Opposition To Scientific Progress
( Originally Published 1911 )
The main purpose of this book has not been accomplished unless it has been shown that the Church, the Popes, and ecclesiastics generally during the Middle Ages, and especially during the three centuries before the reformation so-called, far from opposing scientific advance or investigation, were constantly in the position of encouraging and fostering science, even if the meaning of that term be limited, as it has come to be in modern times, to the physical or natural sciences. The Popes and the great ecclesiastics were patrons of learning of every kind, and that they not only encouraged, but aided very materially the institutions of learning in which the problems of science with which we are now engaged, were discussed in very much the same way as we discuss them at the present time, is evident from the story of the foundation of the universities. It will be a source of wonder to many people how, with all this as a matter of simple educational history, the traditions with regard to the supposed opposition of the Church and the Popes to science have grown up. This is not so difficult to understand, however, as might be thought, and a few words of explanation will serve to show that there was opposition to science, but that this was not due to religious intolerance in any proper sense of the term.
Those who give the religious element a prominent place in this, forget how much natural opposition to the introduction of new ideas there is in men's minds, quite apart from their religious convictions. Nearly two centuries ago Dean Swift said, in his own bitter frame of mind of course, but still with an approach to truth that has made the expression one of the oft-quoted pas-sages from his works : "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign that all the asses are in confederacy against him."
I suppose the Dean himself would have been the first to insist that some of his colleagues in the ministry eminently deserved the opprobrious substantive epithet he employed. It would be too much to expect that there should not be as many foolish ones among the clergy of the olden times as in any other of the professions. Occasionally one of these foolish clergymen rose up in opposition to science. Whenever he did, especially if he belonged to the class mentioned by Dean Swift, then he surely made his religion the principal reason for his op-position. That gave an added prestige in his mind and in the minds of those who accepted his teachings, to whatever he had to say on the subject. This no more involved the Church itself, nor ecclesiastics generally, in the condemnation of the particular scientific doctrine, than does the frequent opposition of peculiar members of medical societies to real progress in medicine, involve the organization to which they belong in the old-fogyism which would prevent advance.
It must not be forgotten that small minds are always prone to find very respectable reasons for their opposition to something that has been hitherto unknown to them. While novelty is supposed to attract, and does when it comes in a form not too unfamiliar, and when men are not asked to give up old convictions for its sake, real newness always evokes opposition. Washington Allston once said very well with regard to this, that "An original mind is rarely understood until it has been reflected from some half-dozen congenial with it, so averse are men to admitting the true in an unusual form ; whilst any novelty, however fantastic, however false, is greedily swallowed." This principle will be of great service in making clear the real significance of many incidents in the history of science, in which not only intelligent men without special scientific training have been found in opposition to real scientific progress, but in which men having had the advantage of long experience in scientific investigation, having themselves sometimes as younger men done original work of . value, have yet placed themselves squarely in opposition to scientific advance that eventually proved of the highest possible significance.
Scientific men have, as a rule, been quite ready at all times to argue that an announced new discovery could not be true, that indeed it was absurd to think of it. The word nonsense is perhaps oftener on scientists' tongues than on any others'. It is not because he is deliberately opposed to scientific progress that this is the case with the scientist, but that he is so convinced of the ultimate significance of many things that he knows already, that he cannot readily bring himself to admit the idea of progress along lines with which he is familiar. To do so, indeed, supposes that he himself has been lacking in perspicacity and in powers of observation. The fact that it is usually a young man who makes the new observation, not infrequently a young man who does not know the great body of science that the older acknowledged scientist does, only adds to the readiness with which the senior is apt to consider the new proposition as absurd. Ecclesiastics have done this same thing, but not nearly so frequently as scientists. There was a time when the majority of educated men belonged to the clerical order, and then it seemed as though it must be religion that prompted some of the conservatism which led them to oppose what proved eventually to be new truths. It was not, however, but only human nature asserting itself in spite of education.
Prof. David Starr Jordan in reviewing briefly the history of the Struggle for Realities in one of the essays in his Foot-notes to Evolution,' has summed up the genuine significance of this supposed opposition of science and theology in some striking paragraphs. To my mind, he places the whole subject on its proper foundation, and properly disposes of the supposed conflict between religion or theology and science. He says :
But as I have said before, the real essence of conservatism lies not in theology. The whole conflict is a struggle in the mind of man. It exists in human psychology before it is wrought out in human history. It is the struggle of realities against tradition and suggestion. The progress of civilization would still have been just such a struggle had religion or theology or churches or worship never existed. But such a conception is impossible, because the need for all these is part of the actual development of man.
