« PreviousContinue »
great portion of it be lost, it is supplied again, sooner or later, and the patient recovers his sight.
Dr. C. saw Daviel extract the crystalline quite opaque, with its whole bag adherent to it; and this bag he dissected from it after the operation was over. In the operation of the 14th instant, the crystalline and its whole bag made one entire spheroid, soft and plump; but it is already broken and dry.
Blue eyes are the most subject to the cataract, and black ones to the amaurosis. In these the ciliary nerves and fibres are always weak; in those strong and elastic. 1. A crystalline couched, if the capsula be opaque, leaves the patient blind. 2. A crystalline couched in appearance, if it adhieres in any point to its capsula, must rise again. 3. If the posterior, side of the bag be opaque, and remains, the patient must remain blind, whether the crystalline be couched or extracted. 4. If the posterior side of the bag is adherent to the crystalline, it must be extracted; and then there is great danger of the vitreous humour coming off. 5. The mistakes of Sennertus, Riverius, Heister, Antoine, Maitre Jean, Brisseau, and St. Ives, &c. about the glaucoma, are easily accounted for in this new theory, founded on facts and daily experience.
LXXXIII. On the Case of Mortification of Limbs in a Family at Wattisham, Suffolk. By Charlton Wollaston, M. D., F. R. S. p. 523.
John Downing a labouring man at Wattisham, in Jan. 1762, had a wife and 6 children; the eldest, a girl about 15 years of age, the youngest about 4 months. They were also at that time very healthy, as the man himself and his neighbours assured Dr. W.
On Sunday the 10th of January, the eldest girl complained in the morning of a pain in her left leg; particularly in the calf of the leg. Towards evening the pain grew exceedingly violent. The same evening another 'girl, about 10 years old, complained of the same violent pain in the leg. On the Monday the mother and another child, and on the Tuesday all the rest of the family, except the father, were affected in the same manner. The pain was exceedingly violent; insomuch that the whole neighbourhood was alarmed with the loudness of their shrieks. The left leg of most of them was only affected; but in some both legs. The little child was taken from its mother's breast as soon as she was taken ill, and lived a few weeks. The nurse told Dr. W. it seemed to be in violent pain, and that its legs were black before death.
Dr. W. was exact in his inquiries about each particular person. By what he could learn from them, in about 4, 5, or 6 days, the diseased leg began to grow less painful, and to turn black gradually; appearing at first covered with spots, as if it had been bruised. The other leg began to be affected at that time,
with the same excruciating pain, and in a few days that also began to mortify. In a very little time both legs were perfectly sphacelated. The mortified parts separated without assistance from the sound parts, and the surgeon had, in most of the cases, no other trouble than to cut through the bone, with little or no pain to the patient. The separation was in most of them about 2 inches below. the knee; in some rather lower; and to one child the feet separated at the ancle, without any assistance from the surgeon. In some the separation was not quite so perfect. The eldest girl had one leg taken off, and the other was perfectly sphacelated; but the surgeon had not thought proper to cut it off yet, as the thigh was much swelled, and there was a large abscess under the ham. The mother had the right foot off at the ancle; the other leg was a mere bone, quite black, and exceedingly fetid, with some little remains of putrid, almost dry flesh, in some parts. One child only had one leg saved, with the loss of 2 toes of that leg. Three of the children had lost both legs, and the other child both feet. This was the state of their legs at that time; viz. Mary the mother, ætat. 40. The right foot off at the ancle: left leg mortified, a mere bone; but not off. Mary, ætat. 15. One leg off below the knee: the other perfectly sphacelated; but not then off. Elizabeth, ætat. 13. Both legs off below the knees. Sarah, ætat. 10. One foot off at the ancle. Robert, ætat. 1. Both legs off below the knees. Edward, ætat. 4. Both feet off at the ancles. An infant, 4 months old, dead.
