Electro-Physiology and Electro-Therapeutics: Showing the Rules and Methods for the Employment of Galvanism in Nervous Diseases, Etc. Second Edition

with Additions. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1861.
AT a time when the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile of the medical world is pretty thoroughly breached, if not thrown down, and quackery and imposture are tolerated as necessary evils, it is agreeable to meet with a real work of science, emanating from the labors of a regular physician, concerning the influences exerted by electricity on the human body, both in health and disease.
Electricity is one of the great powers of Nature, pervading all matter, existing in all mineral, vegetable, and animal bodies, not only acting in the combinations of the elements and molecules, but also serving as a means for their separation from each other. This imponderable fluid or power, whatever it may be, whether one or two, or a polarization of one force into the states + and —, is one of the most active agencies known to man, and although not capable of being weighed in the balance, is not found wanting anywhere in Nature. It courses in great currents beneath our feet, in the solid rocks of the earth, penetrating to the very interior of the globe, while it also rushes through our atmosphere in lurid flashes, and startles us with the crash and roar of heaven’s artillery. It gives magnetic polarity to the earth, and directs the needle by its influence; for magnetic attraction is only an effect of the earth’s thermo-electricity, excited by the sun’s rays acting in a continuous course. Both animal and vegetable life are dependent on electric forces for their development; and many of their functions, directly or indirectly, result from their agency.
If this force controls to a great degree the living functions of our organs in their healthy action, it must be that it is concerned in those derangements and lesions which constitute disease and abnormal actions or disorders. It must have a remedial and the opposite effect, according as it is applied.
Is such a gigantic power to be left in the hands of charlatans, or shall it he reserved for application by scientific physicians ? This is a question we must meet and answer practically.
It may he asked why a force of this nature has been so long neglected by practising physicians. The answer is very simple, and will be recognized as true by all middle-aged physicians in this country.
For the past fifty years it has been customary to state in lectures in our medical colleges, that “ chemistry has nothing to do with medicine ” ; and since our teachers knew nothing of the subject themselves, they denounced such knowledge as unnecessary to the physician. Electricity, the great moving power in all chemical actions, shared the fate of chemistry in general, and met with condemnation without trial. A young physician did not dare to meddle with chemicals or with any branch of natural or experimental science, for fear of losing his chance of medical employment by sinking the doctor among his gallipots.
Electricity, thus neglected, fell into the hands of irregular practitioners, and was as often used injuriously as beneficially, and more frequently without any effect. The absurd pretensions of galvanic baths for the extraction of mercury from the system will be remembered by most of our citizens, and the shocking practice of others is not forgotten.
It was therefore earnestly desired by medical practitioners who themselves were not by education competent to manage electric and galvanic machinery, that some medical man of good standing, who had made a special study of this subject, should undertake the treatment of diseases requiring the use of electricity. Dr. Garratt was induced to undertake this important duty, and he has prepared a work on this practice which embraces all that has appeared in the writings of others, both in this country and Europe, while be has, from his own researches and rich experience, added much new matter of great practical value. Among his original contributions we note,—
1st. A definite, systematic method for the application of Galvanic and Faradaic currents of electricity to the human organism, for curing or aiding in the cure of given classes of diseases. (See pages 475, 479, and 669 to 706 ; also Chap. 5, p. 280,)
2d. Improvements in the methods of applying electricity, as stated on pages 293 to 296, and 300, 329, and 332, which we have not room to copy.
3d. He has introduced the term Faradaic current to represent the induced current, first discovered by Professor Henry, and so much extended in application by Faraday.
4th. The determination of several definite points in sentient and mixed nerves, often the seats of neuralgic pain,— thus correcting Dr. Valleix’s painful points.
5th. The treatment of uterine, and some other female disorders, by means of the induced galvanic current (pages 612 to 621).
A careful examination of this book shows it to contain a very full resiling of the best which have been written on the subjects embraced under the medical applications of electricity in its various modes of development, and a careful analysis of the doctrines of others ; while the author has given frankly an account of cases in which he has failed, as of those in which he has been successful. He does not offer electric treatment as a panacea for “all the ills which flesh is heir to,” but shows how far and in what cases it proves beneficial. He has shown that there is a right and a wrong way of operating, and that mischief may be done by an unskilful band, while one who is well qualified by scientific knowledge and practical experience may do much good, and in many diseases,—more especially in those of the nerves, such as neuralgia and partial paralysis, in which remarkable cures have been effected. We commend this work to the attention of medical gentlemen, and especially to students of medicine who wish to be posted up in the novel methods of treating diseases. It is also a book which all scientific men may consult with advantage, and which will gratify the curiosity of the general scholar.