Intolerance and prejudice is, moreover, not confined to religious organizations. The same spirit that burned Michael Servetus and Giordano Bruno for the heresies of science, led the atheist " liberal " mob of Paris to send to the scaffold the great chemist Lavoisier, with the sneer that "the republic has no need of savants." The same spirit that leads the orthodox Gladstone to reject natural selection because it "relieves God of the labor of creation," causes the heterodox Haeckel to condemn Weismann's theories of heredity, not because they are at variance with facts, but because such questions are settled once for all by the great philosophic dictum (his own) "of monism."
This very natural ultra-conservative mood of scientists is well illustrated by a passage from Galileo's life, in which he himself describes in a letter to Kepler, the great mathematician and astronomer of his time, the reception that his new invention, the telescope, met with from distinguished men of science, their colleagues of the moment. The Italian astronomer encountered the well-known tendency of men to reason from what they already know, that certain advances in knowledge are impossible or absurd. The favorite expression is that the thoughts suggested by some new discovery are illogical. Men have always reasoned thus, and apparently-they always will. Knowledge that they learn before they are forty constitutes, consciously or unconsciously, for them the possible sum of human knowledge, and they can only think that apparent progress that contradicts their previous convictions must be founded on false premises or faulty observation. We cannot help sympathizing with Galileo, though it must be aconsolation for others who are struggling to have ideas of theirs adopted, to read the words addressed to his great con-temporary and sympathetic fellow worker by the Italian astronomer.
"What wilt thou say," he writes, "of the first teachers at the University at Padua, who when I offered to them the opportunity, would look neither at the planets nor the moon through the telescope ? This sort of men look on philosophy as a book like the AEneid or Odyssey, and believe the truth is to be sought not in the world of nature, but only in comparison of texts. How wouldst thou have laughed, when at Pisa the leading Professor of the University there endeavored, in the presence of the Grand Duke, to tear away the new planets from Heaven with logical arguments, like magical exorcisms ! "
This gives the key to the real explanation ,of the Galileo incident better than would a whole volume of explanation of it. It is now realized that very few of those who have been most ready to quote the example of Galileo's condemnation as an argument for Church intolerance in the matter of science, know anything at all about the details of his case. The bitter intolerance of many men of science of his time, including even that supposed apostle of the experimental method Bacon to the Copernican system, is an important but ignored phase of the case of Galileo, as it came before the Roman inquisition. The peculiar position occupied by Galileo caused Prof. Huxley, writing to Prof. St. George Mivart, November 12th, 1885, to say that, after looking into the case of Galileo when he was in Italy, he had arrived at the conclusion " that the Pope and the College of Cardinals had rather the best of it." In our own time, M. Bertrand, the Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences, declared that "the great lesson for those who would wish to oppose reason with violence was clearly to be read in Galileo's story, and the scandal of his condemnation was learned without any profound sorrow to Galileo himself; and his long life, considered as a whole, must be looked upon as the most serene and enviable in the history of science."
Certain historical incidents in which Church authorities and ecclesiastics assumed an attitude distinctly opposed to true scientific advance can be found. They are, however, ever so much rarer than is thought. Let those who accept unquestioningly the supposed opposition of Church to science, count over for themselves the definite cases of this in history which they know for certain, and they will be surprised, as a rule, on what slight grounds their persuasion in this matter is founded. We have detailed the policy of the Church with regard to education and science. Such incidents of opposition as can be gathered were breaks away from that policy. They were not due so much to faith or theology, though these were often made excuses for them, as to the natural opposition to novelty, so common in man.
With regard to this matter, as with regard to opposition in general to science, President Jordan has once more set forth the realities of the situation so as to make it clear that, .even when it was the dogmatic spirit that was behind the refusal to accept certain scientific truths, not only was there the best of intentions in this in all cases, but in nearly all, the results were such as to benefit mankind, and even to help rather than hinder science. He says :
"The desire of dogmatism to control action is in its essence the desire to save men from their own folly. The great historic churches have existed ` for the benefit of the weak and the poor.' By their observances they have stimulated the spirit of devotion. By their commands they have protected men from unwise action. By their condemnations they have saved men from the grasp of vice and crime."
The ultra-conservatism which is the real factor at fault in these cases exists in all men beyond middle life. It is a wise provision of nature very probably to prevent the young and headstrong from running away with the race. We would be plunged into all sorts of curious experimental conditions only for the fact that those beyond middle life act as a brake on the initiative of their juniors. While it does some harm, there is no doubt of its supremely beneficial effects in the long run.
