English Physiologist Tells The “Story Of His Health”

The clearest and most interesting writer on science for the layman today, in my opinion, is Dr. J. B. S. Haldane, the English physiologist. He has recently published a book called, “Science and Human Life.” One chapter is called, “The Story of My Health,” and is an explanation of how he has kept vigorous. For what it is worth, I abstract it herewith. It begins:

“My story has no moral. Three of my grandparents lived to be over 80, one to be a hundred. My parents are both alive. So if I enjoy good health, this is probably not through my having observed any laws, but because, from the point of view of mere living at least, I am well born. Also up to the age of 12 I was well looked after.

“We did not know much about vitamins in my early days, but it was known that a monotonous diet brought on certain diseases. Besides Marie Lloyd had just enunciated the important physiological principle that, `A little of wot yer fancy does yer good.’

“My father was a physiologist, and I was brought up on this principle, particularly as regards jam. I ate a great deal of unripe fruit and other foods which were generally supposed to be harmful.

“During my last three years at Eton I escaped from compulsory games and found that I did very well with less exercise than most of my fellows. This incidentally enabled me to do some work. At Oxford I rowed occasionally, but discovered that after several months without any exercise, not only was I very well, but I was perfectly able to row in a race untrained, and help to win it.

“After the war I did not at first cut down my diet to suit my sedentary habits. Perhaps that was why I developed appendicitis, which is a disease mainly afflicting the over-fed class of society. As my appendix continued to trouble me, arrangements were made for my formal opening, and it was removed before an admiring audience of my pupils.

“But I have cut down my food. I breakfast on porridge and milk, drink coffee in the middle of the day, take four slices of bread and jam with my tea, and have my real meal at 8 p. m.

“But I do not for one moment suggest that what suits me would suit everyone else. Many people appear to become genuinely ill without exercise. For all I know, my nightly whisky and soda would poison Lady Astor or Mr. Foot. I do not prescribe for them; nor do I see why they should prescribe for me. I have experimented on myself, and at times taken more food, beer, and other good things, smoked more tobacco, and done more work than was good for me. I know the symptoms of excess in each case, and I can stop before they come on. My advice to others is to take the obvious steps, such as vaccination, to avoid infections, but apart from that, to study oneself in a scientific spirit, find out a way of life which suits one, and live according to it.”