Albert Leffingwell.

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Does Science Need Secrecy?








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Does Science Need Secrecy?









A third edition of this pamphlet having been called for,
bringing its circulation up to fifteen thousand, an opportunity
is afforded for a brief introduction.

The discerning reader cannot fail to note the only purpose
of this essay. In no sense is it intended as a discussion of
the ethics of vivisection or as a denunciation of cruelty. It
is simply a challenge. It denies that a certain manifesto,
put forth by six of the leading vivisectors of Harvard Uni-
versity, was, — what it claimed to be, — • " a plain statement
of the whole truth." These eminent scientists, affirmed of
painful vivisections that " such investigations are rare ; no?ie
such have been made in Harvard Medical School within our
knowledge." That assertion was either true or false. To
prove its untruth ; to demonstrate beyond question that
experiments causing some degree of pain, — and occasionally
prolonged pain, — had been performed by some of the very
men who were responsible for that most astounding asser-
tion, was the principal object of the following pages. The
experiments in question might have been free from any stigma
of cruelty; they might have been entirely justifiable; but
that was not the point at issue. A deliberate statement was
made to the public that no painful vivisections had been per-
formed in the Harvard Medical School ; and that statement
was false.

When this challenge of accuracy first appeared in the
columns of The Boston Transcript, it was confidently ex-
pected by many friends of the institution that some explan-

4 Does. Science Need Secrecy ?

ation would speedily be forthcoming from those implicated in
putting forth that surprising manifesto. But days and weeks
went by without a sign ; and in all the years that have since
elapsed, no reply has ever been made. No one of these dis-
tinguished scientists has since come forward, again to affirm
of his statement that it was "the whole truth," or of painful
vivisections that "nonesuch have been made in the Har-
vard Medical School within our knowledge."

]t is a somewhat significant fact that so far as known, the
only allusion to this pamphlet which any one of them has
ventured to make, merely serves to illustrate the theory that
the habitual practice of vivisection dulls the sense of accu-
rate perception and the capacity for stating facts. In notes
to a published address delivered in 1896 before the annual
meeting of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Dr. Henry
P. Bowditch makes a brief reference to the experiments
noted on page 19 of this pamphlet. After insisting that
certain prolonged electrical stimulation "could not by any
possibility have been accompanied by any sensation," he
adds :

" Even Dr. LefRngwell, a writer who is compatively reason-
able in his opposition to vivisection, in a recently published
pamphlet entitled "Does science need secrecy?" cites these
experiments as evidence of cruelty practised in the Harvard
Medical School."

The reader of these pages will look in vain for any proof
of this charge. Where, in this pamphlet, are the experiments
of Prof. Bowditch cited "as evidence of cruelty?" The
Harvard professor of physiology had declared with some of
his associates, that " painful vivisections " were rare, and
" none such " had been performed in their laboratories.
Was that the truth ? This is the principal question touched.
Professor Bowditch insists that his " stimulation " could not
have occasioned any sensation. What of that ? To select

Does Science Need Secrecy f 5

one part of an experiment and to insist on its painlessness,
— ignoring all the rest, — is certainly a very questionable
method of defense. To take some seventy animals, chosen
especially for vigor and tenacity of life, so that experiments
might "extend over several hours;" to administer curare so
that after recovery from the anaesthesia, (under which the
initial cutting operation was made,) they would be incapable
of the slightest movement ; to make one cut in the throat,
and another across the sciatic nerve; to experiment upon
some of them for hours, the head immovably fastened in a
rabbit-holder, while others are allowed "to recover from the
effect of the ether, and the experiment postponed for some
days;" — and then to declare that all these wounds, these
severed nerves, these manipulations, these delays for days,
this artificial respiration and immovable position occasioned no
painful sensations in any of these creatures, — was doubtless
beyond the audacity even of a professional vivisector directly
to assert. To ascribe to an opponent statements that he
never made, and then to refute them, — leaving wholly un-
touched the real issue, the only charge, — this would be
strange, were it not in accord with the methods of that pseudo-
science, which to-day hesitates at no trick of cunning
evasion, if only thereby its practices and principles may be
concealed from the public eye.