For one announced great discovery that proves its actual right to the title, there are at least a hundred that are proclaimed with loud blare of trumpet, yet prove nonentities. This sometimes becomes a very trouble-some brake on progress, however. Some three hundred years ago, Harvey said with regard to his epoch-making discovery of the circulation of the blood, that he did not expect any of his contemporaries who was over forty years of age to accept it. His premonition in this matter was fully confirmed by the event. Darwin, I believe, once remarked that he did not think that men of his own age in his own generation would accept his theory, and most of them did not.
The opposition which, as a consequence of this natural conservatism, is so constantly ready to manifest itself, is as human as the envy which, much as we may bewail the fact, accompanies all individual success. A history of this phase of Scientific progress is of itself very interesting and of great psychological importance. A short sketch of it will serve the purpose of placing the opposition of churchmen to science in the category where it belongs, and will make this subject appear in its true light of a very natural and universal psychic manifestation, not a religious or supposed theological phenomenon.
As a matter of fact, it is comparatively easy to show that there are many more incidents of opposition to the progress of science on the part of scientists because of their conservatism, than on the part of ecclesiastics because of religion or theology. There has scarcely ever been a really important advance made in science, a really new discovery announced, which has not met with such bitter opposition on the part of the men who were most prominent in the science concerned at the time, as to make things very uncomfortable for the discoverer, and on many occasions this opposition has taken on the character of real persecution. It will be at once said that this is very different from the formal condemnation by organized bodies of truths in science, with all that this implies of ostracization and of discouragement on the part of scientific workers. The history of science is full of stories showing that formal scientific bodies refused to consider seriously what were really great discoveries, or that scientific editors not only rejected papers representing valuable original research, but even did not hesitate to discredit their authors in such a way as to make it extremely difficult for them to pursue their studies in science successfully, and still more to prevent them from securing such positions as would enable them to carry on their scientific investigations under favorable circumstances. In a word, persecution was carried out just as far as possible, and the result was quite as much discouragement as if the opposition were more formal. It is not hard to show, on the other hand, that while formal opposition by Church authorities was very rare, rejection by medical and scientific societies and by the scientific authorities for the moment of new discoveries was so common, as to be almost the rule in the history of progress in science.
This is so different from what is ordinarily supposed to be the calm course of scientific evolution, that it will need a series of illustrative cases to support it. In recent years, however, the cultivation of the history of science has been more ardent than in the past, and the result has been that many more know of this curious anomaly and paradox in scientific history than was the case a few years ago, and it is comparatively easy to obtain the material to demonstrate it. One of the most striking instances is that of Harvey.
Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, at a time and under circumstances that would surely lead us to expect its immediate acceptance and the hailing of him as a great original thinker in science. He first ex-pounded it to his class, very probably in 1616, which will be remembered as the year of Shakespeare's death. The glory of the great Elizabethan era in England was not yet passed. Men's minds had been opened to great advances in every department of thought during the preceding century, by the Renaissance movement and the New Learning in England. Probably no greater group of original thinkers has ever existed than were alive in England during the preceding twenty-five years. Four years after Harvey had sufficiently elaborated his ideas on the circulation to present them to his class, and the very year after he wrote his treatise on the subject, though he dared not publish it as yet, Lord Bacon published his Novum Organum, in which he advocated the use in science of the very principles of induction on which Harvey's great discovery was founded.
What happened is interesting for our purpose. Harvey was so well acquainted with the intolerant temper of men as regards new discoveries, that he hesitated to publish his book on the subject until men had been prepared for it, by his ideas gradually filtering out among the medical profession through the members of his class. He waited nearly fifteen years after his first formal lesson on the subject, before he dared to commit it to print. Shakespeare had made Brutus say to Portia:
" You are my true and honorable wife, As dear to me as are the ruddy drops That visit my sad heart ;"
but men were not yet ready to accept the great principle of the blood movement. There seems to be good authority for saying that Harvey had more than suspected his great truth for twenty-five years before he dared print it. He realized that it would surely meet with opposition and would make serious unpleasantness between him and his friends. He was not deceived in anticipation. Many of his friends fell away from him, and according to tradition, he lost more than half of his consulting practice, because physicians could not and would not believe that a man who evolved such a strange idea as the constant movement of the blood all over the body, from heart to surface and back, could possibly be in his right mind, and, above all, be a suit-able person to consult with in difficult cases.
