The Secret of Longevity

October 1 1907

The Secret of Longevity

October 1 1907

The Secret of Longevity

TO make a machine last long and not wear out prematurely it is essential to keep it in running order. So, with the human body, the first step toward keeping old age away is to keep the human organism running smoothly. Of course this means to avoid all diseases.

Ever since the time of Pasteur it has been thoroughly understood that germs are at the bottom of the majority of all diseases. Germs are continually breaking into the confines of the body from all directions, and if let alone they multiply and soon bring about death.

It has also been well known for many years that the white corpuscles of the blood have, as their main business, the devouring and consequent elimination from the blood of all kinds of harmful germs. These white corpuscles or leucrocytes are one sort of policemen of the body. From top to toe they wander along, pushed by the blood stream through the arteries, veins and capillaries.

If there are enough of them and they do their work under ordinary conditions the body has no chance of infection from any source whatever.

Yet these little corpuscles show the strangest whimsical behavior. Some-

times a very few of them would perform marvels in the field of the microscope and before the eye of the observer throw their jellylike folds about the germs and devour prodigious numbers.

And yet with another experiment with similar germs and corpuscles taken from the blood of the same person we will find an entirely different thing will happen. Instead of eating the germs they will lie side by side like the lion and the lamb of old, neither apparently taking the slightest interest in each other.

No stimulants of any kind make the slightest difference, nor would starvation make the corpuscles hungry when once they have shown a disinclination to eat the microbes.

Years and years of experimentation revealed no cause unless a mere whim of these little policemen. Yet it was well understood that if this whim could be overridden every person could be made absolutely immune to any germ disease in the world.

Professor A. E. Wright, of Lonlon, with the infinite patience of a biologist, taking up the study at this point where all others had left it, after countless trials of one thing and another, learned the secret. Germs, big

or small, malignant or otherwise—it makes no difference—they are of no interest to the white corpuscles unless they at first come in contact with blood either of a human being or of some other animal. You can take germs, dip them in a solution of the blood fluid and then wash them ever so clean and yet when placed alongside of white corpuscles also washed clean, they will readily be gobbled by the corpuscles.

This being known, Dr. Wright went to work to discover what this strange substance in the blood was, and, after further experimentation, he has at last discovered that it is something given off by the cells of the body. Whatever it is, he calls it “opsonins,” from the Greek word “Opsono,” which means “I prepare the meal.”

When the cells of the body give off a lot of this matter it collects about the germs wherever they loiter and forms some sort of a covering to them. This covering in itself does not seem to hurt the germs, for they go along breaking down tissue and giving off poisons and making us sick just as busily as if nothing had happened. But when the first white corpuscle making its rounds stumbles upon this intruder the covering of opsonins comes into play. Instead of passing it by the policeman reaches out its soft arms of protoplasm and hugs the germs to his jellylike bosom.

Under the microscope the germ can be seen writhing and trying to twist its way out, but by a process of digestion the corpuscle eventually kills the germ and eats it.

Sometimes a corpuscle will be tempted into devouring more than one germ at a time when the germs are very plentiful, and he may be said to bite off more than he can chew.

In this case instead of his killing the germs the germs kill him and another white corpuscle comes up and takes his place, and so the battle goes on.

If the germs are too numerous for the corpuscles, or the corpuscles have not a great enough appetite, the body loses the battle, the germs multiply, the person grows sicker and sicker, and finally gives up the war in death.

Sometimes the cells of the body give off more of this valuable little opsonins than at other times and at such periods the blood is richer in them. The corpuscles, when the blood is rich in opsonins, go eagerly and greedily about the body with a ravenous appetite for germs. Woe betide the microbian intruder at such a time if he is thoroughly coated with opsonins, which simply make him delicious to the palate of the little white corpuscle.

This much is all very interesting to science, but so far of no practical value to humanity, so Dr. Wright said nothing, but kept on with his study. The one step left was to find how to increase at will the variable habit of the cells to give up opsonins. He found at last that the cells gave off the opsonins very rapidly when there were a large number of germs in the body and that when the number of germs decreased they tended to decrease the output of opsonins. So by injecting germs into the human being he could increase the amount of opsonins in the blood. But, of course, this would not do, as his object was to get rid of the germs and not fill the body up with them.

Then he tried injecting dead germs and, to his delight, perceived that they worked just as well.

