Origin of Contagious disease


I SEE by your issue of October 4, that Dr. Richardson has honoured me by mentioning my name and placing me as the first, in modern times, to advocate the hypothesis that living germs are the exciting agents of epidemic and infectious diseases. But he says further, “I protest, I say, that this hypothesis is the wildest, the most innocent, the most distant from the phenomena it attempts to explain, that ever entered the mind of man to conceive.” It may be so, but I look in vain through the whole story he narrates in his lecture to find a rational substitute for it, and it appears to me desirable at the present juncture that the principles of the germ theory, as I have interpreted them, should stand side by side with Dr. Richardson's “glandular theory.” It is now nearly thirty years since I endeavoured to find some common root or cause for those diseases which we find in plants, animals, and man, and which are communicable among the individuals of each order in nature; also, in some instances, from one order to another. During that thirty years every step in scientific research and medical experience as far as my inquiries have carrried me, has tended to confirm the views I put forward in my original “Essay” and in subsequent papers read before the Epidemiological Society. Notably the latest advocates of a germ theory are two of our most eminent men, the one a leader in science, the other a leading physician. I need hardly say I allude to Prof. Tyndall and Sir Thomas Watson; surely these gentlemen cannot be charged with committing themselves to an hypothesis “the most distant from the phenomena it attempts to explain.”

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GROVE, J. Origin of Contagious disease. Nature 16, 547–548 (1877). https://doi.org/10.1038/016547d0

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