By J. Compton Burnett, M.D., London.
A kind friend sends me the Medical Advance December, 1893, and on page 193 begins a paper on “Tuberculinum,” by Dr. H.P.Holmes, of Omaha. I have read this paper, which breaks no new ground, and I feel rather disappointed to find all its infomation secured in third hand, excepting always Dr. Holmes’s own experience with the remedy, Bacillinum.
The only point I take up is where Dr. Holmes charges me with altering Dr. Swan’s name, Tubercullinum, into Bacillinum. I should like to state that I have done nothing of the sort. I do not know who first used the word Tuberculinum, and I was not a ware how Swan got his preparatin; Dr. Holmes tells us in the article I am referring to. Does Dr. Holmes know this of his own knowledge? I doubt it. When I was casting about for a more reliable preparation than what was prescribed here in of Dr. Heath, of Dr. Skinner, of Dr, Berridge, and others, and could only ascertain that it was “creamy pus,” “rich creamy pus.” “phthisical sputum,” “the expectoration of a consumptive.” It was at this stage that Dr. Heath and I had many long talks about not only the preparation I have called Bacillinum but also of many others of like animal origin, and Dr. Heath finally said; “What is it you want?” I said: “I want the thing itself.” Now the thing itself is Bacillinum, as already well known the world over.
Dr. Holmes objects to the name Bacillinum because “it is unfair to Swan,” and because “it is scientifically incorrect as far as a specific name is concerned.”
As to the unfairness to poor Swan-now gone home- the thing is absurd; Swan used “rich creamy pus” from a consumptive against consumption and called it Tuberculinum. I used a certain post mortemspecimen on the same lines, and much prefer it as certainly more efficacious and deeper-going. I call my remedy Bacillinum. How is anyone robbed of anything, or any person’s name either honored or dishonored? I stated what the thing is and who obtained it and prepared it, and I ventured to baptize it Bacillinum, and specially requested Dr. Heath to supply Messrs. Boericke & Tafel with the identical remedy Dear Dr. Holmes, wht name do you want?
As to the word Bacillinum being “scientifically incorrect,” I fancy my critic is just a we bit befogged here. It is, to say the least quite as good as Dr. Swan’s Tuberculinum. Because a potato is a tuber, and tubercle is a little tuber, we do not necessarily say that tubercles are little potatoes. Every word has a history in fact of its own, and that name of a thing is the best which is most definite and least liable to lead to error. Dr. Holmes’s paper appears in the Medical Advance; this is a Monthly journal, or a “daily” appearing every “month.”
Finally, let me apply a practical test: I want to send a prescription to the chemists (I never dispense myself), and I am desirous of using what I call Bacillinum, and, as Dr. Holmes says it should be called Tuberculinum, I write: B Tuberculinum, and so on. Well, what will happen? Here in London my patient would get Koch’s remedy at one shop; at another, the old sputal Tuberculinum (Swan’s), and at another “the thing itself” (Heath’s). Thus we see that some means of differentiating the various preparations must be found.
Dr. Holmes says that Bacillinum “is sold under the name” Bacillinum heathii; that will be news to Dr. Heath, as it is to me.
In the new (third) edition of my “New cure of Consumption,” now just going to press, I collect a goodly amount of evidence, published by various medical men in different parts of the world, as to the clinical value of Bacillinum, and those who read that, including Dr. Holmes, will, I think, agree that a remedy that has done even so much deserves a distinctive name, so that the remedy may not be confounded with any other. How anything I have done can in any sense be strained to mean the appropriation of the honor which belongs to another or “to detract from Dr. Swan’s work the merit which is due him” I cannot understand. Of the various preparations of tubercular products, which has the best record? That is the point, and the palm must, I think, be given to Bacillinum.