By giving slowly increasing doses of dead germs the cells of the body in alarm, fearing there was an enormous influx of germs, gave off opsonins freely, yet the germs did not multiply because they were dead. The extra supply of opsonins covered the dead germs, which were immediately swallowed by the little white corpuscles, but the surplus opsonins floating around attached themselves to the germs which were already in the body, and as the white corpuscles finally ate the small amount of dead germs artificially injected there was nothing left to satisfy their appetite but the live germs, which,, nicely coated with opsonins, were promptly eaten up, thereby putting an end to a disease which might have been chronic for years and might otherwise never have been cured.

There was yet another very im-

portant question to be decided. Is there only one kind of opsonins or are there many kinds? If only one kind, then dead germs injected into the body at proper intervals and in proper quantities would increase the activity of the body cells in giving off opsonins and cause the elimination of harmful germs which might happen to be lurking there before the treatment.

Experiments prove conclusively that there is more than one sort of opsonins —in fact, it seems probable that there is an opsonin for almost every kind of germ. It has not been demonstrated, however, but that certain groups of germs which have a similarity of some sort may all be affected by the same opsonins, although perhaps some are not as strongly coated by the same opsonins as others in the group.

It is evident that the body cells of a given person may be very generous in supplying the blood with the opsonins which coat the typhoid fever germ and yet be very stingy in the output of the scarlet fever microbe. From this set of facts Dr. Wright concluded that theoretically a man who is suffering from a chronic ailment would have cells which give off a very meagre allowance of opsonins which make a specialty of coating the germs of his pet malady. A comparatively short and rapid investigation proved this to be the case, and from this has been determined the opsonin method of curing disease. If a patient suffers from boils or chronic catarrh or anything else, Dr. Wright and those who, as Dr. Webb, of Colorado Springs, have taken up his methods in America, first make a culture of the specific bacterium which is directly responsible for the trouble.

When this, germ has been bred and made to multiply in the culture tubes of the laboratory until there are plenty of them they are killed and injected in small quantities at regular intervals into the blood of the patient.

The cells of the body thereupon proceed to increase the supply of only the special sort of opsonins which fastens itself upon this particular kind of germ. The supply of other opsonins in the body remain as before.

What is the result?

Wherever the original live germs of this malady are lying in the body the opsonins collect. Then the white corpuscles come along and clear the last one of them out of the system.

There is no waste of energy caused by the production of an oversupply of other sorts of opsonins which are not needed and which, in the present state of knowledge on the subject, may, for all science knows, be a detriment if they have no germs to fasten upon.

The opsonin method has been tried on a great variety of diseases with marvellous success. Local tuberculosis of the face, hands or elsewhere yields readily to the treatment, but phthisis, or consumption of the lungs, seem to be an exception. But an increase of knowledge of the subject may soon bring that dread disease within the fold. Strangly enough, in consumption, the quantity of opsonins which attack the tubercular germ seems to be very high and to increase this kind of opsonins is of no benefit, and, in fact, causes fever and other system disturbances.



The average length of human life has been materially lengthened within the last century, as is taught in the school rooms, but this achievement has been made by reducing the death rate among babies and young children. The average grown-up person of to-day probably does not live much longer than the well-to-do Roman or Greek of ancient times.

The renowned Professor Metchnikoff, who periodically unearths some astonishing facts about the human body, has lately discovered that a main cause of old age is a sort of tragedy among the cells of the body. He finds that the brain cells, as well as all bones and muscles and the cells of the vital organs, such as the liver and kidneys, are killed and eaten from middle-age on by another class of cells in the body and that the result of it is old age and death.

Spurred by this news and by the

general interest among scientific men on the subject of possibility of curing or, at least, putting off old age, Dr. T. C. Janeway, of New York City, wrote to Mrs. Russell Sage and besought her to give a fund for the study of old age ills.

Mrs. Sage responded with a gift of $300,000 to found and maintain the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology as an adjunct to the New York City Hospital.

The chief purpose of this endowment is to follow out Dr. Janeway’s suggestion.

Professor Metchnikoff, in investigating the decreptitude and miseries of old age, was struck by the phenomenon of gray hair. His researches among the tough cells of the human hair gave him the clue to his marvelous old age discovery.

The blood and lymph and other fluids of the body are policed by the leucocytes or white blood corpuscles, which under certain circumstances, with the aid of opsonins, devour the germs and foreign materials, waste and other broken down matter.

