Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser by R. V. Pierce
In this chapter we propose to consider Life in its primitive
manifestations. _Biology_ is the science of living bodies, or the
science of life. Every organ of a living body has a function to perform,
and _Physiology_ treats of these functions.
_Function_ means the peculiar action of some particular organ or part.
There can be no vital action without change, and no change without
organs. Every living thing has a structure, and _Anatomy_ treats of the
structures of organized bodies. Several chapters of this work are
devoted to _Physiological Anatomy_, which treats of the human organism
and its functions.
The beginning of life is called _generation_; its perpetuation,
_reproduction_. By the former function, individual life is insured; by
the latter, it is maintained. Since nutrition sustains life, it has been
pertinently termed _perpetual reproduction_.
LATENT LIFE is contained in a small globule, a mere atom of matter, in
the sperm-cell. This element is something which, under certain
conditions, develops into a living organism. The entire realm of nature
teems with these interesting phenomena, thus manifesting that admirable
adjustment of internal to external relations, which claims our profound
attention. We are simply humble scholars, waiting on the threshold of
nature's glorious sanctuary, to receive the interpretation of her divine
Some have conjectured that chemical and physical forces account for all
the phenomena of life, and that organization is not the result of vital
forces. Physical science cannot inform us what the beginning was, or how
vitality is the result of chemical forces; nor can it tell us what
transmutations will occur at the end of organized existence. This
mysterious life-principle eludes the grasp of the profoundest
scientists, and its presence in the world will ever continue to be an
astonishing and indubitable testimony of Divine Power.
The physical act of generation is accomplished by the union of two
cells; and as this conjugation is known to be so generally indispensable
to the organization of life, we may fairly infer that it is a universal
necessity. Investigations with the microscope have destroyed the
hypothesis of "spontaneous generation." These show us that even the
minutest living forms are derived from a parent organization.
GENERATION. So long as the vital principle remains in the sperm-cell, it
lies dormant. That part of the cell which contains this principle is
called the _spermatozoön_, which consists of a flattened body, having a
long appendage tapering to the finest point. If it be remembered that a
line is the one-twelfth part of an inch in length, some idea may be
formed of the extreme minuteness of the body of a human spermatozoön,
when we state that it is from 1/800 to 1/600 part of a line, and the
filiform tail 1/50 of a line, in length. This life-atom, which can be
discerned only with a powerful magnifying glass, is perfectly
transparent, and moves about by executing a vibratile motion with its
long appendage. Within this speck of matter are hidden the multifarious
forces which, under certain favorable conditions, result in
organization. Magnify this infinitesimal atom a thousand times, and no
congeries of formative powers is perceived wherewith to work out the
wonders of its existence. Yet it contains the principle, which is the
contribution on the part of the male toward the generation of a new
The _ovum_ or germ-cell, is the special contribution on the part of the
female for the production of another being. The human ovum, though
larger than the spermatozoön, is also extremely small, measuring not
more than from 1/20 to 1/10 of a line, or from 1/240 to 1/120 of an
inch, in diameter.
[Illustration: Fig. 1.
_A_. Human Spermatozoön magnified about 3,800 diameters.
_B_. Vertical and lateral views of spermatozoa of man.
_C, D, E, F._ Development of spermatozoa within the vesicles of evolution.
_G_. Cell of the sponge resembling a spermatozoön.
_H_. Vesicles of evolution from the seminal fluid of the dog in the parent cell
_I_. Single vesicles of different sizes.
_J_. Human spermatozoön forming in its cell.
_K_. Rupture of the cell and escape of the spermatozoön.
The sperm and the germ-cells contain the primary elements of all organic
structures, and both possess the special qualities and conditions by
which they may evolve organic beings. Every cell is composed of minute
grains, within which vital action takes place. The interior of a cell
consists of growing matter; the exterior, of matter which has assumed
its form and is less active.
When the vital principle is communicated to it, the cell undergoes a
rapid transformation. While this alteration takes place within the cell,
deteriorating changes occur in the cell-wall. Although vital operations
build up these structures, yet the animal and nervous functions are
continually disintegrating, or wasting, them.
