Impeccable Science: Final Exams Edition

This week’s installment of Impeccable Science is chosen in a spirit of empathy for the many students who are currently mired in final exams while longing for carefree time in the May sunshine.

As we all know, intense study can be harmful to your health. For proof, look at this 1833 volume by Amariah Brigham, a doctor from Connecticut.

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What terrible things can excessive studying do to your body? For starters, it can give you dyspepsia.

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Dyspepsia is generally considered a disease of the stomach primarily. But I apprehend that in a majority of cases, especially among students, it is primarily a disease of the brain and nervous system, and is perpetuated by mental excitement.

It can hamper your immune system’s ability to fight off disease, especially if you’re studying hard while you’re still young.

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I have seen several affecting and melancholy instances of children, five or six years of age, lingering awhile with diseases from which those less gifted readily recover… The chance for the recovery of such precocious children, is in my opinion small, when attached by disease…

And finally, the mental excitement caused by excessive study can case rampant insanity- but only if you’re studying the arts and humanities. Chemists and physicians never suffer from insanity.

In all countries, the disease [of insanity] prevails most among those whose minds are most excited. Aristotle noticed, in his day, the great prevalence of insanity among statesmen and politicians. It is said, the disease prevails most among those whose minds are excited by hazardous speculations, and by works of imagination and taste; and but little among those whose minds are exercised only by calm inquiry. The registers of the Bicetre, in France, show, that the insane of the educated classes consist chiefly of priests, painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians; while no instance of the disease in naturalists, physicians, geometricians or chymists has occurred.

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