There are also scavengers of another form in the body caleld “macrophages.” These are large colorless cells which are like the leucocytes, but their field of action is more limited. They move about, sometimes to a considerable distance ; at other times they live and die in practically the same spot.

Like the white corpuscles, they attack germs and eat them, and also, with a seeming heroism, help themselves to poisonous things, even to their own destruction, thus saving the system from general contamination. During youth and early middle-age the leucocytes and the phagocytes both work together, protecting and helping the body, but some time during middle-age, in some persons earlier and in others later, the phagcoytes, or big police cells, become dissatisfied with their lot and turn traitors. Instead of spending their time and, when necessary, giving up their lives to protect the body and warning off germs from the nerve, skin and organ

cells, they actually turn about and attack these cells.

The cells of the nerves and brain and all other vital organs have no defense against the macrophages, and although there are millions of them they succumb before the onslaughts of the big colorless cells who once protected them so well.

As here and there throughout middle ages these brain cells are killed and eaten, the brain shrinks in size, the memory becomes poor, thought becomes sluggish and at last when old age has gone to its limit what is known as senile dementia reveals a complete breaking down of the brain. At the same time the muscles all over the body are shrinking and hardening, the kidneys and liver are less and less able to perform their duties, the reduced number of cells in the eyes make them unfit for their work, and in every direction you see decay and retrogression.

In the cells of the hair the macrophages find the easiest victim in the cells that contain the pigment of color which distinguishes one head of hair from another. They devour these pigment cells one by one and the hair loses its color, becomes gray and finally almost white.

Luckily for the human being the white corpuscles of the blood still remain faithful and go on with their work as well as they can, but it’s a losing fight and in the end they perish when the rest of the body does.

Looking further Professor Metchnikoff is trying to discover the reason for this treacherousness in the body itself. If up to forty odd years of age the macrophages behave admirably and from that point on become traitors and parasites there must be some reason for the phenomenon.

The cause, the great scientist believes, lies in the production of irritant poisons in the system which torment and demoralize the cells into the entire change of habit.

To prevent the tragedy of the phagocytes and to win them back to loyalty it will be necessary to discover what the poisons are and to eliminate them. Professor Metch-

nikoff believes that he has solved part of this problem. Some germs are not hostile to the interests of the body, others are often friendly and work in unison with it. >

Such a germ is the microbe which causes a souring of milk and incidentally makes life very unpleasant for many kinds of poisonous germs which abound in the intestinal tract. By drinking plenty of sour milk Professor Metchnikoff believes that will help out the overworked macrophages in the intestinal tract and at the same time gradually reduce the quantity of irritant poisons which these hostile germs give off. As long as the macrophages are not overworked or driven to desperation by irritant poisons he considers that they will stay faithful and he has an impressive mass of evidence to prove that this is so.

If the macrophages can be kept to their duty indefinitely then old age would not come on us until the hardening of the arteries or some other actual wearing out of a vital part should occur. Science is already at work attacking this stronghold of old age also. There are machines now made in which a patient can receive as many as a million shocks of electricity going in alternating directions in one minute.

The enormous frequency of this alternation makes it possible to give a high current without painful sensation, and yet with a tremendous effect upon the arteries of the body. The thick lining which makes the arteries hard and brittle seems to be shaken loose by the electric current and is carried away and taken care of by the means of elimination.

An old man with hard arteries and the consequent dangerously high blood pressure, after fifteen minutes of this alternating current finds his pressure reduced to what it was perhaps fifteen or twenty years before.

Mrs. Sage and Dr. Janeway, both with the aid of the $300,000 endowment and perhaps, other funds to come, agreed to have all the scientists who are interested in this problem work in unison, perhaps under the same roof, so that one genius will

throw light on another’s work, instead of laboring all alone, each in a different part of the world as at present.


The universal dread of old age has inspired the most astonishing and ingenious attempts among unscientific and semi-scientific people to dodge it.

Prof. Herbert H. Hart, an Englishman, believes he has found the fountain of youth. He is seventy-three years old, and his hair and beard are white, but these are the only signs of age upon him.

He has the frame and muscles of an athlete, and his skin is clear and unwrinkled.

There are no signs of the shrinkage and wasting of old age ; no shuffling walk, sunken eye or quavering voice. If his hair and beard were dyed he would pass for a man of fifty.

If his body were found to-day in a railroad accident with the head missing, it would be set down by the police as belonging to a man of thirty-five years of age.

