Heroism of Physicians Who Fell
In the Service of Humanity Re
called by the Fate of Seven
European Doctors Who Suc
cumbed While Coping With the
Fatal "Sleeping Sickness."
By JAMES A. EDGERTON.
to the visit of Theodore
Roosevelt to the zone of the dread
"sleeping sickness" in East Africa
a little three line news item came
to the outside world that added one
more chapter to the book of martyrs.
I was sent from the sleeping sick
ness hospitals presided over by Sii
'David and Lady Bruce and recounted
that seven European doctors had suc
cumbed to the fatal disease since at
tempts to cope with it began.
Not only is the age of heroism
not dead, but it was never so much
alive. Few more unselfish examples of
personal sacrifice for the sake of truth
and humanity have ever been recorded
than those chronicled in the newspa
pers day by day of the men who risk
'life and lose it that they may save
mankind from plague and contagion.
One of the most recent examples Is
that of Dr. William T. Bull, the emi
nent New York surgeon. Dr. Bull had
all that men most prize in lifewealth,
education, a young wife and children,
social position and a standing in the
front rank of his profession. He was
of one of the old families of the me
tropolis, had houses in New York and
^Newport and married Mrs. James G.
Blaine, Jr., after her divorce. Dr. Bull
was the partner of one of the most
eminent surgeons in Vienna, and his
standing throughout the world wa9
such that when a great English physi
cian had appendicitis just after that
[disease was first discovered he sent
Ifor Dr. Bull to perform the operation.
'Yet this gifted and fortunate man in
the very prime of life gave up every
ithing in the cause of science. In his
investigations of cancer he himself
I became inoculated with the germs,
and, though a gallant fight was made
Ifor him, his life paid the forfeit The
details of the story are yet fresh in
tthe public mindthe anxious attention
of other cancer experts in trying to
save their comrade, the application of
a newly discovered serum and the
false hopes this for a time aroused,
the apparent rallying of the patient
and his trip to the south, the devotion
lof his wife and the inevitable end
(sympathetically noted by newspaper
readers of two continents. That is the
story, and it makes one proud of his age.
jThe Battle Against Yellow Fever.
Almost equally well known is the
case of the noble corps of American
physicians who robbed yellow fever of
Its terrors. It was but a short time
after the close of the Spanish-Ameri
can war that the United States gov
ernment undertook to stamp out the
plague that was the scourge of her own
possessions in Porto Rico and Panama,
also of Cuba, for which she felt her
self responsible, as well as of Central
and South America, where her call
was only that of common humanity.
To cope with the disease the war de
partment sent Dr. Walter Reed, a spe
cialist in yellow fever, who was assist
ed by Dr. James Carroll, Dr. Jesse W.
Lazear and Dr. Aristides Agramonte,
a Cuban, who, having had the fever,
as an immune. These physicians
worked on the mosquito theory, which
had-just been promulgated by Dr. Car
los Finley of Havana.
To test the matter definitely as to
whether a mosquito that had bitten a
yellow fever patient could transmit
the disease it was necessary that hu
man subjects should submit them
selves to inoculation. Following the
splendid scientific code that physicians
should not expose others to danger?
they would not themselves take. rr
doctors offered their own bodies as the
TWO NOBLE MARTYRS TO SCIENCE AND DOCTORS STUDYING
Gallant Fight of Dr. William T.
Bull, Who Became Inoculated
With Cancer Germs While In
vestigating the DiseaseSacri
fices of American Physicians In
the Yellow Fever Campaign.
first sacrifices. All three of the Ameri
can physicians procured mosquitoes
they knew had bitten persons suffering
from the plague and allowed them
selves to be infected. All three were
stricken, but Drs. Reed and Carroll
recovered. Dr. Lazear, who upon the
first exposure did not contract the dis
ease, again exposed himself and died
as a result of the virulent attack that
As further experiments were neces
sary, volunteers from the army were
called for, and several responded, just
as they would if the call had been to
face death from bullets instead of
from the equally deadly disease germs.
Nearly all the stricken soldiers recov
ered, though one afterward developed
a spinal affection as a result of the
experiments that made him an invalid
for the brief time he was left to live.
In this notable campaign Dr. Lazear
was as truly a martyr as were those
who died at the stake for religious lib
erty. Nor was the sacrifice in a less
worthy cause, for these experiments
established facts through the knowl
edge of which one of the most dreaded
plagues of the human race was arrest
ed and is in a fair way to be stamped
out entirely. One man died that mil
lions might live.
Victims of the Roentgen Ray.
The ray claimed an even greater
array of martyrs. Notable among
these were Dr. Louis A. Zeigel of
Rochester, Professor W. C. Fuchs of
Chicago and Mr. Clarence M. Dally,
an assistant of Thomas A. Edison
Professor Fuchs believed that the
ray might be used in curing cancer and
skin diseases and to test the matter
as to the influence of the fluoroscope
on the flesh began experimenting upon
himself. He started with one hand,
on which warts soon formed, and he
was compelled to have a thumb ampu
tated. As his experiments progressed
other amputations were necessary un
til the entire hand was gone. Further
tests on his body resulted in death.
The other cases were similar. In one
both hands were sacrificed by the dar
ing investigator, and even then he di
rected that he be made the subject of
still further experiments. Through the
sacrifice of these and other lives, how
ever, the danger of using the mysteri
ous rays was fully defined, It was dis
covered that lead is a nonconductor,
and from this a safe method of em
ploying the light was devised. It
should be borne In mind that the dan
ger is not from one or two applica
tions, but from habitual ones. The pa
tient examined for the first or second
time is in no danger. It Is the opera
tor that is imperiled by his use of the
apparatus day after day. Through the
heroism of these brave men the Roent
gen rays are today employed with
comparative safety, and under their
miraculous power physicians are en
abled to look through the human body
as ordinary men look through glass.