The father was attacked about a fortnight after the rest of the family, and in a slighter degree, the pain being confined to 2 fingers of his right hand, which turned blackish, and were withered for some time; but were then better, and he had in some degree recovered the use of them."
It is remarkable, that during all the time of this calamity, the whole family are said to have appeared in other respects well. They ate heartily, and slept well, when the pain began to abate. When Dr. W. saw them they all seemed free from fever, except the girl, who had an abscess in her thigh. The mother looked emaciated, and had very little use of her hands. The rest of the family seemed well. One poor boy in particular looked as healthy and florid as possible, and was sitting on the bed quite jolly; drumming with his stumps.
Dr. W. made what inquiry he could into the manner of their life and food, before this misfortune befel them: but he could not discover any thing to which he could attribute this very surprizing attack. They lived, as the country people do, on dried peas, pickled pork, bread and cheese, milk and small beer. The man was a day labourer, and the woman and children spun, and by their industry and sobriety maintained themselves very well. There was no reason to apprehend that these poor people had suffered by being exposed to severe cold, as the beginning of January was remarkably mild. It is not very uncommon for
one limb to be lost by a sphacelus, attended with the same symptoms as in these cases; but it is very extraordinary that a disorder of this kind should run through a whole family with such amazing violence and rapidity. A nurse, who had lived with them from the beginning of their illness, had not been affected. She did not live in the house with them before; but used to be with them frequently. LXXXIV. Extract of a Letter from the Rev. James Bones, M.A., Minister of Wattisham, near Stowmarket in Suffolk, relating to the Case of Mortification of Limbs in a Family there. p. 526.
This is no more than a repetition of the case in the last article.
LXXXV. Extract of a Second Letter from the Rev. Mr. Bones to Dr. Baker. p. 529.
I have taken all the pains I can to inform myself of every circumstance which may be deemed a probable cause of the disease by which the poor family in my parish has been afflicted. But I fear I have discovered nothing that will be satisfactory to you. The following is an answer to your queries.
Water. This they have taken out of a ditch, or pool of standing water, at their own door, as is common in this clay country. We have no spring or well in the parish.
Beer. They have generally bought their beer at a public house. But in August last the poor man brewed 2 bushels of malt, in a large brass kettle, which is very commonly let out to the poor. It is an old one, but belongs to a cleanly housewife.
Bread. We have no rye. This family have been used to buy two bushels of clog-wheat, or rivets, or bearded wheat (as it is variously called in this country), every fortnight. Of this they have made their household bread. This wheat they have bought of the farmer, whom I lodge with, who tells me that last year he had some wheat laid, which he gathered, and threshed separately, lest it should spoil his samples. Not that it was mildewed, or grown, but only discoloured, and smaller than the other. This damaged wheat he threshed last Christmas; and then this poor family used no bread but what was made of it, as likewise did the farmer's own family, and some others in the neighbourhood. We observed that it made bad bread, and worse puddings; but I do not find that it disagreed with any body. A labouring man of the parish, who had used this bread, was affected with a numbness in both his hands, for about 4 weeks from the 9th of January. His hands were continually cold, and his fingers ends peeled. One thumb he says still remains without any sensation,
Kitchen utensils. They have 2 small iron pots, which have long been in use. In these they boiled their pork, peas, &c. They have likewise 2 brass skillets,
rather old, in which they boiled milk, &c. The man tells me they are in constant use, and never were cankered.
Pease. They have now and then eaten pease and pease broth. These they have always bought, as others do, at the shop: and they have never disagreed with any of the family, except only on Sunday, January 10. Three of the children were then sick after eating them; but became easy after they had vomited.
Pork. This they generally bought pickled of the farmer whom I lodge with. The farmer's family, and several others, have constantly eaten it. In this part of the country there is a great deal of old ewe-mutton killed, between the first of November and January, some of which is very poor and rotten, and is usually sold at 3 halfpence, or perhaps one penny a pound. In December last this family lived for 3 weeks at least on this mutton, of which they bought a quarter at a time, weighing 7 or 8 lb., for one shilling. The man is so prepossessed with notions of witchcraft, and is so obstinate in his opinion, that I cannot excite in him even a desire of attributing this disease to any other cause.
