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Medical Expert Evidence

April 25, 2014 | by

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific prose available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Medical Expert Evidence,” a treatise first published in Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science in April 1873.

Sleep-Aid-Medical

Albert Anker, Zwei schlafende Mädchen auf der Ofenbank Date, 1895

There is scarcely any position of more responsibility than that of the medical expert in cases of alleged poisoning. Often he stands with practically absolute power between society and the accused—the former looking to him for the proof of the crime and for the protection which discovery brings; the latter relying upon him for the vindication of his innocence. How profound and complete, then, should be his knowledge! how thorough his skill! how pure and spotless his integrity! how unimpeachable his results! Yet recently the humiliating spectacle has been repeatedly presented of expert swearing against expert, until the question at issue was apparently degraded into one of personal feeling or of professional reputation. So far has this gone that both judicial and public opinion seems to be demanding the abolition of expert testimony. The medical expert must, however, remain an essential feature in our criminal procedures, partaking as he does of the functions of the lawyer, inasmuch as he has, to some extent, the right to argue before the jury, partaking also of the judicial character in that it is his duty to express an opinion upon evidence, but differing from both judge and advocate in that as a witness he testifies to facts. Were the attempt made to do away with his functions, there would be an end to just convictions in the class of cases spoken of, because no one would be qualified to say whether any given death had been produced by poison or by a natural cause.

In many matters that come under the notice of medical experts there is room for honest differences of opinion. Of such nature are questions of sanity and insanity. It must be remembered that these are, after all, relative terms. Reason leaves its seat by almost imperceptible steps. Who can determine with exactness the line that separates eccentricity from madness—responsibility from irresponsibility? Moreover, the phenomena upon which opinion is based are, in such cases, so hidden, so complex, so obscure, that in the half-lights of a few short interviews they will often be seen differently by different observers.

In scarcely any of its parts does toxicology belong to this class of subjects—certainly not at all in so far as it deals with mineral poisons. To a great extent it is a fixed science—a science whose boundaries may be widened, whose processes may be rendered more delicate, but whose principles are in great measure settled for ever. Not in the imperfections of the science, but in the habits of the American medical profession and in the methods of our criminal procedures, lies the origin of the evils complained of.Read More »

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How Mechanical Rubber Goods Are Made

February 14, 2014 | by

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a new series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific prose available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “How Mechanical Rubber Goods Are Made,” first published in the Scientific American Supplement on February 13, 1892.

Christian_Krohg-Sovende_mor_med_barn_1883

Christian Krohg, Sleeping Mother with Child, 1883.

While the manufacture of rubber goods is in no sense a secret industry, the majority of buyers and users of such goods have never stepped inside of a rubber mill, and many have very crude ideas as to how the goods are made up. In ordinary garden hose, for instance, the process is as follows: The inner tubing is made of a strip of rubber fifty feet in length, which is laid on a long zinc-covered table and its edges drawn together over a hose pole. The cover, which is of what is called “friction,” that is cloth with rubber forced through its meshes, comes to the hose maker in strips, cut on the bias, which are wound around the outside of the tube and adhere tightly to it. The hose pole is then put in something like a fifty foot lathe, and while the pole revolves slowly, it is tightly wrapped with strips of cloth, in order that it may not get out of shape while undergoing the process of vulcanizing. When a number of these hose poles have been covered in this way they are laid in a pan set on trucks and are then run into a long boiler, shut in, and live steam is turned on. When the goods are cured steam is blown off, the vulcanizer opened and the cloths are removed. The hose is then slipped off the pole by forcing air from a compressor between the rubber and the hose pole. This, of course, is what is known as hose that has a seam in it.

For seamless hose the tube is made in a tubing machine and slipped upon the hose pole by reversing the process that is used in removing hose by air compression. In other words, a knot is tied in one end of the fifty foot tube and the other end is placed against the hose pole and being carefully inflated with air it is slipped on without the least trouble. For various kinds of hose the processes vary, and there are machines for winding with wire and intricate processes for the heavy grades of suction hose, etc. For steam hose, brewers’, and acid hose, special resisting compounds are used, that as a rule are the secrets of the various manufacturers. Cotton hose is woven through machines expressly designed for that purpose, and afterward has a half-cured rubber tube drawn through it. One end is then securely stopped up and the other end forced on a cone through which steam is introduced to the inside of the hose, forcing the rubber against the cotton cover, finishing the cure and fixing it firmly in its place. Read More »

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