To us the wonders of science become
almost commonplace, but we do not
realize that behind each of these
achievements are thrilling stories of
patient research, repeated defeats,
finally crowned by victory, and the loss
of lives that have been unselfishly
given that truth may be advanced and
Martyrs In Other Fields.
There were several brave physicians
who endangered themselves In the In
vestigation of the bubonic plague, and
one of them, Hermann Franz Muller,
who carried on the famous researches
fn Vienna, paid with his life. An as-
sistant was stricken, and Dr. Muller
could then have saved himself
ceasing his studies. He chose rather
observe the course of the disease
order that he might make a scientific
record, though knowing full well that
to do so would mean almost inevitably
his own death. He took the chance
and paid the price. Science was the
gainer, and the goal of overcoming one
more enemy of man was that much
When the famous Dr. Koch stated
that cholera is contagious a German
physician, Pettenkofer, combated the
theory and offered to prove his conten
tion by consuming the germs. At first
he seemed successful, but on a later
experiment demonstrated that Koch
was right and himself wrong and paid
the penalty with his life.
Among the most heroic of the sol
diers of truth are those that visit leper
colonies. The name of Father Damien
Devenster, a Belgian priest, who was
also a physician, is high on the roll.
not only went into a leper colony
and ministered to the unfortunates,
but devoted the remainder of his life
to stirring up the government to care
for the disease, proving that it was
susceptible to treatment. Both he and
his successor became lepers and finally
died from the affliction, but they made
such progress that Father Damien
could say from his deathbed: "The
cause of the lepers is now that of hu
manity. I am no longer needed here."
Another volunteer in behalf of the
lepers showed a like heroism, but for
tunately did not meet the same tragic
ending, although at one time sores did
appear on his hands, and he thought
himself doomed. They afterward went
away, however, though leaving their
marks. The man is Dr. Eugene H.
Plumacher, American consul to Mara
caibo, Venezuela. He not only photo
graphed many cases and made an ex
haustive report in the interests of sci
ence, but experimented with a secret
medicine, obtaining favorable results.
In one case that he recounts his well
meant efforts came out disastrously.
A former president of a certain state
had become a leper, but was allowed
to remain at his home. Dr. Pluma
cher's treatment of this patient was so
successful that it was reported he
would recover. Thereupon his enemies,
who had come into power, decided to
deport him to the leper colony. On
hearing this the victim shot himself.
The Everyday Heroes.
Heroism in the medical profession
is by no means confined to the con
spicuous cases of those who risk life
in some world noted experiment It is
shown in an almost equal degree by
surgeons at hospitals, who run con
stant danger of blood poisoning, and
by ordinary physicians, who are under
the same danger and who also are in
peril of contagion and infection. Two
noted cases of physicians that died
from blood poisoning contracted while
operating are those of Dr. Charles
Thomas Hunter of the Pennsylvania
Medical school and Dr. Leslie M.
Sweetman of Toronto, both receiving
the deadly germs through slight
scratches in the hand. Other cases of
blood poisoning from similar causes,
many of the attacks proving fatal, are
those of Dr. John Wilson Gibbs of
New York, who was bitten on the
hand by a raving patient Dr. George
King, one of the most prominent phy
sicians on Long Island, who succumbed
through scratching his neck after he
had performed an operation Dr. An
drew J. McCosh of New York, infected
by a patient through a slight abrasion
on the hand Dr. Dowling Benjamin of
Camden, N. J., who was bitten while
trying to open the throat of a young
child with membranous croup Dr.
Charles Carroll Lee, president of the
County Medical society of New York
Dr. E. W. Burnette, also of New York
Dr. John M. Byron, the bacteriologist,
and scores of others.
The cases of heroism in the cause of
science are not confined to the medical
profession. They extend all the way
down the ages from Galilei, who went
to jail Because he insisted that the
world is round, to Professor Matteuci,
who underwent grave peril to make
scientific observations of the great
eruption of Mount Vesuvius a few
years ago. The other fine examples
are those of Benjamin Franklin, who
risked his life in the famous kite ex
periment by which he proved that
lightning is identical with electricity,
and William Thomas Green Morton,
the American dentist who discovered
the use of ether in surgical operations
and who established that it is not fatal
by experimenting with it upon himself.
Happily in none of these celebrated in
stances was the supreme sacrifice of
life exacted as the price for devotion
to an ideal.
It is the medical profession, how
ever, where the danger is greatest and
the victims most numerous. The doc
tor is always face to face with dis
ease in all its forms. Others may flee
from contagion. must ever rush
into the midst of it. The average man
may in most cases avoid infection
from cancer, from tuberculosis, from
blood poisoning and from the many
other agonizing shapes that death as
sumes. The doctor is constantly ex
posed to these, and the slightest pim
ple or abrasion of the skin may offer
the bacteria an entrance into his own
body. Not only is he endangered in
such ways, but he deliberately invites
the most terrible scourges in order
that he may observe the laws which
govern them, discover their causes and
if possible arrive at the means of their
prevention and cure. Nor does he call
all this heroism. would scorn the
name as an affectation or a pose. He
faces death as a part of the day's
work. It belongs to his calling. Pos
sibly he is right Perhaps every man
should be ready to offer himself for
humanity, for what is the unit, after
all, compared to the mass}
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