Harvey's case is a lively picture of what happened to Vesalius the century before in Italy, which we have already discussed at length in the chapter on the Golden Age of Anatomy. President White insists that this persecution was due to ecclesiastical opposition to dissection, but of this there is not a trace to be found. Dissection was carried on with perfect freedom at all of the Italian universities, though they were all under ecclesiastical influence, and in none was there more freedom than in the Papal University of Rome, at the very time when Vesalius was doing his work in Northern Italy. At this time, too, Bologna was famous for its work in anatomy. Berengar of Carpi did a very large number of dissections, though Bologna was at the moment a Papal city and the University was directly under the Popes.
It is clear, then, that the opposition to Vesalius arose entirely from the conservatism of fellow scientists in medicine, who thought that what had been taught for many hundreds of years in the universities, and had been accepted by men quite as good as Vesalius or any of their generation for over a thousand years, must surely be nearer absolute truth than what this young investigator wished them to accept. It is scarcely to be wondered that they resented, as men always do, what must have seemed the intrusive rashness of this young medical student, who was not yet thirty when he began to claim the right to teach his teachers, and who wanted to tell them that the medical world had all been wrong not only for many years, but for many centuries, and that he had been born to set them right. This is, after all, the attitude of mind which naturally develops in these cases, and it is no wonder that the old men use whatever means they have in their power to prevent rash young men from leading, as they think, the world astray.
The cases of Harvey and Vesalius are by no means exceptional, nor was the opposition limited to England and Italy, but examples of it may be found in every country in Europe. Nor was it only with regard to anatomy and anatomical discoveries and problems that such opposition manifested itself. In this matter the story of Servetus is very interesting. He made some new discoveries in anatomy, but these had nothing to do with the bitter op-position which some of his ideas encountered in Paris, quite apart from any question of theology or religion. We do not know just when he discovered the circulation in the lungs, which he described so clearly in the volume on the renewal of Christianity, for which he was burned at Geneva by Calvin. While at the University of Paris, he had been mainly occupied with the department of therapeutics rather than of anatomy or physiology. He had suggested especially certain changes in the mode of giving drugs. He had much to do with the general introduction of syrups to replace more nauseating preparations of medicine. He was probably the first one to realize that elegant prescribing, that is, the choice of drugs and their combination in such a way as to make them less unpleasant to the patient, was a consummation eminently to be desired in medical practice. His ideas on this subject met, as novelties always do, no matter how good in themselves, with the most rancorous opposition. Factions were formed in the University. There were riots in the streets. Students were wounded in the fights which took place. Some even were killed apparently. All this over the question whether medicine as given to patients should be pleasant or unpleasant.
As we have had examples from England, France and Italy, we may quote one from the Netherlands. We do so only to emphasize the fact that everywhere, no matter what the character of the people, nor the religion which they happened to profess, their conservatism set them in opposition at once to novelties in science. England was Protestant in Harvey's time, and the Netherlands mainly so at the period of which we are about to speak.
When Stensen, or as he is more familiarly known by his Latin name, Steno, discovered and announced the fact that the heart is a muscle, he was looked upon with very much the same suspicion as to his sanity as Harvey, a half-century before, when the great English physiologist proclaimed the circulation of the blood, and such suspicions were rather openly expressed by those who were too conservative to accept this new teaching. The heart had been considered, not figuratively as we now speak, but seriously and very literally, as the seat of the emotions. Over and over again, all men had had the experience that in times of emotional stress the heart was disturbed. They could feel their emotions welling up from their hearts, therefore there was no doubt in their minds of the truth of the old teaching. Into the midst of this perfectly harmonious concord of scientific opinion, without a dissenting voice anywhere in the world, comes a young man not yet twenty-five, who al-most sacrilegiously declares that the heart is merely a muscle and not a secreter of emotions. Fortunately for him, he was of gentler disposition than most of the other men who have had the independence of mind to make discoveries, and so no very bitter opposition was aroused against him. He was considered too harmless to be taken very seriously, but at least when the announcement first came, most of those who knew anything about medicine, or thought they did, and this is much more serious in these cases, recognized that young Stensen had somehow allowed himself to be led astray into a very foolish notion, and one that could only emanate from a mind not quite capable of realizing truth as it was ; and they did not hesitate to say so.