Throughout the animal kingdom, germ-cells present the same external
aspect when carefully examined with the microscope. No difference can be
observed between the cells of the flowers of the oak and those of the
apple, but the cells of the one always produce oak trees, while those of
the other always produce apple trees. The same is true of the germs of
animals, there being not the slightest apparent difference. We are
unable to perceive how one cell should give origin to a dog, while
another exactly like it becomes a man. For aught we know, the ultimate
atoms of these cells are identical in physical character; at least we
have no means of detecting any difference.
SPECIES. The term species is generally used merely as a convenient name
to designate certain assemblages of individuals having various striking
points of resemblance. Scientific writers, as a rule, no longer hold
that what are usually called _species_ are constantly unvarying and
unchangeable quantities. Recent researches point to the conclusion that
_all species vary more or less_, and, in some instances, that the
variation is so great that the limits of general specific distinctness
are sometimes exceeded.
Our space will not permit us to do more than merely indicate the two
great fundamental ideas upon which the leading theories of the time
respecting the origin of species are based. These are usually termed the
doctrine of _Special Creation_ and the doctrine of _Evolution_.
According to the doctrine of Special Creation, it is thought that
species are practically immutable productions, each species having a
_specific centre_ where it was originally created, and from which it
spread over a certain area until its further progress was obstructed by
unfavorable conditions. The advocates of the doctrine of Evolution hold,
on the contrary, that species are not permanent and immutable, but that
they are subject to modification, and that "the existing forms of life
are descendants by true generation of pre-existing forms." Most
naturalists are now inclined to admit the general truth of the theory of
evolution, but they differ widely respecting the mode in which it
THE PROCESS OF GENERATION.
The vital _principle_, represented in the _sperm_-cell by a
spermatozoön, must be imparted to a _germ_-cell in order to effect
impregnation. After touching each other, separate them immediately, and
observe the result. If, with the aid of a powerful lens, we directly
examine the spermatozoön, it will be perceived that, for a short time,
it preserves its dimensions and retains all its material aspects. But it
does not long withstand the siege of decay, and, having fulfilled its
destiny, loses its organic characteristics, and begins to shrink.
If we examine the fertilized germ, we discover unusual activity, the
result of impregnation. Organic processes succeed one another with
wonderful regularity, as if wrought out by inexplicable intelligence.
Here begin the functions which constitute human physiology.
Generation requires that a spermatozoön be brought into actual contact
with a germ that fecundation may follow. If a spermatic cell, or
spermatozoön, together with several unimpregnated ova, no matter how
near to one another, if not actually touching, be placed on the concave
surface of a watch-crystal, and covered with another crystal, keeping
them warm, and even though the vapor of the ova envelops it, no
impregnation will occur. Place the spermatozoön in contact with an ovum,
and impregnation is instantly and perfectly accomplished. Should this
vitalizing power be termed nerve-force, electricity, heat, or motion? It
is known that these forces may be metamorphosed; for instance, nervous
force may be converted into electricity, electricity into heat, and heat
into motion, thus illustrating their affiliation and capability of
transformation. But nothing is explained respecting the real nature of
the vital principle, if we assert its identity with any of these forces;
for who can reveal the true nature of any of these, or even of matter?
In several insect families, the species is not wholly represented in the
adult individuals of both sexes, or in their development, but, to
complete this series, supplementary individuals, as it were, of one or
of several preceding generations, are required. The son may not resemble
the father, but the grandfather, and in some instances, the likeness
re-appears only in latter generations. Agassiz states: "Alternate
generation was first observed among the Salpae. These are marine
mollusks, without shells, belonging to the family Tunicata. They are
distinguished by the curious peculiarity of being united together in
considerable numbers so as to form long chains, which float in the sea,
the mouth(_m_) however being free in each.
[Illustration: Fig. 2. ]
[Illustration: Fig. 3. ]
"Fig. 2. The individuals thus joined in floating colonies produce eggs;
but in each animal there is generally but one egg formed, which is
developed in the body of the parent, and from which is hatched a little
"Fig. 3, which remains solitary, and differs in many respects from the
parent. This little animal, on the other hand, does not produce eggs,
but propagates, by a kind of budding, which gives rise to chains already
seen in the body of their parent(a), and these again bring forth
solitary individuals, etc."