The following essay does not touch upon all the misstate-
ments of the Harvard manifesto, and some brief notes of
interrogation and comment may suggest to the reader the
value of further inquiry and further doubt.

A. L.





Formerly Instructor in Physiology, Polytechnic Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y

To what extent can scientific authority be implicitly re-
ceived as the foundation of belief regarding the subject of
Vivisection ? It is certain that for the great majority of
men and women, all statements concerning it are wholly
beyond the possibility of verification by personal experience.
Regarding its extent or its methods, its pain or painlessness,
its utility to humanity or its liability to abuse, the world
bases its judgment, not upon knowledge, but upon faith in
the accuracy, the impartiality, the sincerity of the men who,
standing within the temple of science, know with certainty
the facts. One might suppose that here was the welcome
opportunity to demonstrate that science can have nothing to
conceal; that her symbol is a torch and not a veil; and that
above all professional preference and all partisan zeal stands
fidelity to accuracy, and the love of absolute truth.

Nevertheless, it is my purpose in this paper to question
the wisdom of too implicit faith ; to suggest the expediency
of doubt ; and to point out why statements which may have
the support of high scientific authorities, should sometimes
be received with great caution and careful discrimination.

And yet I cannot see the slightest reason why every-
thing that concerns a scientific method or purpose should

The substance of this article was read before the Annual Meeting of the American
Humane Association, Minneapolis, September 26, 1S95, and was printed in the Boston
Transcript, September 2S, 1S95.

S Does Science Need Secrecy ?

not be plainly and accurately set forth. Generally this is
the case. If a new telescope of unusual power is desired by
a university, Wealth is not asked to give it in order that
wealth may be increased by lunar discoveries. When an
astronomical station is established on the Andes, or an
expedition fitted out for the North Pole, we all know that
science only will be the gainer — not commerce or art. The
one exception to an almost universal rule, the one point where
truth is veiled in obscurity for the public eye, is when we
come to the vivisection of animals. Everywhere else science
seems mindful of her mission, and asks only that with in-
creasing radiance the light may shine.

Why should vivisection offer an exception to this ideal ?
That it seems impossible to tell the whole truth about it is
evident to every person who understands the facts. The
London Lancet, for example, recently praised a biography
by Prof. Mosso, in which that Italian physiologist — as the
Lancet remarked, "wisely" said, — " It is an error to believe
that experiments can be performed on an animal which feels."
A few weeks ago Prefessor Mosso sent me a manuscript copy
of this same essay, in which the sentence appears in slightly
different form : " It is an error to think that one can experi-
ment on animals that have not lost sensation ; the disturbance
produced by pain in the organism of the animal is so great
that it renders useless any observations." Now here is the
utterance of a man of science, trained in the accuracy of the
laboratory, occupying one of the foremost positions in Europe
as a physiologist, and his words, stamped with the approval
of the leading Medical journal of England, may presently be
floating through the American press. How is the average
reader to question a statement like this ? Nevertheless, it
is absolutely untrue. One can perform experiments "on an
animal which feels ; " they have been done by the thousand
by Bernard, Magendie, Mantagazza, Brown-Sequard, and
others ; I have seen scores of these myself. No more un-
scientific sentence was ever written than this statement that
one cannot do what is done every day ! What the Italian
physiologist might truthfully have written was this; "It is

Does Science Need Secrecy f g

an error to believe that physiological experiments, requiring
the aid of delicate instruments, can be performed upon an
animal which is not made incapable of muscular effort." If
he had then gone on to say to what extent he effects this by
means of anaesthetics, to what extent by the use of narcotics,
and to what extent the poison of curare is administered to
paralyze the motor nerves, leaving sensibility to pain un-
touched, we might have had a scientific statement of fact.
As it is, we have — what ? An untruth due to ignorance?
An error due to carelessness ? I do not know. Perhaps
the physiologist was thinking too intently of his own special
lines of inquiry to note the significance of his words ; but
what shall we say of a great scientific journal of England
which could quote the untruth as " wisely " said ? Is even
verbal inaccuracy " wise" where science is concerned ?

