January 1, 1853
Dancel writes "On the publication of the first edition of my treatise upon Obesity, I experienced a degree of impatience, and even irritation, in view of the systematic opposition which a self-evident truth received at the hands of the medical profession. At the present time, however, I calmly recognize that the same happened in the case of every attempted innovation."
Obesity, or, Excessive corpulence : the various causes and the rational means of cure
If free from prejudice, and willing to acknowledge the truth of that which is manifest, the cases we have just cited ought to satisfy any candid enquirer that obesity may be entirely overcome without prejudicially affecting the general health. At first sight, this would appear undeniable; yet medical writers, who have hitherto insisted that a meat diet is conducive to the development of fat, and that vegetables have an opposite tendency, will not frankly acknowledge their error.
Physicians who have derived their knowledge from books, and from the lectures of their teachers, must find it difficult to change their opinions in reference to obesity. With the public, when any one is told that the imbibition of large quantities of water is productive of fat, and that feeding upon animal food induces leanness, a similar degree of doubt is excited as when Galileo asserted that the sun did not revolve around the earth. On the publication of the first edition of my treatise upon Obesity, I experienced a degree of impatience, and even irritation, in view of the systematic opposition which a self-evident truth received at the hands of the medical profession. At the present time, however, I calmly recognize that the same happened in the case of every attempted innovation. I call to mind how Galileo endangered his very existence. Vesalius, the founder of anatomy, was saved from the stake only by the interference of his sovereign. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation, was compelled to seek royal protection from the attacks of the medical men of his day. Peysonnel, a physician of Marseilles, and a great naturalist, devoted himself to the study of corals and madrepores. In 1727, he laid before the Academy of Science a monogram, proving to demonstration that corals and madrepores are structures due to animal life; that what Dioscorides, Pliny, Linnæus, Lamarck, Tournefort, &c. &c. had thought to be flowers, are in truth animals; and that these living creatures constructed and augmented their abodes; the Academy, like most learned bodies, admitted as truth only that which it taught, and consequently paid no attention to this memoir, which, nevertheless, was destined to produce an entire change in a large department of natural history. When, long afterwards, Trembley published his discoveries on fresh-water polypes, the studies of Dr. Peysonnel in this direction were remembered, and naturalists were forced to admit that the physician of Marseilles was right in maintaining that what had been taken for flowers are in reality animals. His claim as the discoverer of a fact which was destined to effect an important revolution in an extensive department of natural history, has since then not been disputed, nor could it be. All men, and men of science especially, require time before yielding to evidence, when that evidence is in opposition to preconceived views, and interferes with personal interest.
The system I have introduced progresses, and, as some might say, works wonders, and effects cures in France, in England, in Belgium, in Austria, in Russia, in Turkey, in Africa; and in almost every instance, my patients are persons occupying prominent positions—magistrates, state authorities, general officers, or men of wealth, who have enjoyed the advantages of a good education, and are able to judge of and appreciate the merits of my mode of treatment. The judgment of such a tribunal should convince the incredulous. This is no matter of faith. I lay claim to the possession of no revelation, which is not to be explained, or which is to rest solely upon my assertion. I do not say that my discovery is a mystery, and that it is your part to believe in it. Under such circumstances, disbelief would not astonish me, notwithstanding all the cases of cure brought forward; but when the nutrition of the body is explained in accordance with the laws of nature, when it is shewn to be in conformity with the well understood laws of chemistry, and that facts are cited, in reference both to man and the lower animals, in support of these phenomena, I confess that opposition to this system excites my astonishment. Physicians cannot by any possibility advance sufficient reasons against a system which, when once explained, must appear self-evident to every one.
Another fact in support of this system must be submitted to my readers. What would a medical man say if I should venture the following piece of advice: You have a horse you wish to dispose of. He is a good beast, and travels well, but he is thin. If he were fatter, he would look better, and you could sell him to greater advantage. Make him fat; and if, in order to do this, I advised him to give his horse a double allowance of oats, he would only laugh at me. He would say; why, everybody knows that if you wish to fatten a horse, the best way is to give him, in addition to an abundance of hay, bran, mixed with plenty of water, or in other words, bran mashes; or the horse may be sent to pasture, to live upon grass, which is composed principally of water and a small proportion of ligneous matter. Under such circumstances, the horse will make fat, and his form will become more round and plump; but if, when he was thin, he was able to travel thirty miles without sweating and without fatigue, now that he is fat he will scarcely be able to go five without being covered with sweat, and without shewing manifest signs of fatigue. When thin, he was a good horse; but being fat, he has lost his best qualities, which can be restored only by feeding him again upon less bulky food, with a due allowance of oats, and a small proportion of water.
I have been informed that the gentleman in charge of the stud of King Charles X. availed himself of the knowledge of this fact, and allowed only half the usual quantity of water to the horses under his charge, and that this plan was attended with the most satisfactory results, the horses being thereby able to endure a greater amount of fatigue than under a full allowance of water.