It therefore follows that generation in some animals require? two
different bodies with intermediate ones, by means of which and their
different modes of reproduction, a return to the original stock is
UNIVERSALITY OF ANIMALCULAR LIFE.--Living organisms are universally
diffused over every part of the globe. The gentle zephyr wafts from
flower to flower invisible, fructifying atoms, which quicken beauty and
fragrance, giving the promise of a golden fruitage, to gladden and
nourish a dependent world. Nature's own sweet cunning invests all living
things constraining into her service chemical affinities, arranging the
elements and disposing them for her own benefit, in such numberless ways
that we involuntarily exclaim,
"The course of Nature is the art of God."
The microscope reveals the fact that matter measuring only 1/120000 of
an inch diameter may be endowed with vitality, and that countless
numbers of animalcules often inhabit a single drop of stagnant water.
These monads do not vary in form, whether in motion or at rest. The life
of one, even, is an inexplicable mystery to the philosopher. Ehrenberg
writes: "Not only in the polar regions is there an uninterrupted
development of active microscopic life, where larger animals cannot
exist, but we find that those minute beings collected in the Antarctic
expedition of Captain James Ross exhibit a remarkable abundance of
unknown, and often most beautiful forms."
Even the interior of animal bodies is inhabited by animalcules. They
have been found in the blood of the frog and the salmon, and in the
optic fluid of fishes. Organic beings are found in the interior of the
earth, into which the industry of the miner has made extensive
excavations, sunk deep shafts, and thus revealed their forms; likewise,
the smallest fossil organisms form subterranean strata many fathoms
deep. Not only do lakes and inland seas abound with life, but also, from
unknown depths, in volcanic districts, arise thermal springs which
contain living insects. Were we endowed with a microscopic eye, we might
see myriads of ethereal voyagers wafted by on every breeze, as we now
behold drifting clouds of aqueous vapor. While the continents of earth
furnishes evidences of the universality of organic beings, recent
observations prove that "animal life predominates amid the eternal night
of the depths of the liquid ocean."
THE ORIGIN OF LIFE.
The ancients, rude in many of their ideas, referred the origin of life
to divine determination. The thought was crudely expressed, but well
represented, in the following verse:
"Then God smites his hands together,
And strikes out a soul as a spark,
Into the organized glory of things.
From the deeps of the dark."
According to a Greek myth, Prometheus formed a human image from the dust
of the ground, and then, by fire stolen from heaven, animated it with a
living soul. Spontaneous generation once held its sway, and now the idea
of natural evolution is popular. Some believe that the inpenetrable
mystery of life is evolved from the endowments of nature, and build
their imperfect theory on observations of her concrete forms and their
manifestations, to which all our investigations are restricted. But
every function indicates purpose, every organism evinces intelligent
design, and _all_ proclaim a Divine Power. Something cannot come out of
nothing. With reason and philosophy, _chance_ is an impossibility. We,
therefore, accept the display of wisdom in nature as indicative of the
designs of God. Thus "has He written His claims for our profoundest
admiration and homage all over every object that He has made." If you
ask: Is there any advantage in considering the phenomena of nature as
the result of DIVINE VOLITION? we answer, that this belief corresponds
with the universally acknowledged ideas of accountability; for, with a
wise, and efficient Cause, we infer there is an intelligent creation,
and the desire to communicate, guide and bless, is responded to by man,
who loves, obeys, and enjoys. Nothing is gained by attributing to nature
vicegerent forces. Is it not preferable to say that she responds to
intelligent, loving Omnipotence? Our finiteness is illustrated by our
initiation into organized being. Emerging from a rayless atom, too
diminutive for the sight, we gradually develop and advance to the
maturity of those _conscious powers_, the exercise of which furnishes
indubitable evidence of our immortality. We are pervaded with invisible
influences, which, like the needle of the compass trembling on its
pivot, point us to immortality as our ultimate goal, where in the sunny
clime of Love, even in a spiritual realm of joy and happiness, we may
eternally reign with Him who is all in all.