There was recently given out by Dr. William Townsend
Porter, the assistant professor of physiology in Harvard
Medical School at Boston, one of the most astonishing state-
ments concerning vivisection that ever appeared in public
print. The accuracy of Dr. Porter's statement was vouched
for by five other leading professors in the same institution —
Drs. Henry P. Bowditch, W. T. Councilman, W. F. Whit-
ney, C. S. Minot and H. C. Ernst ; men whose scientific rep-
utation has imparted to their affirmations an immense au-
thority throughout the country. They put forth what they
asserted was a " plain statement of the whole truth " con-
cerning experiments on living animals. He, perhaps, is a
rash man who ventures to question any assertion supported
by names like these. But it is the duty of every lover of
scientific truth to point out errors wherever he may find them,
no matter how shielded by authority or intrenched by public
opinion ; and I propose, therefore, to make use of this pro-
fessional manifesto as an illustration of the fallibility of even
the highest scientific expert testimony. I think it can be
proven that although this declaration rests on such high au-
thority, it is nevertheless permeated with mis-statement and
error; that certain assertions have been made without due
authority, and eertain facts of pith and moment most singu-

io Does Science Need Secrecy ?

larly omitted, or most carelessly overlooked. And if full
reliance cannot be given to assertions made by men of the
highest fame, then the whole question is as far as ever from
permanent settlement.

I. In the first place Professor Porter does not well when
he denies (as he seems to do) that the practice of experi-
mentation upon living animals has ever led to abuse.
"The cruelties practiced by vivisectors are paraded in long
lists, with the assurance that they are taken directly from
the published writings of the vivisectors themselves." Well,
is this assurance untrue ? " These long-drawn lists of
atrocities that never existed" — can these be the words of a
devotee of scientific truth ? What does Professor Porter
mean by them ? What other meaning is possible for the
average reader to obtain than that he intended to deny that
atrocious experiments were anything but a myth ? " Never
existed ? " Why, both in Europe and America, but especially
abroad, I have personally seen most awful cruelty inflicted
upon living animals, simply for the purpose of illustrating
well-known facts or theories that had not the faintest con-
ceivable relation to the treatment and cure of disease. No
facts of history are capable of more certain verification than
the tortures which have marked the vivisections of Magen-
die and Bernard, of Bert and Mantagazza, and of a host of
their imitators. " It is not to be doubted that inhumanity
may be found in persons of very high position as physiol-
ogists ; we have seen that it was so in Magendie." This is
the language of the report on vivisection by a royal commis-
sion, to which is attached the name of Professor Thomas H.
Huxley. Says Dr. Eliotson, in his work on Human Phy-
siology (p. 448), " I cannot refrain from expressing my
horror at the amount of torture which Dr. Brachet inflicted.
I hardly think knowledge is worth having at such a purchase."
But take American testimony on this point. Dr. Henry J.
Bigelow, for many years the professor of surgery in Harvard
Medical School, of whom Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes has
said, that he was "one of the tirst, if not the first, of Amer-
ican surgeons," gave the annual address before the Massa-

Does Science Need Secrecy f 1 1

chusetts Medical Society a few years ago. Therein he called
attention to the "dreadful sufferings of dumb animals, the
cold-blooded cruelties now more and more practiced under the
authority of science ! . . . Watch the students at a
vivisection. It is the blood and suffering, not the science
that rivets their breathless attention. . . . It is dread-
ful to think how many poor animals will be subjected to ex-
cruciating agony as one medical college after another be-
comes penetrated with the idea that vivisection is a part of
modern teaching ; that to hold way with other institutions
they, too, must have their vivisector, their mutilated dogs,
their chamber of horrors and torture to advertise as a labora-
tory." Does anyone imagine that Dr. Bigelow here refers to
" atrocities that never existed ? "