After this Stensen found the Netherlands quite an unsympathetic place for his studies, and so moved down into Italy, where he could find more freedom of thought for research and more appreciation, and continue his original investigations with Iess scorn for his new discoveries. Here he continued to hit upon original ideas that were likely to make things quite uncomfortable for him, not because of religious intolerance, but because of the more or less hide-bound conservatism that always characterizes mediocre minds. Far from coming into disrespect here, however, he acquired many and very close friends. He laid the foundation of modern geology and wrote a little book that is a very wonderful anticipation of supposedly nineteenth century ideas in that science. He had come down into Italy a Protestant, having been raised in that religion in his native Denmark. He found so much of sympathy with every phase of intellectual activity among the ecclesiastics in Italy, that he not only became a convert to Catholicity, but after a time a Catholic priest. His reputation spread to Rome, and the Pope not only sent for and received this innovator in anatomy and the founder of geology very courteously, but treated him with every mark of appreciation, and this within a half a century after Galileo's condemnation. Stensen eventually went back to Northern Europe as a bishop, in the hope of being able to convert to Catholicity those among the Teutonic nations who had been led away during the religious revolt.
It might be thought that such examples of persecution were of course rather frequent in the distant centuries, and must not be taken too seriously, since they come in times before men had learned to respect oie another's opinions and to realize that the assertions of an authority in science are only to be considered as worth the reasons he advances for them. Most people will be quite ready to congratulate themselves on the fact that our modern time has outlived this unfortunate state of mind, which served to hamper scientific investigation. They will probably even be quite self-complacent over the sup-posed fact that, ever since the study of natural science was taken up seriously at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, this unfortunate temper has disappeared. Those who think so, how-ever, know nothing of the history of nineteenth century science, and especially not of nineteenth century medicine. Jenner's great discovery of the value of vaccination against small-pox came just before the nineteenth century opened. It met with the bitterest kind of opposition. This was especially the case in England. There is a doubt whether Germany did not eventually do more to bring about the recognition of the immense value of Jenner's discovery than his native England. Anyone who has read Jenner's life knows how much he was made to suffer from the bitterness of opponents' expressions with regard to him.' It is true that he was eventually rewarded quite liberally, and that honors were showered upon him, but only after a preliminary series of trials that must have made him regret, if possible, that he had ever devoted himself to the propaganda of a great truth. Nor did the dawn of the vaunted nineteenth century bring in a better state of affairs in this regard.
It might perhaps be thought that this almost constant tendency to oppose new developments in science was not recognized for what it really is, the ultra-conservatism of human nature as men grow older, until comparatively modern times. Anyone who knows some of the intimate details of the history of medicine is sure to be better informed in this matter, and to be well aware that, like Harvey, most discoverers in medicine anticipated this opposition. Usually they have had no experience of it before, but they realize from the way men think around them, and very probably also from their own prompt reaction of opposition to whatever is novel, that men are sure to be ready to oppose the introduction of whatever is new. One of the quietest, gentlest and most lovable characters among the geniuses in medicine was Auenbrugger, who, in Vienna, about 150 years ago, discovered the method of percussion of the chest, which is so helpful in the diagnosis of chest diseases. He perfected his discovery when he was a young man of about 25. He did not publish it until he was nearly 40 years of age. Like Harvey, he waited nearly a score of years before giving it to the world. The reason for the delay is given in the preface in the following words:
"I foresee very well that I shall encounter no little opposition to my views, and I put my invention before the public with that anticipation. I realize, however, that envy and blame and even hatred and calumny have never failed to come to men who have illuminated art or science by their discoveries or have added to their perfection. I expect to have to submit to this danger myself, but I think that no one will be able to call any of my observations to account. I have written only what I have myself learned by personal observation over and over again, and what my senses have taught me during long hours of work and toil. I have never permitted myself to add or subtract anything from my observations because of the seductions of preconceived theory."
Nearly fifty years after the publication of Auenbrugger's book, Laennec completed the development of the diagnostic methods necessary for the differentiation of chest diseases by the discovery of auscultation. His was the greatest work ever done in clinical medicine. The solution of the meaning of the multitude of sounds that can be heard in the human chest required a genius for observation, and almost infinite patience. Laennec spent twelve years at the task, and then published his books on the subject. Practically nothing of importance has been added to his methods and results in the more than three-quarters of a century of active attention that has been given to medicine since that time. Laennec did not expect that his discovery would be taken up by his contemporaries. He even refers to the cool reception which had been given to Auenbrugger's work, and deprecates the fact that a man who had done so much for mankind should have met with such neglect and lack of appreciation, and even the contempt of his colleagues in medicine, who could not bring them-selves to think that his method of "drumming on the chest," as they called it, could ever mean much for the recognition of disease.'
