Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
"The Wonderful Century" (S608: 1903)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 453 of The Academy and Literature issue of 24 October 1903. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S608.htm


     Sir,--Will you be so good as to allow me to correct two important mis-statements in a review of the new edition of my "Wonderful Century" which appears in your last issue.

     The first is contained in the following passage:--

     The vaccination chapter has disappeared to make way for four new chapters on astronomy, but unfortunately the book gains nothing in truth thereby. For Dr. Wallace uses the space thus gained mainly to support his recently promulgated theory as to "Man's Place in the Universe."

     Now the four chapters referred to occupy 122 pages, summarizing to the best of my ability the whole range of the New Astronomy. Less than six pages of this new matter are occupied by very brief statements of the facts which go to prove that the solar system is situated near to the centre of the visible universe, and of those which render it probable that no other planet can have developed the higher forms of life. I submit, therefore, that your reviewer's statement quoted above entirely misrepresents the facts, and is calculated to mislead your readers.

     The other mis-statement is, that what your reviewer terms "the ludicrous chapter on vaccination," in my first edition, "has been replied to a thousand times and in a thousand ways," the latest alleged reply being contained in Dr. Garrett Anderson's figures, showing the enormous mortality of unvaccinated children. But such figures as these, however often repeated, are in no sense whatever a reply to my arguments, because they rest on unverified statistics which have again and again been proved to be erroneous, and also because they are based on individual and local as opposed to general and national experience. Sir John Simon himself, the greatest official advocate of vaccination, stated in 1857 (in a Parliamentary Paper reprinted in the Reports of the Royal Commission) that the earlier evidence of the value of vaccination was necessarily founded on individual cases, but that now "from individual cases the appeal is to masses of national experience." It is upon these masses of national experience, as embodied (1) in the Reports of the Registrar-Generals for England, Scotland, and Ireland; (2) in the official statistics of the revaccinated Army and Navy; and (3) in the experiences of large populations--such as London and Leicester--that I rest my case. Moreover, my arguments are founded upon the whole series of the available statistics, not on selected portions of them, and all are taken direct, either from the original Reports, or from official reprints in the Reports of the Royal Commission on Vaccination. I have also shown, wherever possible, the comparative mortalities from "other zymotic diseases" and from "all causes," demonstrating that there has been no exceptional influence acting favourably in the case of small-pox, but rather the reverse: and the absence of such comparisons from the final Report of the Royal Commission entirely vitiates their conclusions, as every statistician will admit. But this great body of reliable statistics is now wholly ignored by the medical supporters of vaccination, who, in place of it, bring forward individual experiences, and utterly unverified and untrustworthy figures, collected exclusively by one of the parties to the controversy. I therefore again repeat my statement, that the best available statistical evidence which I have given, in my pamphlet, and have rendered easily intelligible by a series of comparative diagrams, has never been replied to, and, I am convinced, never can be replied to. I appeal to any of your readers having some acquaintance with general and statistical reasoning and who are interested in this question--one affecting individual liberty and often life--and death, and therefore far more important than most political questions--to give a few hours study to my pamphlet (a second edition of which appeared in 1901), and thus be in a position to judge for themselves whether the facts and conclusions there set forth, or the statements of the medical apologists for vaccination, are the most trustworthy.

--Yours, &c.,
Alfred W. [sic] Wallace.


*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Return to Home