The American Academy of Medicine includes within
its membership men who are as well informed as any in the
medical profession. At the sixteenth annual meeting, held
in Washington four years ago, Dr. Theophilus Parvin, one
of the professors in Jefferson Medical College of Phila-
delphia, gave the Presidential address. Speaking of physi-
ologists, he says that there ars some " who seem, seeking
useless knowledge, to be blind to the writhing agony and deaf
to the cry of pain of their victims, and who have been
guilty of the most damnable cruelties without the denunci-
ation by the public that their wickedness deserves and de-
mands ; these criminals are not confined to Germany or
France, but may be found in our own country." Is this the
statement of an "agitator?" President Parvin graduated
as a physician some years before Dr. Porter was born,
and I fancy that he knows of what he speaks. And that
physiological experimenter who, defending the utility of
vivisection, forgets or denies the existence of atrocity, may
be on dangerous ground. Cases have been known where
merciless occupation has induced an atrophy of the sense of
pity ; and its first symptom is unconsciousness of cruelty,
and blindness to abuse.

II. But quite as strange as any assertion in this
" plain statement of the whole truth " is the implied, sugges-

1 2 Does Science Need Secrecy ?

tion that abuse is impossible because everything is so openly
done ! "These loud outcries to put an end to the frightful
scenes daily enacted within the open doors of the most
enlightened institutions of learning," — surely there is a
false impression conveyed by these words which their writer
should hasten to correct. " Within the open doors! " To
whom are the doors of the physiological laboratories open ?
Why, no feudal castle of the middle ages was ever more
rigidly guarded against the entrance of an enemy than physio-
logical laboratories are secured against the admission of un-
welcome visitors. To some of the largest laboratories in the
United States, no physician even, can gain entrance unless
personally known. If the Bishop of Massachusetts and
the editor of any leading newspaper in the city were to
apply for admittance at Professor Porter's laboratory during
a vivisection, would the doors swing open as to welcome
guests ? Would they be invited to come again and as often
as desired, without previous notification? I commend the
experiment. Of course a certain degree of this seclusion
is necessary and wise. That which I criticise is the implied
denial that any secrecy exists and this reference to " open
doors." And if doubt still lingers in the minds of any who
read, a conclusive experiment will not be difficult to make.
Let him but knock at these "open doors" when vivisection
is going on.

III. We are informed, too, by these scientific author-
ities that by so simple a method as "a scratch on the tail
of an etherized mouse" and subsequent treatment, "the
priceless discovery was made which has at length banished
tetanus from the list of incurable disorders." That is an
unscientific statement simply because it is untrue. Tetanus,
or lockjaw, was never in "the list of incurable disorders "
— if uniform fatality is meant; and it certainly has not
been taken out of the list by any " priceless discovery "
whatever. Consult Aikin, Wood, Fagge, Gross — consult
any medical authority whatever of ten years ago — and you
find the recoveries from tetanus averaged at that time from
ten to fifty-eight per cent, of those who were attacked.

Does Science Need Secrecy ? 1 3

Now, what mighty change has been wrought by the " price-
less discovery ? " Well, I take up the London Lancet of
Aug. 10, 1895, and I find an English physician tracing "all
procurable published and unpublished cases of tetanus
treated by anti-toxine," and they number just thirty-eight,
of which twenty-five were recoveries and thirteen were
deaths. I take up the New York Medical Record for Aug.
24, 1895, and I find a correspondent stating that he "can
discover in the recent medical literature but six or seven
cases in all where anti-toxine or tetanine has been used
successfully, and they were all by foreigners." To call
that a "priceless discovery," which is not in general use
today, which in four years has made no better record than
this, and with which the report of hardly a single cure can
be found in American medical annals within the last five
years, — is that a scientific statement ? Is it worthy of the
reputation of men who allowed it to go forth to the world
backed by the eminence of their names ?