In the preface of his book Laennec, like Auenbrugger, prophesies that his work will not receive the attention that it deserves, and attempts to lessen the effect of the derision that will be meted out to it by calmly stating his expectation of it. It is curious that both of these men, one of them a German and the other a Frenchman, one of them a rather stolid Styrian, the other of the lively Celtic nature of the Bretons, should in turn have realized, at a distance of a thousand miles and more than half a century from one another, just what the attitude of the men of science was to be toward their discoveries, even though those are of a kind that were eventually to be hailed as among the most important steps in medical progress ever made. Certain words of Laennec's preface are an echo of Auenbrugger's expressions. He said :
"For our generation is not inquisitive as to what is being accomplished by its sons. Claims of new discoveries made by contemporaries are likely, for the most part, to be met by smiles and mocking remarks. It is always easier to condemn than to test by actual experience."
Many people are accustomed to think that, after the spirit that came into the world with the French Revolution, men were less prone to listen to authority or cling to old-fashioned notions, and that liberalism of mind is to be found written large on many pages of nineteenth century scientific history. One of the great scientists of the first part of the last century was Dr. Thomas Young, to whom we owe so much with regard to the theory of light waves and the existence of the ether to carry them. Men absolutely refused to listen to this idea at all at the beginning, though now it is the groundwork of most of our thinking and of nearly all of our mathematical demonstrations with regard to the. movement of light. They not only refused, however but they expressed their scorn of the man who invented such a cumbrous theory. Dr. George M. Gould, in one of the volumes of his Biographic Clinics, has told the story of Dr. Young's career, and I prefer to present it in his words rather than my own.
" A practicing physician, Young, as early as 1801, hit upon the true theory of the luminiferous ether, and of light and color, which nearly a century before had been discovered by Robert Hooke. But his scientific contemporaries would not see it, and to avoid persecution and deprivation of practice, Dr. Young was compelled to publish his grand discoveries and papers anonymously. Published finally by the Royal Society one can imagine the editor's smile of superior wisdom over such trash), they were as utterly ignored as were those of Mitchell, Thompson and Martin as to eye-strain, two or three generations later. Arago finally championed Dr. Young's theory in the French Academy, but the leaders, LaPlace, Poissin, Biot, etc., denounced and conquered, and not until 1823 would the Academy allow the publication of Fresnel's papers on the subject ; in about twenty-five years the silencers were themselves silenced. But Young had been silenced too ; his disgust was so great that he resigned from the Royal Society, and devoted himself to his poor medical practice and to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics." (In which, by the way, as might be expected I suppose, he made a distinguished name for himself.)
Many another important medical discoverer in the nineteenth century found the truth of Auenbrugger's and Laennec's expressions, and met the fate of Jenner and Young. Next to vaccination for small-pox, probably the most important advance in nineteenth century medicine was the discovery of the cause of puerperal fever, and the consequent diminution of the death-rate from that very fatal disease. At one time in the nineteenth century, it was much more dangerous for a woman to have a child in a lying-in hospital in Europe than to go through an attack of typhoid fever, The death-rate was at least 10 per cent. When it was reduced to five per cent. the hospital authorities felt quite self-complacent about it. Shortly after the be-ginning of the second quarter of the nineteenth century, there began to come glimmerings of the real cause of the affection. It was not due to something from within the patient, but was caused by a materies morbi introduced from without. Usually the physician in attendance was responsible for the introduction of it. He came to these patients after contact with septic cases of various kinds improperly cleansed. The consequence was that he infected them, and puerperal fever was contracted.
It would seem as though the medical profession would be very ready and willing to test any such simple explanation of the origin of a serious disease, and if possible secure its diminution. On the contrary, the old men proved to be so wedded to the notion that the physician could not possibly be the cause of this serious condition, that they were very bitter in their denunciation of those who tried to introduce the new idea. One distinguished old professor of midwifery declared very superciliously that, of course, it was a very charming thing for a young poet to insist on the notion that these serious diseases were not associated necessarily with the beautiful function of maternity itself, but were extraneous factors quite apart from it ; but there was no doubt, he declared, that the affection came from within, all the same, and that the youthful poet's idea was only a pleasant fiction. The poet in the case was Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and, needless to say now, though he was laboring under the heinous crime of being a young man, and did indulge in occasional poetry, he was entirely in the right, and the distinguished old professor entirely in the wrong. No little denunciation was heaped upon the devoted head of Holmes, however, for his strenuous humanitarian work with regard to this subject. It cost Holmes some of his medical friends and not a little practice for some time. Even in America, then the land of the free, there was a strong conservatism that made the introduction of new ideas a very difficult and almost a dangerous thing.