Yet Professor Hart was once dying of a wasting disease. He had lived, like the rest of us, on whatever the baker gives us in the way of bread and the restaurant sees fit to serve.

He was fifty years old. The doctors, having nothing better to suggest, advised travel. A few months of wandering brought him to Judea, where a sprained ankle made him dependent for several days upon the hospitality of a Jewish woman.

At first he was afraid he would starve to death before he could move on. The woman ate nothing but wheat cakes made from flour ground in a little hand-mill which had not been improved since the time of Methuselah. On these cakes Professor Hart lived a week, and, instead of dying he found himself stronger than he had been in many months.

He had learned his lesson, and has lived on similar food ever since.

He believes that bread made of ordinary flour is almost wholly starch and of little nutritive value. The civilized world, he thinks, is suffering from lack of nutrition, though the

white man of to-day eats more than ever before. Professor Hart says :

“Half-nourished brains cannot do sound thinking. All will agree with me thus far. When nature is denied a sufficiency of proper and pure material to nourish the entire man, she always looks after the lower propensities first. Hence, crime and pauperism are as directly traceable to improper or inadequate nourishment as light is to the sun.

A well-nourished brain is a good brain and thinks good thoughts instinctively. It is not tempted to do serious wrong, because doing right is never a wicked pleasure. The really happy man must be healthy. It has taken me fifty years to learn this lesson, but I have learned it well.

We are degenerating as a nation because we are a generation of starcheaters. Starch contains no proteid element, makes good fat, but feeds no brain substance, nourishes no nerve tissue. To live on it is to be a human counterpart of a skimmed-milk calf— a weazened-faced, flabby-fleshed neurotic, with neither stamina nor selfreliance. The outcome of the RussoJapenese war hinges, not on a dynasty, but on diet. And if the Anglo-Saxon race goes on for another century living on starch foods it will end in gradual extinction, as did the North American Indian.

Students of ethnology are already discussing the probabilities of the yellow races supplanting the white. See what the Japanese have done in a single generation. At the same gait, two generations more will wipe out the Aryan race, and the little yellow men, who can flourish in any climate from the tropics to the polar regions, simply because they live more naturally, will dominate the world.

This process of race decay is a much more serious menace to the future of our country than the question agitating President Roosevelt—that of ‘race suicide.’

You cannot do any sane, consecutive thinking that is worth recording while you live on starch and Beef Trust steak, strong coffee and chicken salads. The usual restaurant diet

gives you muscles that are always tired and nerves that are always on edge or in a state of fashionable ‘prostration,’ and gray matter that is no better than so much white paste.

Society is living in a spasm of intellectual exaltation, a kind of mild brain inflammation, the result of stimulants—coffee, tobacco, beer, or something stronger, and does not in the least understand how to nourish its gray matter. And it dies before it ought to, whereas, if properly fed, it would be able to stand the wear and tear of its swift life, and maintain full ■ brain power until the century mark be reached.

There was Methuselah, for instance. Note his years. He lived in the very way I recommend to you to-day. His meals were prepared in the primitive way. The flour for his bread was ground by the little hand mills you now see in Judea, and baked in the primitive ovens. It did not have all the nourishing part of it carefully extracted, leaving only the starch for Methuselah’s consumption. Had this been done we would never have heard of ‘the oldest man.’ Instead, his food was the wheat as nature intended it to be eaten. And the best source of brain, muscle and nerve nourishment is unquestionably wheat.

It was in Palestine that I learned my lesson fifty years ago. Health came back to me on its primitive diet. Traveling still further, I found the Turks living on similar food. There was not a dentist and but few physicians in all Constantinople. People kept their teeth, their hair and their tempers even when living in a perpetual dog-day climate. In passing I may say that, despite mäny bad hygienic habits, the Turks are physically a superior people.

The Koran compels the use of this natural form of food, and as a result the Mohammedans are, despite their many vices, the hardiest race of modern times. They are large men, their muscles are like steel, and they endure beyond belief.

And if you think nature’s simple food will not build up a man, just

look at me. I am going to live forever.”

Physicians, in examining Professor Hart, marvel at the condition of his arteries, which show very little sign of the hardening of old age. Such sclerosis as there is, Professor Hart says, occurred before he discovered the natural diet. From year to year his arteries are growing softer, and not harder, according to his observation.


