Radio script for talk by Dr. Howard Haggard

with commercial spot for Hexylresorcinol Solution S.T. 37

Note: This document is a transcription of a radio commercial and talk broadcast in 1932 for the product Hexylresorcinol S.T. 37, an over-the-counter antiseptic made by the Sharp and Dohme Company.Sharp and Dohme was a client of the J.Walter Thompson Company; JWT executive John B. Watson helped develop this ad campaign, which combined medical history talks with promotions for S.T. 37.

Source: Radio scripts, Sharp and Dohme, Box 133, 16 mm. Microfilm Collection, J. Walter Thompson Company Archives.


Dr. Howard W. Haggard

7:15-7:30 PM, Sunday December 4, 1932, WJZ


We now present Dr. Howard W. Haggard... in the first of a series of fascinating speeches in the story of medicine. Dr. Haggard is the author of "Devils, Drugs and Doctors" and the "Science of Health and Disease" and other widely read books on medical science. He is presented every week at this time... in honor of those guardians of our health, the physicians and druggists of America... by the makers of Hexylresorcinol solution S. T. 37, that new powerful and safe antiseptic.

Today Dr. Haggard tells us about one of the most epoch-making discoveries in man's long struggle against diseases. It is the story of Dr. Joseph Lister and his conquest of infection. Dr. Haggard--


Some 300 years ago there occurred the first step in what I think is the most epoch-making discovery in all of man's long struggle against disease. It was in the days when the astronomer Galileo, turned the newly invented telescope to the skies, and gave us the first glimpses of the infinite vastness of the universe. And it was then that a Jesuit priest from Germany - a learned man - named Athanasius Kircher, had the inspiration of turning his telescope not toward the heavens, but towards the earth. And he discovered on this planet of ours a whole population before invisible - almost undreamed of.

He was the first man to see bacteria - living things of the earth too small to be seen with the unaided eye. He gave the first conception that the whole world was teeming with life - with elementary living things, invisible to the unaided eye, yet as much inhabitants of this world as are men themselves.

It is pathetic for a man's ideas to be too advanced for his time. Kircher studied disease. And he believed that disease was due to these little living things which he saw under his crude microscope. But he was two centuries too early. It was not until the 19th century - until a time within the memory of men living today - that his ideas - his observations - were rescued from centuries of abuse and derision. He had a glimpse of the great truth that was to come and revolutionize man's way of living.

No longer do we ignore those minute forms of life - we know today that they are responsible for more than half of all the diseases from which human beings may suffer. It was the great German, Koch, and the famous Frenchman, Pasteur, who with painstaking detail gave us the full story of the relation of bacteria to man, and it was the English Quaker Joseph Lister who first showed us how to defend ourselves against them.

Now what these men have told us and proved beyond the question of a single doubt is the place that bacterial life occupies in the scheme of nature. They have demonstrated that some few kinds of bacteria are capable of preying on man - causing infection. Such infection is not something unnatural, but merely arises from the struggle for existence, in which all living things take part---we as well as the rest. It is inevitable that in this struggle one kind mustprey upon another. Man preys ruthlessly upon plants for his food. And in bacterial infection we merely have this situation reversed - a plant preying on man as its source of food, for bacteria are very elementary, very minute forms of plant life and our part in the struggle is to defend ourselves against the bacteria which causes infection.

In any conflict we are helpless unless we know who our enemies are and where they lie. The discovery of the bacteria as a cause of disease gave medical science a new knowledge for the protection of health. It opened up for the first time the possibilities of preventing disease on a large scale. In the seventy or eighty years that have elapsed since that time civilized man has written a whole new chapter in the history of his fight against disease. Cholera and typhoid, which once decimated our people, are gone, and so are the great plagues that formerly rode over Europe. The greatest pestilence of all, tuberculosis, is slowly - far too slowly - being stamped out. Yellow Fever, that tropical disease which was once common even in New England, and malaria, which was the "ague" from which our ancestors suffered, have been driven from the temperate zones. The steps, the stages of that battle which is emancipating man from infectious diseases, and the heroes of that struggle, are stories that I should like to tell.

But tonight I can mention only one of them - that of the Englishman Lister, who made modern surgery possible by showing how to prevent infection in wounds. He is the man to whom we owe our present conceptions of cleanliness, not only of the hospital and the operating room, but of the home, of all our surroundings, and of ourselves. He is responsible for the advent of cleanliness with the motive of preventing transfer of infection - one of history's most revolutionary changes in human habits.

Surgery is, as you know, very ancient. It was practiced in the time of the early Egyptians and in the days of Homer. But it was then almost entirely wound surgery: a man was injured and, lest he die, something had to be done for him. The surgery of the ancients was crude and cruel and only performed for the direst, most immediate necessity. In the centuries that followed, surgery was still the same; and although the skill of the surgeon had improved, he rarely dared to operate except on the outside of the body, and any surgery was a cruel procedure until the coming of anesthesia, an American discovery, in the middle of the last century.

But even with the blessing of anesthesia, there still remained a disease that followed all surgical operations and rendered even the simplest ones dangerous. It was a serious and often fatal fever. The young surgeon, Lister, in a Scottish hospital, puzzled over this and started on a search for its cause. Eventually, he showed where it came from and how it could be prevented.

I wish we could all have seen him - that man who was one of the supreme benefactors of the human race. He lived until 1912 - one of those rare beings whose achievements triumph within their lifetimes. And I wish we could all go back to him as young man, a surgeon in the hospital at Glasgow. We would find him then walking between the rows of beds, a melancholy expression on his fine and sensitive face as he gives a kind word to each of the poor fellows whose faces are flushed with fever, whose cheeks are hollow, and whose eyes are dull and heavy. These are sad cases. Serious operations, you ask? No; they are not serious from present-day standards. There has not been a single operation on the abdomen; no operations for appendicitis or upon any of the internal organs or joints - so common today. Theirs are for wounds and accidental injuries (those days few men ever attempted to do surgery on the abdomen, for in such cases the patients developed a fever from which they died).

