The newspapers and the popular magazines have done the world in general, and this country in particular, an inestimable service in diffusing the knowledge of the danger from mosquitoes, for which we owe them, indeed, an undying debt of gratitude. But their warnings have gone unheeded; or, at least, very little attention has been given to the menace of this most malignant of insects.
The author has made a truly intimate study of malaria— in fact, he has limited his private practice to that disease and typhoid fever; and he here presents to the reader the HOW and WHY of this world-wide malady.
It is not a matter of surprise that someone long ago has not studied and brought to light the wonderful habits of that extraordinary little creature, the bat, when we consider the unpopularity of such an undertaking; for who would undertake the cultivation of bats, except some individual whose stability of intellect might be questioned?—besides, the hard and expensive nocturnal work, coupled with derision and the accusation of being "batty," would alone suffice to account for the fact that this most valuable creature, who deserves to occupy such a high pedestal in the domain of preventive medicine, was passed up by the bearers of me torches of learning.
The value of the bat as a mosquito destroyer was never doubted nor questioned, as we see men high in scientific circles extolling their wonderful and valuable habits; but to attempt their cultivation was a matter that such men left severely alone. In a three-volume publication by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D. C., entitled "The Mosquitoes of North and Central America and the West Indies" by Howard,* Dyar, & Knab (1912) on page 179 appears the following:—* (Howard, L. O. Chief of the Bureau of Entomology, United States Department of Agriculture.)
BATS AS MOSQUITO DESTROYERS
"Bats are important mosquito-destroying animals. Plying at dusk and after dark and capturing all flying insects upon the wing, they devour large numbers of mosquitoes in times of mosquito prevalence. Mr. C. Few Seiss at a meeting of the Feldman Collecting Social in Philadelphia, June 19th, 1901, stated that he had dissected a specimen of the common brown bat (EPTESICUS FUSCUS) and had found its stomach full of mosquitoes. The suggestion has been made by Mr. A. C. Weeks of Brooklyn that an attempt be made to breed bats artificially on account of their importance as mosquito destroyers, but no one seems to have taken the matter up.
"Greatly impressed with the value of bats as mosquito destroyers Dr. Chas. A. R. Campbell, formerly city bacteriologist of San Antonio, Texas, has erected a novel bat-breeding house six miles south of that city. His idea is that the bats will rapidly become so numerous with this admirably-adapted nesting place as to rid the neighborhood of night-flying mosquitoes; and that, at the same time, the entire expense will be more than paid for by having the structure built in such a manner that the bat guano can be readily collected and taken away.''
The object of this little volume is to impress the reader with the importance of a badly-named disease, malaria, with which he has been familiar since childhood, and which he probably still views in a spirit of levity. It is sought to impress him with the fact that it is his kind, and his kind only, that is responsible for its perpetuation, and that it is a scheme of Nature's to use the red corpuscle of man and the body of one of her lowly insects, the malarial mosquito, to serve as intermediary hosts for the continuance and perpetuation of a still lower form of life. This being true, it is the only human disease that Nature, per se, does not cure, as she never defeats her own schemes.
It would be of little import to inform the reader of the untold suffering and the colossal economic loss caused the world over by malaria, amounting to a hydra, and thus leave him high and dry; hence the author expounds not merely one of Nature's most wonderful creatures, but THE most wonderful of Nature's creatures, who will do battle and prove to be the Hercules that will slay this Hydra of modern times.
But it is not a battle planned by man, to be followed by terrible suffering, loss of human lives, and frightful devastation: it is to be a faunal battle, planned in the long ago by that infallible strategist, Old Dame Nature, and which has been going on for ages; but only now has the Old Lady been coaxed in the right direction and induced to disclose one of the most important of her innumerable secrets. It is truly a battle royal, marshalled not by that highest of earthly things, the human brain, but by the matchless faculties given by Nature; and, instead of the battle being followed by cruel devastation, the fields of combat have been converted into lands of peace and happiness, and the warriors, not in the least diminished in number but flushed with victory, return to their "garrisons" carrying multitudes of their victims, which later are converted into DOLLARS.
The "garrisons" are the homes of the faunal army, and are called by the author "Bat-roosts;" but they might very fittingly be termed "Palladiums." So well does this natural army do its duty, that, if some individual, from whose soul AVARICE has drained the last drop of the milk of human kindness, in quest of more money, should build such a "Garrison," "Palladium," or "Bat-roost," he unconsciously would be converted into a benefactor.
To this book is added a paper on the "FUNCTIONS OP THE SPLEEN," a study made possible in the course of investigations concerning these creatures. Thus we see, at almost every angle, the little flying mammal exhibiting its nobility, and, in this instance, pointing out to us one of Nature's secrets, the disclosure of which, perhaps, will result in untold benefit to mankind.
The introduction of the study on Dragon Flies and the reason therefor are explained in the work itself.
