344 THE CHINA STUDY
supported surgery and the emerging use of drugs. The "local disease"
proponents argued that disease was locally caused and could be cut
out or locally treated with isolated chemicals. In contrast, those who
favored diet and lifestyle believed that disease was a symptom resulting
from the "constitutional" characteristics of the whole body.
I was impressed that these old books contained the same ideas about
diet and disease that had resurfaced in the health battles of the I980s. As
I learned more about Macilwain, I came to realize that he was a relative
of mine. My paternal grandmother's maiden name was Macilwain, and
that "branch" of the family had lived in the same part of Northern Ireland
that George Macilwain had come from. Furthermore, there were family
stories about a famous Macilwain who had left the family farm in Ireland
to become a very well-known doctor in London in the early 1800s. My fa-
ther, who had emigrated from Northern Ireland, had referred to an Uncle
George when I was young, but I never was aware of who this man was.
Through further genealogical research, I have come to the near certain
conclusion that George Macilwain was my great-great uncle.
This discovery has been one of the more remarkable stories of my
life. My wife Karen says, "If there's such a thing as reincarnation .... "
I agree: if I ever lived a past life, it was as George Macilwain. He and I
had similar careers; both of us became acutely aware of the importance
of diet in disease, and both of us became vegetarian. Some of his ideas,
written over 150 years ago, were so close to what I believed that I felt
they could have come from my own mouth.
I discovered more than my family history while reading in these au-
gust, history-laden libraries. I found out that scholars have been arguing
over the nature of health for centuries, even millennia. Almost 2,500
years ago, Plato wrote a dialogue between two characters, Socrates and
Glaucon, in which they discuss the future of their cities. Socrates says
the cities should be simple, and the citizens should subsist on barley
and wheat, with "relishes" of salt, olives, cheese and "country fare of
boiled onions and cabbage," with desserts of "figs, pease, beans," roasted
myrtle-berries and beechnuts, and wine in moderation.^2 Socrates says,
"And thus, passing their days in tranqUility and sound health, they will,
in all probability, live to an advanced age .... "
But Glaucon replies that such a diet would only be appropriate for "a
community of swine," and that the citizens should live "in a civilized
manner." He continues, "They ought to recline on couches ... and have
the usual dishes and dessert of a modem dinner." In other words, the