Review of Reviews,  3 (1891), 34–51.

Can Cancer be Cured? A Visit to Count Mattei: His Challenge to the Faculty. With Letters from Prof. Huxley, Prof. Tyndall, Sir Morell Mackenzie, Prof. Ray Lankester, and Others



Editorial, Polemic / Biography, Travelogue / Editorial, Polemic, Letter

Relevant illustrations:

photo. [12]


Disease, Medical Treatment, Controversy, Heterodoxy, Boundary Formation, Professionalization, Miracle, Medical Practitioners, Quackery, Discovery, Homeopathy, Electricity, Vitalism, Pharmaceuticals, Experiment, Observation, Scientific Practitioners

People mentioned:

Walburga E H Paget , Frederick St G de L B Tucker , Catherine Booth , Christian F S Hahnemann , Herbert L Snow , Samuel Kennedy

    Polemical defence of 'the "new medical science"' (39) by which Cesare Mattei claims to cure cancer and other chronic ailments. It is a subject that relates closely 'to the vexed question of the credibility of miracles' for, although 'it is no miracle in the supernatural sense', to 'cure a deep-seated virulent cancer is an exploit which is almost as marvellous and unprecedented as the making the blind to see' (35). The medical establishment, however, refuse to acknowledge the testimony of even the most prestigious patients with regard to the efficacy of Mattei's cures, and continue 'hissing "quack" at him from behind their diplomas'. Most patients would nevertheless 'rather be cured of cancer by a quack than left to die according to the rules of and regulations of the College of Physicians'. (37) William T Stead's visit to Italy reveals that the secret cure is made up of certain mountain herbs that are supplemented with a 'mysterious [...] electrical principle' which, according to Mattei, is 'the vital principle of the universe, and, as far as I could make out, is cousin-german to the astral fluid of the occultists, or the strange etheric force of Keely' (39). He then claims that the numerous 'facts [...] which seem to be indisputable' presented in the article 'demand from the medical profession more respectful treatment than [...] hitherto received'. Indeed, 'It will not do for men to come from the uttermost parts of the earth to investigate the secret remedy of Dr. Koch, a remedy which so far seems to have caused more deaths than cures, to rule the Mattei remedies out of court because they are secret. They may be secret but at least they are not deadly'. (48) Letters received from John Tyndall and Thomas H Huxley suggest respectively that the efficacy of the remedies must be tested either in the 'scientific journals of the world' (49), or by testing the condition over a period of time of 'at least fifty cases of cancer (if possible more) [...] under the same general conditions' in a single cancer hospital (50). In a further letter Morell Mackenzie volunteers his services to such an 'experimental committee' to establish the truth of Mattei's claims (51).

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