The man who worked out the same idea to a practical effect in Europe met with even more determined opposition than did our own Dr. Holmes. I refer, of course, to Semmelweiss, who, while teaching obstetrics in Vienna, realized that it was the students and doctors en-gaged in pathological work at the same time that they were taking out their courses in obstetrics, who caused the havoc among the patients in his (obstetrical) department in the hospital. The death-rate in the hands of these obstetrical, attendants, who came directly to the lying-in department from their work in pathology, was sometimes as high as one in five. Semmelweiss insisted that this state of affairs must cease, and that while the students were doing the pathological work they must not be allowed to attend obstetrical cases. This at once raised a storm of opposition in the university. Poor Semmelweiss lost his position as a consequence of it. In the midst of the rancorous discussion that followed, Semmelweiss lost his reason also for a time, and had to be cared for in an insane asylum. It is well recognized that his beneficent discovery was for him the cause of many years of unhappiness.
Nor must it be thought that it is only with regard to medical discoveries that such opposition-bitter, personal, rancorous and persecutory can be aroused. While it might be thought that the great minds in the ordinary natural sciences would have no reason for the personal element which more or less necessarily enters into medical discussion because men had been applying for gain the notions that now are proved to be incorrect, and their reputations have been made on such applications, to think that all was placid and quiet in the physical sciences would be a serious mistake. Long ago Virgil asked in a famous line, " Is it possible that there can be such great wrath in divine minds ? " " tantaene animae celestibus irae " and we might be tempted to ask, can there be such foolish intolerance on the part of scientific teachers? but the answer would be the same in each case. Virgil found that the gods were very human in this respect, and anyone who knows the history of science knows the scientists are like the pagan dieties, when their conservative spirit is aroused, and when they are up in arms, as they fondly think, to protect their be-loved science from foolish innovators.
A typical example of the sort of opposition which a modern discoverer in science meets with is to be found in the life of Ohm, after whom, because of his discovery of the law of electrical resistance, the unit of resistance is called. When he made his discovery Ohm was working in the Gymnasium at Cologne. The leading physicists of the day could not bring themselves to believe that this comparatively young man he was scarcely forty at the time could have made a discovery that went far beyond their knowledge. His paper on the subject was discussed rather coldly and without any recognition of the far-reaching significance of the work that he had accomplished. A distinguished representative of the University of Berlin criticised it severely. As the law was advanced on mathematical as well as experimental grounds, the opinion of the university authorities at Berlin was looked upon as extremely important, since at the time mathematics was the forte there. The minister of education took his cue from the authorities at Berlin. Ohm and his friends urged his appointment to a university position. This was not only refused, but was rejected in such terms that Ohm offered his resignation as a teacher. His resignation was accepted with regrets by the ministry, but with a distinct expression that Ohm must not expect other than a gymnasium position. The consequence of this misunderstanding was that other teaching institutions in Germany would not give him a place on their staff, because of the danger of misunderstanding with the ministry of education. Ohm had to accept a private tutorship in mathematics in Berlin and a few hours of teaching in a military school, for which he was paid three hundred thalers a year. This would be something over $200 in our money, though money was worth, in buying power, probably two or three times as much as it is at the present time. Six precious years of Ohm's life, at the very acme of his powers as an investigator, were thus spent away from the larger educational institutions and their opportunities for research, because men would not accept the great discovery that he had made, and could not be brought to understand that a genius might come along to revolutionize all their thinking, though he did his work from an obscure position, and practically attracted no attention before he found this wonderful clue to the maze of electrical science, which meant so much for the elucidation of difficulties hitherto insoluble.
Always men find some excuse other than their own unwillingness to confess that they were wrong. It is to this that they object, and not the acceptance of the new truth. In the course of writing the biographies of the Makers of Modern Medicine, published last year, and the Makers of Electricity, which is now preparing for the press, one fact proved to be very striking. It is that discoverers of really great truths are practically always what we would call young men, and what older men are apt to think of as scarcely more than mere boys. Such men as Morgagni, the Father of Pathology ; Laennec, the Father of Pulmonary Diagnosis ; Stokes, who taught us so much about the lungs ; and Corrigan, who laid the foundation of exact knowledge in heart diseases, ówere under twenty-five when they made their primal discovery, and some of them scarcely more than twenty. Vesalius published his great work on anatomy when he was not yet thirty, and Stensen did his best work under twenty-five. When such men attempt to teach their elders, of course they are properly put in their places by their elders, and this often includes a good deal of bitter satire and discouragement. It is the eternal conflict between youth and age that constitutes the main reason for opposition to progress in any form of knowledge, for youth will be progressive and age will be conservative. Unfortunately age often dissembles the reasons for its opposition even to itself, and religion and common sense and supposedly established principles of science are all appealed to as contradicted by the new doctrine introduced by young men, the truth of which their elders cannot see.
