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January 4, 1919


Author Affiliations


From the George Williams Hooper Foundation for Medical Research, University of California Medical School.

JAMA. 1919;72(1):8-13. doi:10.1001/jama.1919.02610010014002

The cave man of the glacial period and the savage of today would doubtless agree that practically all disease is due to the malevolence of evil spirits. That idea constituted the first system of medicine. The next one appeared with the dawn of civilization, when men awoke to the possibility that some diseases might arise from spontaneous derangements of the bodily functions, particularly those concerned in excretion. They reasoned that if feces are foul, then the body must be in the best condition when freest from such material. This idea, which is based on what appears to be an obvious truism, has always been an attractive one, particularly to the lay mind. The ancient Egyptians purged themselves at certain times in the moon's cycle, just as many people now take calomel in the spring. For thousands of years, physicians have been in the habit of purging their patients when they