By Prof. SAMUEL BELL, M.D.

Physiology has for many decades been a science founded on experiment, and pathology has been rapidly pressing forward in the same direction. To read the accounts of how certain conclusions have been arrived at in the laboratory, by ingenious devices and by skillful manipulations, is as fascinating as any tale of adventure.

When the microscope began its work, how discouraging was the vastness and complexity of the discoveries which it brought to light; how many years has it been diligently used, and how uncertain are we still about many of its revelations! But what a happy conjecture of man, and as proper environment takes place we may reach better results! Let me give an illustration:

Some thirty years ago, Virchow began his studies and lectures upon cellular pathology. The enthusiasm which he awakened spread over the whole medical world. The wonderful attention to detail, the broad philosophy which signalized his observations, were alike remarkable. His class room was packed with students from every country, who thought it no hardship to struggle for a seat at eight o'clock in the morning. With his blackboard behind him and specimens of pathology before him, and microscopes coursing upon railway tracks around the tables which filled the room, he was the embodiment of the teacher; his highest honor was as discoverer. The life and importance of the cell, both in health and disease, it has been his work to discover and to teach. The point of view from which he has classified tumors is founded on this basis, and remains the accepted method. The light which he cast upon the nature of inflammation has not yet been obscured, and while other phenomena appear, the multiplication of cells and nuclei and the formation of connective tissue in the process of inflammation will always call to mind his labors.

To one of Virchow's pupils, Prof. Recklinghausen, we chiefly owe our knowledge of the phenomena of diapedesis as a part of the inflammatory activity. How incredible it seems that masses of living matter can make their way through the walls of blood vessels which do not rupture and which have no visible apertures!

Virchow fixed his attention upon the forms and activities of the cells, their multiplication and degradation, and how they build up tissues, both healthy and morbid.

To another matter with which, both literally and metaphorically, the air is filled, we must also make allusion. The existence of micro-organisms in countless numbers is no new fact, but the influence they may exert over living tissues has only lately become the subject of earnest attention. So long as they were not known to have any practical bearing upon human welfare, they interested almost nobody, but when, however, it was shown that putrefaction of meat is due to the agency of the bacterium termo, and the decomposition of albumen to the bacillus subtilis; when anthrax in cattle and sheep was found to depend on the bacillus anthracis, and that in human beings it caused malignant pustules; when suppuration of wounds was found to be associated with micrococci; and when it was announced that by a process of inoculation cattle could be protected against anthrax, and that by carbolic spray and other well known precautions the suppuration of wounds could be prevented - all the world lent its ears and investigation at once began.

Because labors in bacteriology promised to be fruitful in practical results, the workers speedily became innumerable, and we are accumulating a wondrous store of facts. How long now is the list of diseases in which germs make their appearance - in pneumonia, in endocarditis, in erysipelas, in pyaemia, in tuberculosis, and so on and so on. One of the most striking illustrations is the gonococcus of gonorrhoea, whose presence in and around gives to the pus cells their virulent properties, and when transferred to the eye works such lamentable mischief. Without their existence the inoculation of pus in the healthy eye is harmless; pus bearing the gonococci excites the most intense inflammation. Similar suppurative action in the cornea is often caused by infection of cocci. The proof of causation may be found in the fact that the most effective cure now practiced for such suppuration is to sterilize them by the actual cautery. Rosenbach says that he knows six distinct microbes which are capable of exciting suppuration in man.

Their activity may be productive of a poison, or putrefactive alkaloid, which is absorbed.

There are at present two prominent theories in regard to the infections which produce disease. The first is based upon chemical processes, the second upon the multiplication of living organisms. The chemical theory maintains that after the infectious element has been received into the body it acts as a ferment, and gives rise to certain morbid processes, upon the principle of catalysis. The theory of organisms, or the germ theory, maintains that the infectious elements are living organisms, which, being received into the system, are reproduced indefinitely, and excite morbid processes which are characteristic of certain types of disease. This latter theory so readily explains many of the facts connected with the development and reproduction of infectious diseases, that it has been unqualifiedly adopted by a large number of investigators. The proofs of this theory had not, however, advanced beyond the demonstrations of the presence of certain forms of bacteria in the pathological changes of a very limited number of infectious diseases, until February, 1882, when Koch announced his discovery of the tubercle bacillus, since which time nearly every disease has its supposed microbe, and the race is, indeed, swift in which the would-be discoverers press forward with new germs for public favor.

The term bacteria or microbe refers to particles of matter, microscopic in size, which belong to the vegetable kingdom, where they are known as fungi. If we examine a drop of stagnant water under the microscope, amplifying say four hundred diameters, we see it loaded with minute bodies, some mere points, others slightly elongated into rods, all actively in motion and in various positions, a countless confusion. If evaporation now takes place, all is still. If we now apply moisture, the dried-up granules will show activity, as though they had not been disturbed.