Since my last letter to you, Mary, aged 16, who sat for 14 weeks in a great chair, and for 7 days without any feet, or flesh on her leg-bones, has consented to have the bones taken off. She is now in bed; the abscess is healing, and she seems likely to do well. The father's fingers are almost healed: but he every day feels severe darting pains in many parts of his body. The mother lies in bed with her leg-bones bare, which she will not suffer to be taken off. Her hands are still benumbed, but not black. Her fingers are contracted. The rest of the family seem to be recovering perfect health.”—In addition, Dr. B. says,
There is in L'Hist. de l'Acad. Royale des Sciences, for the year 1710, a paper, the title of which is, Sur le bled* cornu appellé Ergot. Here it is said, that M. Noël, surgeon of the Hotel-Dieu at Orleans, had sent an account to a member of the academy, that within about a year's time, he had received into the hospital more than 50 patients affected d'une gangrene seche, noire et livide, which began at the toes, and advanced more or less, being sometimes continued even to the thighs; and that he had only seen one patient who had been first seized with it in the hand. He adds, that he observed that this disease affected the men only; and that in general the females, except some very young girls, were quite free from it. In the same paper is mentioned, as a fact well known to the academy, the case of a peasant who lived near Blois. In this patient a gangrene, at its first attack, destroyed all the toes of one foot, then those of the other, afterwards the remaining parts of both feet; then the flesh of both his legs, and that of his thighs, rotted off successively, and left nothing but bare bones.
* Secale corniculatum nigrum, mentioned as a poison by Hoffman.-Orig,
The gentlemen of the academy were of opinion that the disease, of which M. Noel had sent an account, was produced by bad nourishment, particularly by bread, in which there was a great quantity of ergot.* This substance is described by M. Fagon, first physician to the king, and is said by him to be a kind of monster in vegetation, which a particular sort of rye, sown in March, is more apt to produce, than what is sown in the autumn, and which often abounds in moist cold countries, and in wet seasons. How far it is true, that this substance was really the cause of the French epidemical gangrene described, I cannot determine. On comparison, we find that the present disease at Wattisham, and that recorded by the French academy, do agree extremely in their effects. However, it is now certain that rye made no part of the nourishment of the poor family at Wattisham. Though we undoubtedly excel the ancients in the knowledge of poisons, yet a great deal of that subject still remains unknown to us. It will therefore be very difficult for us to discover to what cause, or to what combination of causes, so uncommon a malady is to be attributed.
LXXXVI. Observations for Proving the Going of Mr. Ellicott's Clock at St. Helena. By Mr. Charles Mason. p. 534.
In Mr. Mason's return from the Cape of Good Hope, the clock, used in the observations made there, was set a-going at St. James's fort, St. Helena, the pendulum remaining as at the Cape. Here he was at a great loss to get observations to prove its motion, the heavens being almost perpetually covered with clouds. At length, considering that the place being situated in such a narrow deep valley, if the times of the descent of the stars, over the western ridge of rocks, (the altitude of whose nearest summit was about 30°, and distant about a quarter of a mile at the observatory) were observed, it would give the time per clock, in a sidereal day; and the chances for such observations would be greater than by any other method, as they might be continued the whole night. Accordingly he began to observe, by fixing the eye to a point: but this was soon improved by the Rev. Mr. Maskelyne, by making the stars descend each night, in the same part of the telescope of the equal altitude instrument: and it was very beautiful to see how instantaneously they disappeared.
The difference of the effect of gravity at the two places, on the going of the clock, may be seen by comparing these with the observations made at the Cape. By these it appears that the clock at St. Helena lost from 58" to 59 per day of sidereal time.
* This degenerated rye is called ergot, from its resemblance to a cock's spur.—Orig.