Nor must it be thought that the second half of the nineteenth century was free from this tendency to persecute those who made advances in medicine. There is probably no form of treatment which, in the minds of those who know most about the disease, that has done more to save awful suffering in mankind than the Pasteur treatment for rabies. Anyone who knows any-thing about the history of the introduction of that treatment will not be likely to forget how much of pain and suffering the discovery and introduction of it cost its author. Nothing too bitter could be said by the medical profession of Germany for many years after the treatment was first broached. One of the most distinguished of German medical discoverers in the nineteenth century said, in a very climax of satire, " that the distinguished Frenchman deserved to be well known as one who treated diseases of which he knew nothing by remedies of which he knew less." His good faith was impugned, his statistics scorned, his results laughed at, even his friends hesitated to say anything on the subject. Those who were close to Pasteur know that he suffered, for his nature was of the most sensitive, veritable torment because of this bitter opposition, which at one time, because his French colleagues also were sceptical of his treatment, threatened to impair the usefulness of our greatest discoverer in nineteenth century medicine and leave him without that support which would enable him to go on with his precious in vestigation.
The more recent furore against antitoxin is still in many persons' minds. Physicians who used it, and in whose cases serious results took place, not the consequence of the antitoxin, but the consequence of factors of the disease over which they had no control, sometimes suffered seriously in their practice. All forms of opposition were aroused against it. Even at the present time one still hears of the crime, as some do not hesitate to call it, of injecting the serum of a diseased animal into the veins of the human being; and above all a little child. There are men (intelligent men !) who do not stop short of tracing all sorts of disease incidents that happen after such an injection, even many years later, to the evil effects of the horse serum employed. Such people are exercising that superstitious fanatic faculty which at all times has caused the obstinately conservative to seek and find the most serious objections to any new doctrine, careless of the consequences that they might bring on the discoverer or the benefit they might prevent for the mass of humanity.
Originally vaccination was opposed by certain clergy-men on the grounds of theological objection to its use. At the present time most of such objection has ceased.
It is still clergymen, however, who are the most prominent among the anti-vaccinationists, though now they usually find biological and pathological, instead of theological reasons. They proclaim it a crime against nature, from the biological standpoint, that the disease of an animal should be conveyed to man, even for protective purposes. At the present time one can find just as bitter objections to vaccination in anti-vaccination journals as when the subject was first brought under discussion. Men must find some reason for their opposition, and they take the weapon that is handiest and that they are able to use with best effect. In an era when theological ideas were dominant, theology was ready at hand for this purpose, but any other ology will do just as well, and the history of science, even in the present day, will show that always some ology, regard-less of human feelings, is used quite as ruthlessly and as cruelly as in the olden days. There are tortures of spirit that are worse than prison or even fire.
When we recall how few examples there are of opposition to science on the part of ecclesiastics, and how most of these prove on careful examination to be due to misunderstandings rather than to actual desire to prevent the development of science, the stories of the way in which discoveries in science were received in more modern times become a striking lesson that makes us appreciate the broad-mindedness and liberal policy of ecclesiastical educators in the olden time. They were evidently much more ready to accept novel ideas, and much less prone to set themselves up in opposition to them, than the educational authorities of more modern times. This is the phase of the history of education in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that deserves the most careful study, and that should make modern educators feel proud of their kinship with these old founders and patrons in education, who at the same time furnish an example of liberality of mind that it would be very beneficial to have in our modern supposedly free universities.
For while we are prone to be proud of our academic freedom, we have had more than one example in recent times of how dangerous it is for a man, even though he may be recognized as an authority in his department, to treat certain economic questions from a standpoint that is not favored by the rest of the faculty, or by the Board of Governors, or, above all, by certain munificent patrons of the particular educational institution. Much has been said about religious educational institutions, about the middle of the nineteenth century, so hampering the work of men in the physical sciences, especially with regard to problems in geology and evolution, as to nullify progress. Just this same thing, however, is true with regard to many economic questions, because of the attitude of educational interests with regard to free trade and protection, single tax, and socialism and the like. No professor of science at a religious institution ever felt himself more in the grip of old-fashioned notions than do certain professors in departments of finance and sociology with regard to problems that are now of the most profound interest. Men have changed the reason for their conservatism, but the conservatism itself remains, and apparently always will remain. This is what must be realized when the stories of ecclesiastical opposition to progress are told.