Why the tendency to disease in humanity.How we improve our race by studying people explore their past, we must understand the drift of the present, we must anticipate the future. Given by Thomas.C.Duncan….


[Summary of a Lecture on the Principles of Medicine by the Author.]

Why the tendency to disease in humanity, is the study before us to-day. We must explore the past, we must understand the drift of the present, we must anticipate the future.

In your school days you learned of the five races, Caucasian, Mongolian, Malay, Indian and Ethiopian, Blumenthal’s classification of over one hundred years ago. Why five? Anthropologists tell us that climate, locality, helps to solve the race problem. “The black race was developed quite locally by heat and moisture.” (Brinton.) The white people are found in the north temperate zone and in the mountains, even in the tropics. It is believed that the other colors are but shades of the original. It was once thought that these races were, and had been ever, distinct and separate peoples, but the more physique, history and climate are studied the unity of origin of the race is now generally believed by scientists. The original color was, doubtless, what we send our patients into the country to get, “a healthy brown.”

It is significant that the word Adam means “brown earth.” “Blondes and brunettes” are recognized as only shades of the same race of women.

The problem of height and weight we must also solve. Here again climate has its influence. Let us study peoples who for generations have lived in one locality. Mountaineers are proverbially tall. Why? Premature development, as in hot countries, give us small people. In India the small people are on the plains, while tall ones are found in the “hill country,” on the slopes of the Himalaya mountains. These latter are also much lighter in color. I get these facts from Dr. Gangadin, of Calcutta, whom some of you heard lecture on his native country and remember as small of stature. By the way, he was afraid he would be called a negro, he was so dark. These peoples of India do not migrate, and he claimed they had lived there generation after generation for thousands of years.

Most nations are made up of mixed peoples, due to migration, from one cause or another, chiefly war or commerce. National lines are arbitrary and of little value in studying peoples except by the training given, as we shall see.

In limestone sections you will also find tall, large people. The lime in our water and milk (that comes from west of the city) is giving Chicago a crop of tall young people! In new countries where the climate is not too severe, neither too hot nor too cold, there we find tall peoples.

The cause is geological and meteorological. But why tall people on the mountains and short people in valleys? The atmospheric pressure at sea level is, you know, fifteen pounds to the square inch. The higher you go up the less the pressure becomes. At the top of Pike’s Peak it is removed one half, so light that the heart cannot keep the brain supplied with blood, and visitors often faint. [I had to lie down up there to breathe, until I learned to keep my handkerchief to my mouth so that I rebreathed concentrated air.] The light pressure gives us tall mountaineers. Another fact you will learn, and that is that small people are, as a rule, precocious. Perhaps because they are precocious they are small. Tall boys and girls are, as a rule, slow in maturing, mentally and physically, and are the long-lived people. We are not surprised to learn from early history that “there were giants in those days,” and forty to sixty years of age before they were fathers. “All of their days” were more than four score and ten.

Weight is also largely a question of locality, and food. Where the air is moist, as at the sea or below the sea, as in Holland, people absorb moisture and are fleshy. Some years ago a man fasted forty days in this city; I notice that he lost a pound a day except during the rainy days, when he lost none. In others words, he absorbed a pound of water that day. This question of increase of adipose has several answers. I solved it to my own satisfaction twenty years ago, and you will find the facts in a little book *How to be Plump, or Talks on Physiological Feeding. you should read, for you will often be asked, “Doctor, how can I get fleshy?” The answer might be : “Take liquid food.”

Temperament is another classification of humanity that must claim our attention. We must know its practical value. Dunglison (medical dictionary) defines temperament to be “a name given to the remarkable differences that exist between individuals, in consequence of the variety of relations and proportions between the constituent parts of the body. The ancients, way back in the days of Galen, held that temperament is conditioned on the preponderance of one of the four humors then generally admitted– blood, lymph, bile, and black bile– giving rise to a sanguine, lymphatic, bilious (choleric) and atrabilious (melancholic) temperament. The idea of the existence of certain of these humors has been banished, yet the influence of some, as of the blood, lymph and bile, is still admitted by many. Too much influence has, doubtless, been assigned to temperament in the sense in which it was formerly, and still is, generally understood, although there can be no question that difference of organization occasions a difference in the activity of the organs.” We might put it the other way, that a difference of the organs occasions a difference in the organization. The ancient humoral pathology, as such, is obsolete; but it contained some truth, as Dunglison admits. You will notice that the nervous temperament does not have a place in the old classification. Most people are of mixed temperaments, and it is rare to find those of a pure temperament.

Thomas C. Duncan
Thomas C.Duncan, M.D., Ph.D., LL.D. Consulting Physician to the Chicago Foundlings' Home.
Editor of The United States Medical Investigator. Member of the Chicago Paedological Society. First President of the American Paedological Society Author of: Diseases of infants and children, with their homoeopathic treatment. Published 1878 and Hand book on the diseases of the heart and their homeopathic treatment. by Thomas C. Duncan, M.D. Published 1898