English Physiologist Tells The "Story Of His Health"
( Originally Published 1936 )
The clearest and most interesting writer on science for the layman today, in my opinion, is Dr. J. B. S. Haldane, the English physiologist. He has recently published a book called, "Science and Human Life." One chapter is called, "The Story of My Health," and is an explanation of how he has kept vigorous. For what it is worth, I abstract it herewith. It begins:
"My story has no moral. Three of my grandparents lived to be over 80, one to be a hundred. My parents are both alive. So if I enjoy good health, this is probably not through my having observed any laws, but because, from the point of view of mere living at least, I am well born. Also up to the age of 12 I was well looked after.
"We did not know much about vitamins in my early days, but it was known that a monotonous diet brought on certain diseases. Besides Marie Lloyd had just enunciated the important physiological principle that, `A little of wot yer fancy does yer good.'
"My father was a physiologist, and I was brought up on this principle, particularly as regards jam. I ate a great deal of unripe fruit and other foods which were generally supposed to be harmful.
"During my last three years at Eton I escaped from compulsory games and found that I did very well with less exercise than most of my fellows. This incidentally enabled me to do some work. At Oxford I rowed occasionally, but discovered that after several months without any exercise, not only was I very well, but I was perfectly able to row in a race untrained, and help to win it.
"After the war I did not at first cut down my diet to suit my sedentary habits. Perhaps that was why I developed appendicitis, which is a disease mainly afflicting the over-fed class of society. As my appendix continued to trouble me, arrangements were made for my formal opening, and it was removed before an admiring audience of my pupils.
"But I have cut down my food. I breakfast on porridge and milk, drink coffee in the middle of the day, take four slices of bread and jam with my tea, and have my real meal at 8 p. m.
"But I do not for one moment suggest that what suits me would suit everyone else. Many people appear to become genuinely ill without exercise. For all I know, my nightly whisky and soda would poison Lady Astor or Mr. Foot. I do not prescribe for them; nor do I see why they should prescribe for me. I have experimented on myself, and at times taken more food, beer, and other good things, smoked more tobacco, and done more work than was good for me. I know the symptoms of excess in each case, and I can stop before they come on. My advice to others is to take the obvious steps, such as vaccination, to avoid infections, but apart from that, to study oneself in a scientific spirit, find out a way of life which suits one, and live according to it."