IV. "It is asserted," says Professor Porter, "that
living animals, without narcotics, helpless under the control
of poisons which, it is alleged, destroy the power to move
while increasing the power to suffer, are subjected to long,
agonizing operations, in the hope of securing some new
fact, interesting to the scientific mind, but without practical
value." This is one of the most curious and ingenious
sentences I have ever read. Its inaccuracy depends on only
two words, " without narcotics." No critic of vivisection
ever made use of those words in any such statement ; and
I respectfully challenge Professor Porter for reference or
quotation. It cannot be given.

But, if instead of the words "without narcotics,"
Professor Porter had written " without anaesthetics," then
he would have made a precise, accurate and true statement
of what undoubtedly has been charged. Could any reader
imagine that such a charge was true, and that it might
exactly apply to some operations carried on in the labora-
tories of Harvard Medical School ? " Helpless under the
control of poisons which destroy the power to move, while

14 Does Science Need Secrecy ?

increasing the power to suffer," writes the physiologist, in
seeming amazement at the mendacity that could coin such a
wicked lie ! Yet that statement is entirely true. The name
of that poison is curari or woorara ; the orthography is by
no means fixed. " Woorari," says Dr. Ott (who has per-
sonally made use of it in the physiological laboratory at
Harvard Medics! School), "is able to render animals im-
movable ... by a paralysis of the motor nerves,
leaving sensory nerves intact." The properties of this singular
poison have been carefully investigated by Claude Bernard,
whose work on experimental science may be seen at the
Boston Public Library. "Le Curare," he says, " detruit le
mouvement, en laissant persister la sensibilite " (p. 298) ;
" Curare destroys the power of movement, although sensi-
bility persists." Under the influence of this agent the ani-
mals upon which the physiologist may be working are
" exactly as if solidly fixed to the table, are in truth
chained for hours" (p. 310). Does it know what is going
on ? " When a mammal is poisoned by curari, its intelli-
gence, sensibility or will power are not affected, but they
lose the power of moving " (p. 296). Do they suffer ? Is
it true, this statement which Professor Porter tells us is
"asserted," but which he does not — except by inuendo —
deny, that animals are "helpless under control of poisons
which destroy the power to move, while increasing the
power to suffer ? " Well, Claude Bernard was one of the
greatest physiologists of this century, and he shall tell us.
Death by curare, he says, although it seems " si calme, et si
exempte de douleur, est au contraire, accompagnee des
souffrances, les plus atroces que l'imagination de l'homme
puisse concevoir," — sufferings the most atrocious that the
imagination of man can conceive ! " In that corpse with-
out movement and with every appearance of death, sensi-
bility and intelligence exist without change. The cadaver
that one has before him hears attd comprehends what goes on
about him, and feels whatever painful impressions we may
inflict." (p. 291) Is an animal ever " curarized" in the
Harvard Medical School ? We shall presently see.

Does Science Need Secrecy ? 1 5

V. Throughout the entire manifesto the word " nar-
cotics " is constantly used apparently as a synonym for
" anaesthetics ; " we read for instance of " a rabbit narco-
tized with chloral," a " narcotized dog," etc., but not once of
an "anaesthetized " animal. Let us see exactly what these
terms indicate.

In the physiological laboratory five different substances
are largely employed for producing certain effects in ani-
mals used for experiment. Of curare I have just spoken.
Chloroform and ether are known as "anaesthetics;" that
is, agents which, pushed sufficiently far, produce a degree of
the most absolute insensibility to pain. But the trouble
with these anaesthetics in the laboratory is their liability to
cause the sudden death of the animal experimented upon ;
and this is often most annoying and inconvenient. The
temptation therefore is great to substitute for these anaes-
thetics certain " narcotics " which create a degree of torpor,
though they do not prevent pain. Opium (or morphia) and
chloral are the agents thus used. An animal treated with
either may be said to be " narcotized." But is the creature
thus narcotized, sensitive to the pain of cutting, for ex-
ample? Take opium. Claude Bernard, the great French

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