Some of these patients at whom Lister looks have diseases that are no longer seen today; hospital gangrene and phagedaena; they are diseases that come from uncontrolled infection in wounds. These men will not all die. But it is a discouraging outlook for the young surgeon. He does his work well, but it seems an almost hopeless task. His operations are successful; his patients come to the ward in good condition, they do well for a day, but then the deadly fever sets in.

There are exceptions, and it is these exceptions that catch and hold Lister's attention. In a few beds in the ward there are men without fever. They have broken legs - simple fractures, and hence with no open wounds to dress, merely splints to hold the legs in place. In a few weeks these men will be out on crutches, for fever never touches them. That fact is a puzzling one to Lister; his teachers have taught him that infection and even putrefaction are normal and regular parts of the healing process. There are wounds in these broken legs, but they do not putrify [sic]. All other wounds heal slowly, with fever, while these heal quickly, without fever.

There are theories to account for this difference, but they are not good theories. One is that the air which comes in contact with the open wound poisons the flesh; another, that there are present some undefined vapors in the air called "miasms" which arise in unhealthy and swampy regions and in crowded hospitals, poisoning the wounds and bringing in fever. Some men of these days even went so far as to advise the tearing down of surgical hospitals as menaces to public health. But even this radical step would not have help[ed], for the wounded in their homes had fever.

This fever we know now was blood poisoning; today it is an unusual occurrence. It was then almost universal after wounds.

It was while Lister was trying to puzzle out why open wounds were accompanied by fever and closed wounds of broken legs were not, that there came to him, in 1864, an account of the work of Koch and Pasteur. They had gone on with their microscopes from where Athanasius Kircher left off. Bacteria had just been proved to be the cause of infectious disease; and Pasteur, working on wines, had demonstrated that putrefaction is due to bacterial growth.

This was the answer to Lister's problem. The putrefaction - the infection - in wounds was caused by bacteria. The covered wound of the broken leg was kept free from bacteria by the flesh that surrounded it; the open wound became contaminated. Lister, therefore, defined the control of infection in wounds in these principles. First, germs must be prevented from getting into the wound during operation. Second, if they are already in the wound, they must be killed before they multiply and spread causing infection and fever; further germs must be prevented from entering the wound.

Lister's next problem was to find something with which to destroy the germs. On flesh he could not use heat in the way that Pasteur did to kill bacteria in wine, and so he turned to a chemical substance. And as it so happened that he used the powerful but poisonous carbolic acid. This was the first application of an antiseptic with the intention of killing bacteria and so preventing infection.

My time is too short to tell of the changes that came over the wards of that hospital - how fever was driven out, how infection ceased - and of the spread of that great idea of antisepsis and the rise of cleanliness to prevent infections - principles that have altered completely the hospital and the home and our ways of living.

Lister died in 1912. He was buried in a modest churchyard beside his wife, although his name was placed in Westminster Abbey. And then two years later began the greatest vindication, the greatest triumph of his work, carried out on the battle fields of France and Belgium. There are thousands and hundreds of thousands of wounded men who returned from those battle fields and who owe their lives directly to the principles of antisepsis introduced by Lister. And there are thousands more in every-day life who owe their existence to that same principle applied to the prevention of infection in peacetime wounds.


Thank you, Dr. Haggard.

You were just listening to Dr. Howard W. Haggard. Every week at this time he brings you practical health information, vital to us all. This program is brought to you by the makers of that new antiseptic, Hexylresorcinol Solution S. T. 37.

It's a long name but easy to pronounce if you divide it up this way... Hexyl-re-sor-ci-nol... Hexylresorcinol solution S. T. 37. It's certainly worth learning to say to your druggist... because it's the modern antiseptic used in great hospitals and bears the Seal of Acceptance of the Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry of the American Medical Association. Hexylresorcinol solution S. T. 37 is even stronger than any usable solution of carbolic acid... yet you can gargle with it and even swallow it without harm... and you can pour it full strength into an open wound without the slightest sting or burn... it's odorless, non-staining and it's pleasant to the taste. It's the modern antiseptic for the home... you ought to keep some on hand for colds, cuts and burns... you don't have to be afraid of it... yet you can have complete confidence in its germ-killing power. It's economical to use because you can dilute Hexylresorcinol solution S. T. 37 three times without destroying its antiseptic power. It is made by one of the oldest and most highly regarded pharmaceuticalhouses in the country... Sharp and Dohme of Philadelphia.

At the first sign of a sore throat, gargle with Hexylresorcinol solution S. T. 37 and see your doctor right away. You really should see your doctor anyway about twice a year to make sure your health is up to par.

You can try this modern antiseptic at no cost. A one-ounce bottle will be sent you as a free sample. When you remember how much you can dilute this antiseptic you can see this one-ounce sample bottle is well worth sending for. To get this generous sample of Hexylresorcinol Solution S. T. 37, simply send your name and address to the makers, Sharp and Dohme, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I'll repeat that address so you can make a note of it... it's Sharp and Dohme... that first name is Sharp... S-H-A-R-P... and the other is Dohme... D-O-H-M-E... Sharp and Dohme, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Just send your name and address to us - that's all you need to do.

Next week at this same time Dr. Haggard will give us some very valuable information about that most widespread of all ailments, the Common Cold.

Back to the top | Back to listing of radio transcripts

blog comments powered by Disqus