherto mentioned by any author on poisons I have consulted, although prevalently used in a district long accessible to Europeans. The only notice of anv kind that I have seen of it, is a short allusion to it by Dr Daniell, n an ethnological paper in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Jour- j
. nal for 1846, p. 319. From such trials as I have made, it seems lW one of the most singular and intense poisons yet known, and well worthy of a more complete investigation than 1 have been hitherto able to accomplish.
A few years ago the Rev. Mr Waddell, missionary in Old Calais .- bar, who lately left Scotland for the third time, to return to Africa , in pursuit of his Christian calling, put into my hands two seeds, which he described as the ordeal-nut of the Negro tribes of Calabar, ^ and of whose properties and uses he gave me so singular an account, that I felt great curiosity to investigate its action and chemical con^ stitution. Subsequently, from him and from a mercantile friend ,% in Liverpool, who annually sends a trading vessel to the Gold ^ » Coast, and who kindly interested its captain and its surgeon in the 'cause, I obtained successively three small parcels of the seeds. The •J natives, it seems, regard them with mystery, and reluctantly part * with them. It is, therefore, necessary to guard against the chance ** 'of deception, and other sources of error. But I have no doubt that • I have received the genuine article. For the four several specimens are the same seed; and it eminently possesses the only indispensable J i property for the trial by ordeal, inasmuch as it is an unerring and e terrible poison.
I owe also to Mr Waddell a collection of documents illustrating the trial by the ordeal poison as repeatedly witnessed by himself and his brother missionaries. From these documents it appears, that when a man dies a little out of the ordinary course, it is no uncommon thing to ascribe his death either to poison or to Ifod, in negro English, free-mason, that is witchcraft. Thereupon one, or more, or many, of his relatives come under suspicion; and there is no other way for the poor creatures to clear themselves, than by swallowing, generally in the fetish-house, an emulsion of this dreadful seed. The native belief is, that the innocent vomit and are safe; but that the guilty retain the poison and die. And such is the confidence in the test, and the general detestation of the f- crime of practising witchcraft, that, when an individual is accused, lie commonly demands the ordeal, and is with difficulty denied it. Many an innocent person thus pays the penalty of his rash reliance.
On one occasion, a young woman having been accused by the king's niece of " having freemason," she at once demanded of the king that she should "chop nut," that is, eat the ordeal seed. Eyo the king refused, however. But she went to an adjoining house, took the poison there, and died in three hours. On another occasion, when a native of rank died rather suddenly, his brother, a lad of eighteen, was accused of killing him by witchcraft. The lad indignantly demanded the ordeal, and swallowed an infusion of thirty seeds. Dr Taylor, a missionary, who rushed forward to save him, was at first repulsed by those around, but, reaching him at last, found him cold, flaccid, insensible, and unable to swallow the emetic which was offered him; so that he died in half-an-hour after