By Dr. Ephraim Cutter, To The Writer
At your request I give the evidence on which I base my opinion that your plan in relation to ague is true.
From my very start into the medical profession, I had a natural intense interest in the causes of disease, which was also fostered by my father, the late Dr. Cutter, who honored his profession nearly forty years. Hence, I read your paper on ague with enthusiasm, and wrote to you for some of the plants of which you spoke. You sent me six boxes containing soil, which you said was full of the gemiasmas. You gave some drawings, so that I should know the plants when I saw them, and directed me to moisten the soil with water and expose to air and sunlight. In the course of a few days I was to proceed to collect. I faithfully followed the instructions, but without any success. I could detect no plants whatever,
This result would have settled the case ordinarily, and I would have said that you were mistaken, as the material submitted by yourself failed as evidence. But I thought that there was too much internal evidence of the truth of your story, and having been for many years an observer in natural history, I had learned that it is often very difficult for one to acquire the art of properly making examinations, even though the procedures are of the simplest description. So I distrusted, not you, but myself, and hence, you may remember, I forsook all and fled many hundred miles to you from my home with the boxes you had sent me. In three minutes after my arrival you showed me how to collect the plants in abundance from the very soil in the boxes that had traveled so far backward and forward, from the very specimens on which I had failed to do so.
The trouble was with me--that I went too deep with my needle. You showed me it was simply necessary to remove the slightest possible amount on the point of a cambric needle; deposit this in a drop of clean water on a slide cover with, a covering glass and put it under your elegant 1/5 inch objective, and there were the gemiasmas just as you had described.
I have always felt humbled by this teaching, and I at the time rejoiced that instead of denouncing you as a cheat and fraud (as some did at that time), I did not do anything as to the formation of an opinion until I had known more and more accurately about the subject.
I found all the varieties of the palmellae you described in the boxes, and I kept them for several years and demonstrated them as I had opportunity. You also showed me on this visit the following experiments that I regarded as crucial:
1st. I saw you scrape from the skin of an ague patient sweat and epithelium with the spores and the full grown plants of the Gemiasma verdans.
2d. I saw you take the sputa of a ague patient and demonstrate the spores and sporangia of the Gemiasma verdans.
3d. I saw you take the urine of a female patient suffering from ague (though from motives of delicacy I did not see the urine voided--still I believe that she did pass the urine, as I did not think it necessary to insult the patient), and you demonstrated to me beautiful specimens of Gemiasma rubra. You said it was not common to find the full development in the urine of such cases, but only in the urine of the old severe cases. This was a mild case.
4th. I saw you take the blood from the forearm of an ague patient, and under the microscope I saw you demonstrate the gemiasma, white and bleached in the blood. You said that the coloring matter did not develop in the blood, that it was a difficult task to demonstrate the plants in the blood, that it required usually a long and careful search of hours sometimes, and at other times the plants would be obtained at once.
When I had fully comprehended the significance of the experiments I was filled with joy, and like the converts in apostolic times I desired to go about and promulgate the news to the profession. I did so in many places, notably in New York city, where I satisfactorily demonstrated the plants to many eminent physicians at my room at the Fifth Avenue Hotel; also before a medical society where more than one hundred persons were present. I did all that I could, but such was the preoccupation of the medical gentlemen that a respectful hearing was all I got. This is not to be wondered at, as it was a subject, now, after the lapse of nearly a decade and a half, quite unstudied and unknown. After this I studied the plants as I had opportunity, and in 1877 made a special journey to Long Island, N.Y., for the purpose of studying the plants in their natural habitat, when they were in a state of maturity. I have also examined moist soils in localities where ague is occasionally known, with other localities where it prevails during the warm months.
Below I give the results, which from convenience I divide into two parts: 1st. Studies of the ague plants in their natural habitat. 2d. Studies of the ague plants in their unnatural habitat (parasitic). I think one should know the first before attempting the second.
First--Studies to find in their natural habitat the palmellae described as the Gemiasma rubra, Gemiasma verdans, Gemiasma plumba, Gemiasma alba, Protuberans lamella.
Glass slides, covers, needles, toothpicks, bottle of water, white paper and handkerchief, portable microscope with a good Tolles one inch eyepiece, and one-quarter inch objective.
Wherever there was found on low, marshy soil a white incrustation like dried salt, a very minute portion was removed by needle or toothpick, deposited on a slide, moistened with a drop of water, rubbed up with a needle or toothpick into a uniformly diffused cloud in and through the water. The cover was put on, and the excess of water removed by touching with a handkerchief the edge of the cover. Then the capillary attraction held the cover in place, as is well known. The handkerchief or white paper was spread on the ground at my feet, and the observation conducted at once after the collection and on the very habitat. It is possible thus to conduct observations with the microscope besides in boats on ponds or sea, and adding a good kerosene light in bed or bunk or on lounge.