Radium And Radio-activity

When radium was discovered, though it came so soon after the discovery

of the X-ray and our disappointment with it, the old story of another

pseudo-scientific medical application was told. For a time it looked

as though radium might accomplish all that had been promised for the

X-ray, though that promise had been so lamentably broken. Then,

besides radium, we had brought home to us the whole class of

radio-active substances, and their possibilities. The internal

administration of radio-active liquids was one of the hopes of

therapeutics. We had found it difficult to explain how many of the

mineral waters produced the beneficial action credited to them when

taken at the spring. We knew that artificially made waters of exactly

the same chemical composition, so far as we could determine, did not

have the same effect, nor even the waters themselves when taken at a

distance from the spring.

With the discovery of the radio-active principle there came the

suggestion that possibly the main virtue of mineral waters at the

spring was due to radio-activity. This would not be present in

artificial water and would disappear from the natural water during

shipment. This new idea was alluring, and it captured many. Radium

seemed to be the new panacea. But we are discovering its limitations.

It is of little avail in surgery; it is probably of less avail in

medicine. As yet, however, we cannot say absolutely and must wait

until results are determined. In the mean time many zealous advocates

of the marvelous power of radio-activity to cure are exploiting it,

apparently getting results and certainly making money. In the case of

the mineral waters, also, the most important therapeutic element is

probably the mental influence, which is strongest at the spring

itself, where the suggestion of efficiency is repeated many times a

day, and where the very atmosphere breathes confidence in the results

to be obtained.

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