Governor Hughes, in his address to the students in Gettysburg College, pleaded for such lives that strength would be left for the years of achievement. How many men and women can you count who are squandering their health bank account? How many do you know who are now physically bankrupt? The man who is prodigal of his health may work along all right for years, never realizing until the test comes that he is running behind in his vitality. The test may be hard times, promotion, exposure to cold, heat, fever, or a sudden call for all his control in avoiding accident. If his vitality fails to stand the test, his career may be ruined, "all for the want of a horseshoe nail": because of no health bank account to draw upon in time of need,—failure; because of vitality depleted by alcohol, tobacco, overeating, underexercise, or too little sleep,—no power to resist contagious diseases; because of ignorance of existing lung trouble,—a year or more of idleness, perhaps poverty for his family; or there is neglected ear or eye trouble,—and thousands of lives may be lost because the engineer failed to read the signals.

Adults are now examined when applying for insurance or accident policies, for work on railroads, for service in the army and on the police and fire forces of cities that provide pensions. It is somewhat surprising that the hundreds of thousands who carry life insurance policies have not realized that a test which is rigorously imposed for business reasons by insurance companies can be applied by individuals for business reasons. Generations hence the state will probably require of every person periodic physical examination after school age. Decades hence business enterprises will undoubtedly require evidence of health and vitality from employees before and during employment, just as schools will require such evidence from teachers. It is, after all, but a step from the police passport to the health passport. Why should we not protect ourselves against enemies to health and efficiency as well as against enemies to order? But for the present we must rely upon the intelligence of individuals to recognize the advantage to themselves, their families, and their employers, of knowing that their bodies do not harbor hidden enemies of vitality and efficiency. From a semi-annual examination of teeth to a semi-annual physical examination is but a short step when once its effectiveness is seen by a few in each community.

The Old Southfield, Now Anchored At Bellevue Hospital's Dock, New York City, Gives Daily Lessons In The Preventable Tax Levied By Tuberculosis

Ignorance of one's physical condition is a luxury no one can afford. No society is rich enough to afford members ignorant of physical weaknesses prejudicial to others' health and efficiency. Every one of us, even though to all appearances physically normal, needs the biological engineer. New conditions come upon us with terrific rapidity. The rush of work, noise, dust, heat, and overcrowding of modern industry make it important to have positive evidence that we have successfully adapted ourselves to these new conditions. Only by measuring the effects of these environmental forces upon our bodies can we prevent some trifling physical flaw from developing into a chronic or acute condition. As labor becomes more and more highly specialized, the body of the laborer is forced to readapt itself. The kind of work a man does determines which organs shall claim more than their share of blood and energy. The man who sets type develops keenness of vision and manual dexterity. The stoker develops the muscles of his arms and back, the engineer alertness of eye and ear. All sorts of devices have been invented to aid this specialization of particular organs, as well as to correct their imperfections: the magnifying glass, the telescope, the microscope, extend the powers of the eye; the spectacle or an operation on the eye muscles enables the defective eye to do normal work. A man with astigmatism might be a policeman all his life, win promotion, and die ignorant of his defect; whereas if the same man had become a chauffeur, he might have killed himself and his employer the first year, or, if an accountant, he might have been a chronic dyspeptic from long-continued eye strain. It is a soul tragedy for a man to attempt a career for which he is physically unadapted.[11] It is a social tragedy when men and women squander their health. A great deal of the success attributed to luck and opportunity, or unusual mental endowment, is in reality due to a chance compatibility of work with physique. To secure such compatibility is the purpose of physical examination after school age.

[11] See Dangerous Trades, compiled by Thomas Oliver; also list of reports by the United States Bureau of Labor.