The British Association at Dundee: Section I: Physiology: Opening Address


LAST year the distinguished president of this section raised us to the contemplation of the workings of the soul. I ask you to accompany me in the consideration of nothing higher than a stuffy room. Everyone thinks that he suffers in an ill-ventilated room owing to some change in the chemical quality of the air, be it want of oxygen, or excess of carbon dioxide, the addition of some exhaled organic poison, or the destruction of some subtle property by passage of the air over steam-coils, or other heating or conducting apparatus. We hear of “devitalised” or “dead” air, and of “tinned” or “potted” air of the battleship. The good effects of open-air treatment, sea and mountain air, are no less generally ascribed to the chemical purity of the air. In reality the health-giving properties are those of temperature, light, movement, and relative moisture of the surrounding atmosphere, and leaving on one side those gross chemical impurities which arise in mines and in some manufacturing processes, and the question of bacterial infection, the alterations in chemical composition of the air in buildings where people crowd together and suffer from the effects of ill-ventilation have nothing to do with the causation of these effects.

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