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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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Previous: The X-ray

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