542 History of Wake Forest College
in May, 1858, the question, "Was the Noachian flood universal?" A
few weeks later, Dr. S. S. Satchwell, the Commencement speaker,
bravely insisted that it was not. One query was "Are the other planets
inhabited?" Another which the Philomathesians discussed on October
7, 1838, reads: "Is it probable that the atmosphere will become
navigable so as to be a medium of communication between different
nations?" The affirmative, supported by Childers, of South Carolina,
and Thomas Steele, of Richmond County, won over the negative
supported by James Murray of Virginia, later Superintendent of
Public Instruction of Wilson County, and William Jones, later Agent
of the Baptist State Convention. Unfortunately we are not told by
what arguments-or assertions those present were led to dip into the
future and see the heavens fill with commerce.
Other scientific queries related to medicine. One, debated by the
Philomathesians on September 18, 1840, was, "Is the steam system of
medicine more calculated to cure diseases than the mineral?" Another
debated a year later was, "Ought botanic physicians be allowed to
collect their accounts like the mineral?" The impartial judges decided
both in the affirmative.7
The last query mentioned raised a question of duty, and in general
the queries were not on questions of fact but of conduct and
obligation-what was expedient and better for the individual, Society,
the College, the State, the Nation? Some were very practical, such as
"Should the Euzelian Society purchase a carpet?" "Should public
declamation be dispensed with at College?"8
One group of questions may be classed as social. In this class the
young men gave much attention to problems that concern the opposite
sex, which they usually designated as "females," following the custom
of the day. They used their debates to determine
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7 The "steam system of medicine" seems to have been a
modification of the system usually known as hydropathy, which used
water in many forms in the treatment of disease; it was much in the
public prints at this time. A "Botanic physician" is said by Webster to
be one whose "remedies consist chiefly of herbs and roots." A
"Mineral physician" seems to have been the popular designation of
one whose chief remedy was calomel, which was much used about
1840.
8 Eu. Records, December 3, 1842; Phi. Records, February 8,
1851.
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