The motive in adding the work on smallpox and bedbugs will be explained in the foreword thereto, written by the eminent American consulting engineer, Dr. J. A. L. Waddell, whom the author has known for many years, and whose wonderful personality he enjoys the honor and privilege of addressing in correspondence as "My esteemed friend."
In truth, it is to Dr. Waddell that this book owes its existence, for it was he who first suggested its preparation; and, had it not been for his persistent urging and kindly stimulation, the MS. would never have been either begun or completed.
Nor does Dr. Waddell's connection with this book end here; because, mainly for friendship's sake but also in the interest of both science and human welfare, he devoted three full weeks of his valuable time to checking the entire original MS. and polishing its diction, as well as to the verification of the re-typed copy. The author appreciates this aid more deeply than he can express; for he feels that his engineer-friend's labor and advice have materially improved the general character of the treatise.
To the medical profession of San Antonio, Texas, as represented by the Bexar County Medical Society, the author wishes to express his heartfelt thanks for their kind encouragement in the beginning of this work, which has taken 24 years to complete, and for their endorsement of it when finished.
To none of his many staunch laymen supporters is the author more indebted than to that prince of gentlemen, Mr. Frank G. Huntress, the General Manager of the San Antonio Express, who years ago foresaw the vast possibilities in the little bat for good to mankind, and gladly lent his services in liberally granting space in his great daily for its exploitation, thus giving the bat-work wide publicity. The author also feels particularly kindly towards many splendid, amiable, and loyal fellow-citizens of his for their encouragement and good words, which so lightened the weight of the burden induced by many disquieting failures, and made success possible.
It is a privilege of the largest moment to write an Introduction to Dr. Charles A. R. Campbell's notable work.
It is many years now, over thirty, since the importance of the subject treated in this book, reached me, as a vague general idea. In an address given before the Canadian Institute of Toronto, in the late 80's, I said, "If you will explain the immunity of the seal and the polar bear from rheumatism, or the freedom of the flamingo and the buffalo from malaria, you are taking the first step toward conferring a like immunity on man." These explanations, I argued, could be made only by slow, persistent, natural-history investigation; and on this fact I founded my claim to the vast ultimate importance of faunal lists as the best methodic approach to natural history, which, at that time, was considered a mere fad of the dilettante.
We have marched on since then. We have learned some of the secrets of malaria; at least its cause, its carriers, and its fearful burden on the human race.
In 1907 I went by land to the Arctic region, where the mosquitoes are more numerous and fierce than in any other country that I have visited. My impressions of those mosquitoes and their terrors, as a scourge to humanity, are thus set forth in my published account.
"After considering the vastness of the region affected—three-quarters of the globe—and the number of diseases that these insects communicate, one is inclined to believe that it might be a greater boon to mankind to extirpate the mosquito, than to stamp out tuberculosis. The latter means death to a considerable portion of our race, the former means hopeless suffering to all mankind; one takes off, each year, its toll of the weaklings, the other spares none; and in the far north, at least, has made a hell on earth of the land that, for six months of each year, might be a human Paradise."
Larger experience and more information incline me, not to modify this statement, but to enlarge and intensify it.
Let us take a map of the globe and blacken those spots where insects have driven man to the wall, robbed him of the joy of life, kept him on the confines, or cursed him with lingering disease. "We are shocked, as we realize visually this ruin of our heritage; for it includes the fairest and most fertile parts of the earth, those blessed above others with a sunny clime; and these insects, in nine cases out of ten, are mosquitoes.
If we had a just appreciation of this condition and its cause, we should have in each town not merely a Health Department, but a Mosquito Department, to marshall all energies in a determined effort to overcome this world-wide curse.
In his chapter on "Dragon Flies—One of Man's Best Friends," Dr. Campbell handles a theme full of present interest and promise for the future. No one can read it without being deeply interested, for the Doctor has indeed opened to us a volume of the fairy tales of science,—fairy tales which have the unusual charm of being possible and true. I personally have not studied these creatures, so that I cannot speak as an authority on the accuracy of his detail, but his broad conclusions are fully demonstrated.
In brief, these facts are outlined for the guidance of future workers. Mosquitoes are a terrible plague, one of the worst afflictions known to mankind. We realize that there must be a remedy, a remedy within the power of mankind to apply successfully. That remedy is in the line of nature's own adjustments; and we are certainly on the way to discover it, if we acquire a complete knowledge of the habits of the mosquitoes and their natural enemies.
Natural history has ever been a delightful and rewarding subject for study; but surely no higher reward has ever been held out than this—the possibility of wiping out the world's mosquito plagues. This surely would rank as one of the highest achievements of beneficent science.
Any advance toward a solution of the mosquito problem should be hailed by humanity; any step toward a full understanding of it is a move toward a solution. And I welcome this contribution by Dr. Charles A. R. Campbell, as one of the most comprehensive, intelligent, and revolutionary examinations of the question ever offered to the public.
ERNEST THOMPSON SETON.