Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  8 (1884), 438–45.

Richfield Springs

F J Nott, MD


Essay, Travelogue


Medical Treatment, Health, Medical Practitioners, Sanitation, Disease, Pathology, Meteorology, Analytical Chemistry, Hygiene, Physiological Chemistry

    Bemoans the absence in America of 'a proper scientific basis for popular interest' in the remedial influences of natural spring waters (445), which in Continental Europe are 'carefully studied and highly esteemed'. Argues that for this the 'medical profession is greatly to blame. Among our medical schools balneology as a subject of systematic study is entirely neglected. It has no place in the various curricula, and in the text-books is slighted or ridiculed. Hence among physicians as among the laity, in respect to the relative therapeutic merits of our springs, there exists that gross ignorance which accounts for the hap-hazard way in which mineral waters are prescribed by our doctors and taken by their patients'. (438) Describes the 'sanitary watering-place' at Richfield Springs in Otsego County, New York State, which offers waters that, as the analytical chemist Charles F Chandler has shown, contain a high level of 'alkalies [which] are deservedly popular as medicinal agents', and are 'important as natural elements of the body' (442). There is, however, no agreement as to 'the value of these many chemical ingredients in combination', and 'According as one is a sanitarian, a chemist, or a malarialist will he give credit to the hygienic, the solvent, or the antiseptic properties of aqua pura' (441–42). This does not, though, justify the depreciation of balneology by 'that class of egoists who love to parade before the world as apostles of skepticism' (442). Also highlights the fact that a 'seasonable change of climate may act both as a prophylactic and a curative remedy' (439), and insists that the 'great classes of catarrhal, pulmonary, and rheumatic disorders' are 'subject to similar meteorological laws' (440).

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