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Idiocy, As The Effect Of Social Evils, And As The Creative Cause of Physiological Education

Creator: Edward Seguin (author)
Date: January 1870
Publication: The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Diseases of the Nervous System
Source: Available at selected libraries

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We say perfect, because it is the work of years, that must be rendered more and more accurate by notation of the minute symptoms in their order of evolution; and useful, because, upon the tested and retested reality and finish of these descriptions, will rest the new means of improvement to be devised by physiological teachers.


d. Symptoms of Idiocy under Training. -- They may be improving, stationary, or increasing. That is the question not only for the individual idiot, but to determine the character of idiocy in a given case, and to test the influence of some parts of the training on children at large.


Every child entering the institution with as complete a record as could be gathered of him and of his family antecedents, this record will grow by a sort of alluvial process from all that is done for him, and its results. At first, and twice a year, oftener repeated in cases of sudden changes, the survey embraces growth as well as functional development; the size, weight, and shape of parts, where it is possible; the color and other qualities of tissues, the proportion of blood-corpuscles, -1- the temperature measured by the thermometer, the contractile power by diverse dynomometers, the tactile sensibility by the aesthesiometer, nourishment, and nutrition, nature of secretions, spontaneity, cheerfulness, and other notable functions, all and each comparable with the same in the average children, that will be kept nearby in training, by the same means and under similar observation.


-1- A certain proportion of red corpuscles in the blood is considered a test of its healthfulness, and less as a proof of anemia. Hence, various means have been devised to find out its composition in given cases. Among the investigators who have succeeded in affixing their names to some of these analyses of the blood are: Becquerel, Schrerer, Schmidt, Scharjin, Zimmerman, Hoppe, Vierordt, and Welcker. More recently Paolo Mantagazza, of the Italian Institute of Sciences, has devised an instrument which he calls the Globulometer, which gives the exact quantity of red corpuscles contained in a sample of blood. One of the advantages of the globulometer is, that it requires but one drop of blood for the experiment. That drop being mixed with a given solution of b. c. soda, a transparent receiver is filled with the mixture, and held before the eye and a specified light, where its degree of opacity indicates the quantity of red disks. This experiment presents several advantages: it requires only a drop of blood, it demands only a few minutes, it can be made at the bedside. Though we personally rejoice in the possession of that little jewel of Italian ingenuity and precision, the globulometer of Dr. Mantagazza, we apprehend that it will not become, what it should be, one of the favorite instruments of positive diagnosis of our professional brothers.


On this point the monographs have attained proportions which permit us to foresee whither their subjects tend. Some have made more or less rapid progress, and qualified for different grades of manhood. Some present meliorations which could not have taken place without the training, though they are mostly attributable to growth, increased strength, automatic habits, and unavoidable surroundings. Some are decidedly as idiotic as ever. Some actually retrograde, either by an ab-initio falling off, or since a certain date, event, or sickness, or by the effects of that young senility of which idiots give the curious, and, as we believe, unique example.


Though individually and socially these results are very different, the first preparing, after a simple practical apprenticeship, to leave the school for the world where most of them need yet a special protection and home-kindness; the second to pass the remainder of their lives in asylums, where comfort, no progress, is looked for; the third to be kept where their observation may most advantageously be completed. But the only complete result, for all of them, of our cases, statistics, and annotations, is to come from --


e. The Post-mortem Examination. -- There on the slab, more glorious than the battle-field, have laid the unknown but honored heroes, who helped Scarpa, Vesalius, Hailer, Morgagni, Bichat, Flourens, Bell, Brown-Séquard, Virchow, Bernard, marshals of the scientific empire, to gain their victories; Harvey to demonstrate the circulation of the blood; as well as Michael Servetus that of the lymphatics, before Calvin had discovered that his brain also circulated ideas worth burning. To be on that slab, field of scientific victories, is certainly a great honor for any of us, who, possibly good for naught in life, may thus become useful in death. To object to it in any case of idiocy would be an act of hostility to progress, if not of idiocy itself doubled with fatuitas. After nursing, educating, cherishing the idiot as no family can, because we do it with the full comprehension of his value in the study of anthropology and physiological education, we want to compare his head, imperfect chef-d'oeuvre of organism, with the written record of its imperfect functions, we conscientiously claim the right, after recording the effects, to pry into the causes, wherever they can be found. We do it with intention, reflection, pure motives, and respectful hands; we would say that it is for us a re1igious ceremony, if rites were progressive, in a religion whose author rewarded his disciples by the post-mortem apparition of his own body, which was the forcible anatomical demonstration of the dualistic theory of mind and matter, upon which science reposed till the times of Spinosa, Gassendi, Laplace, and Huxley.

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