Dr. W. W. Wiley, United States Chemist-in-Chief, tells how he is making sure of living one hundred years, giving the recipe for longevity :

“One hundred years of life? Why not? I expect to live long enough to fill out a century; and so likewise, I may add, do my fellow members in a club to which I belong. It is called the Hundred Years Club, and its object is the promotion of longevity. Any member who dies young—by which I mean under one hundred years—dies disgraced.

Consider what the Bible teaches. I am not going to refer to Methuselah, who is alleged to have established the longevity record, nor yet to various other gentlemen of the more ancient Scriptural times who survived for several hundred years. Higher criticism has suggested that there must have been some mistake in regard to these instances. So, to avoid treading upon controversial grounds, I will fall back upon the reliable and authentic statement of the Psalmist, who declared that the normal span of human existence was three-score and ten years.

Unfortunately thoughtless and imprudent man, having undertaken to manage his life in accordance with his own ideas, did through many centuries so eat, so drink, and so behave, or misbehave, himself that twenty-five years ago, as shown by vital statistics, he had cut in two the Scriptural limit and reduced the average period of survival to only thirty-five years. In other words, the average human being born into the world did not live beyond thirty-five.

Now, this, when it came to be realized, seemed frightful and even appalling. Well might people say, “Life is short,” when thirty-five years was the average span of it. Intelligent folks asked, “What is to be done?” And, in response, many learned persons took up the problem and considered it thoughtfully. Some of these men of mind were physicians ; others were physiologists, and yet others were hygienists—that is to say, specialists in the study of questions relating to health.

The great task undertaken by these men was to restore the old Biblical allowance of years. It was a tremendous problem—a problem of momentous importance to the whole of the human race. Since they began to work upon it only a quarter of a century has passed, yet vital statistics show that marvels have already been accomplished. In only a quarter of a century the average life of a human being has been prolonged by nearly ten years, reaching well into the forties.

We who belong to the Hundred Years Club are all of us optimists. If we were not such, it would be well that we should dissolve and go out of existence as an organization; for optimism, which may be defined as a combination of cheerfulness and hopefulness, is itself a means of attaining longevity. Accordingly, we see no reason to doubt that if, on the one hand, man could and did, by a mistaken way of living, reduce his span of life so far below the Biblical reckoning, then, on the other hand, he may, through the proper use of his intelligence to that end, pass as far beyond the Scriptural allotment as in the past he has fallen behind it.

One hundred years of survival is not too much to expect. From our own observation we know that human beings frequently live as long as that, and even longer. This fact in itself proves the machine which we call the human body, is built to last a full century. If in a great majority of instances it does not endure for that length of time, it is because of abuse or of accident. Accidents include dis-

eases, which we are learning how to avoid and to cure. As for abuse, we must refrain from that kind of foolishness.”

The knowledge gained by physicians, by hygienists, and by physiologists all points to the conclusion that longevity is only to be attained through simplicity of life and moderation in all things. If we would survive for a century we must simplify the terms and conditions of our existence. The new knowledge teaches the desirability of a return of man as far as possible to closer touch with nature—incidentally, to the partial depopulation of congested centres, and to the acquisition by rural life of the sole charm it now lacks, a greater social gregariousness.

If you would know the rules which are set down in the manual of the Hundred Years Club as affording the best suggestions of means whereby a century of survival may be attained, they can be set forth in a few words :

The first requirement is moderation in diet. Avoid gluttony and late suppers.

The second requirement is exercise —plenty of it, but not too much—in the open air, of course.

The third requirement is plenty of fresh air, both night and day, and especially at night. Most sleeping rooms are not sufficiently aired.

The fourth requirement is agreeable society. Congenial companionship distracts the mind and is the best encouragement to cheerfulness.

The fifth requirement is a cheerful and philosophic state of mind. Worry is above all things to be avoided. It shortens life. The habit of worry is easily cultivated, and it grows upon the victim. One should cultivate the habit of not worrying. Few things in this world are worth worrying about; and, as has often been said, nine-tenths of the misfortunes of life never happen.

The sixth requirement is work. Not too much of it, of course, but enough to afford occupation. Idleness is the fruitful source of many mischiefs and the sure breeder of discontent. No idler can be happy; and unhappy people do not live long.

Such are the articles of faith and the rules of practice of the Hundred Years Club. Ours is an organization not merely to promote longevity, but to seek happiness, which is at once an end in itself and the means to and end, inasmuch as it is a conserver of health and augments the favorable prospect for attaining the century of survival which, rather than the old-fashioned three-score years and ten, ought to be regarded as the proper term of human existence.