Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology, vol 1: A-Dea
Todd, Robert Bentley
stead of obeying the universal law of gravita¬ 
tion, vegetables, for instance, shoot upwards, 
and propel their juices from the roots to the 
leaves ; animals also distribute their blood in 
opposition to the laws of gravitation, and by 
their powers of motion overcome the universal 
physical law that tends to fix them in one place. 
The force of cohesion is not a merely passive 
property in the organized as it is in the unorgan¬ 
ized world, and the laws of chemical affinity 
are especially set at nought both by plants and 
animais, their constituent elements being even 
generally united into combinations the con¬ 
trary of those which these laws ordain. Animals 
and vegetables are farther abstracted from the 
general law of caloric, the more perfect of them 
at least having a specific temperature, inde¬ 
pendent of that of the medium which sur¬ 
rounds them, and which varies in conformity 
with changes in the peculiar actions of which 
in them it is the product. 
There is even a distinction between the 
organized and unorganized world to this extent, 
—that while the physico-chemical laws do¬ 
minate the inorganic world rigorously, and the 
bodies that belong to it seem to have begun 
to be as they continue to exist through, or in 
harmony with, their prescriptions, no organized 
body known has either sprung into being or 
continues to exist through the agency of purely 
physical or purely chemical forces. The whole 
of the special properties of organized beings 
consequently must be held to be effects of the 
agent denominated life, and of the laws which 
this agent originates. The organized world is, 
therefore, a creation within a creation, a some¬ 
thing superadded to the material universe and 
to the generally pervading forces that keep its 
parts in their places, and endow them with 
what may be called their necessary pro¬ 
Nor is it only whilst endowed with life that 
organized differ from unorganized beings. 
Many of the distinguishing and peculiar pro¬ 
perties of these remain for a season at least 
after life has left the organization it had built 
up. The extensibility and elasticity of the 
tissues of animals especially, were held by 
the distinguished Bichat as even independent 
of life, which he owned increased their energy, 
but which he denied as their cause, seeing that 
they continue to exist after death. These pro¬ 
perties are undoubtedly peculiar, and are at 
all events effects of forces which life has called 
into play, both the tissues which possess 
elasticity and contractility, and these qualities 
themselves having been engendered under the 
influence of vitality. 
In these properties, forces or capacities of 
action common to all the objects of nature, 
unorganized as well as organized, we see the 
objection to the old denomination of inert, 
which was applied to one of the great classes. 
Nothing that exists is inert or inactive; but 
organized have an infinitely wider field of 
action than unorganized bodies. Let us, in 
illustration of this position, examine in succes¬ 
sion the various actions by which bodies gene¬ 
rally originate, continue their existence, un¬ 
dergo such modifications as they present in the 
eourse of their existence, and by which they 
come to an end or die. 
Origin.—Unorganized bodies, minerals for 
example, commence their existence from the 
instant that circumstances exterior to them¬ 
selves detach them from the mass of some 
other mineral, precipitate them from a state of 
solution in a fluid, or bring their constituent 
elements into a position in which they can 
combine together. In this, it is evident, there 
is nothing like generation, as the term is 
applied to organized bodies, which all alike, 
vegetables as well as animals, spring from a 
molecule, an atom, which has once belonged 
to, and which has proceeded from, a being 
similar to themselves. Vegetables spring from 
seeds, animals from eggs. Organized beings, 
therefore, are engendered, their existence 
is a consequence of that of other beings like 
themselves ; and in their succession they 
depend one upon another. Minerals, on the 
contrary, have no powers of reproduction ; 
they cease to be, if at any time they originate 
another mineral, and they are individually in a 
state of perfect independence.* 
In the mode in which organic and inorganic 
bodies continue their existence, there is also a 
striking dissimilarity. In the inorganic world 
we observe no actions tending to preserve the 
individual, other than those which have pre¬ 
sided over its formation : it continues to exist 
through the continuing agency of the affinities 
and of the attraction of cohesion which called 
it into being. Animals and vegetables, on the 
contrary, have special powers for their pre¬ 
servation superadded to those by the peculiar 
* It were long to enter here into the discussion 
of what has been called equivocal generation, which, 
if admitted, militates against several of the in¬ 
ferences just deduced. It is quite certain that 
infusions of any organized substance do speedily 
become filled with animals distinct in their kinds 
and lately shown to be much more complicated in 
their structure than was long supposed. It is 
almost as difficult to conceive that these infusory 
animals proceed from eggs contained in the fluids 
in which they appear, as to imagine that they 
proceed from the combination, per se, of their con¬ 
stituent elements. Did we incline to admit the 
reality of equivocal generation, it is certain that 
its occurrence must be referred to other than the 
general laws of nature, with which we have al¬ 
ready had occasion to show the laws of life to be 
in opposition, much rather than in harmony. It 
would be absurd to believe that these general 
physico-chemical laws, absolutely inimical to life, 
should at any time call it into being. Equivocal 
generation being acknowledged, therefore, it would 
seem necessary to infer a third order of laws be¬ 
sides the physico-chemical and the vital, the 
nature of which is altogether unknown to us. 
The number of creatures which were presumed 
to owe their being to equivocal generation, has 
been very much curtailed by the progress of science 
in modem times ; and it is not impossible that the 
mystery which still overhangs the genesis of the 
infusoria may one day be dissipated, and their pro¬ 
duction demonstrated to be in harmony with those 
laws which are known to preside over the origin 
of higher classes of vegetables and animals.


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