Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology, vol. 3: Ins-Pla
Todd, Robert Bentley
scope.”* Previous to him no author appears 
to have examined them. But Leeuwenhoek ,f 
his friend and correspondent, makes continual 
mention of his examinations of the muscular 
fibre of various animals. This acute and en¬ 
thusiastic observer clearly recognized the im¬ 
portant fact, that each elementary fibre is a 
perfect and separate organ in itself ; he was 
astonished to find that in all animals, the 
largest as well as the smallest, these fibres are 
excessively minute ; he discovered the manner 
in which they are aggregated, and invested by 
areolar tissue; and by boiling and drying a 
muscle and then making tranverse sections of 
it, he ascertained those of voluntary muscle to 
be polygonal and solid. He described the cross 
lines, which he conceived to be on the surface 
only and to be the coils of a spiral thread. 
To this structure he attributed the active power 
of the fibre, comparing it to an elastic coil of 
wire. He further saw the longitudinal lines 
visible on the elementary fibre, and considered 
them to be an evidence of a still minuter com¬ 
position by fibrillae. All these points are well 
illustrated by figures, which leave no doubt of 
his meaning; but, as his results are scattered 
through a great number of letters, much of 
what he accomplished seems to have been over¬ 
looked by later writers. Leeuwenhoek con¬ 
cluded that in contraction the cross markings 
approximate, but I cannot discover that he 
speaks of having seen this. He confounded 
the cross markings seen on tendon with those 
of muscle, and fell into the prevalent error of 
attributing contractility to the tendons. Mal¬ 
pighi incidentally mentions the minute structure 
of muscle in only one passage of his works.; He 
appears to have seen the transverse stripes of the 
elementary fibre, and tohave alsolikened them to 
those of tendon. Contemporary with Leeuwen¬ 
hoek was de Heide,§ who, in 1698, published 
some observations on muscular fibre, describ¬ 
ing and figuring the transverse markings. In 
1741, Muys,j| in a voluminous work, with 
good plates, gave all that was previously known, 
and added many observations of his own. His 
book, however, is learned rather than profound. 
He separates the elementary fibres into the 
simple and reticulated, and seems to have con¬ 
sidered the stripes to be the effect either of mi¬ 
nute zigzags during contraction or of a spiral 
form of the fibrillae. 
Prochaska^ next produced an excellent trea¬ 
tise on muscle, in which he explained, with 
great clearness, the figure, size, and solidity of 
the elementary fibre, and the appearances of 
the fibrillae into which it divides. He fell into 
the error, however, of confounding the trans¬ 
verse markings in the intervals of the discs, 
with other creasings or flexuosities which never 
* Posthumous Works by Waller, 1707,—Life, 
p. xx. , . 
f Epist. Physiologicæ, passim. 
J De Bombyce, p. 9, 10, written before the 
vear 1687. .... 
y $ Expérimenta circa sanguinis missionem, libras 
motrices, &c. Amstel. 1698. 
II Investigate fabncae, Stc. Lugd. Bat. 1741. 
% De carne musculari. Viennæ, 1778. 
exist in the living body, but continually pre¬ 
sent themselves, in the dead fibre, from me¬ 
chanical causes. All these he attributed to 
lateral pressure made on the fibre aud fibrillae 
by vessels, nerves, and areolar tissue, which 
he erroneously imagined to penetrate the inte¬ 
rior of the fibre. Prochaska injected muscle 
with great success,* and found the vessels so 
numerous that he was induced to believe con¬ 
traction to depend on distension of the vessels, 
throwing the fibrillae into zigzags. 
Fontana,f a few years afterwards, gave a 
much more accurate account of the fibre than 
had previously appeared, and one remarkable 
for its simplicity. According to him the ele¬ 
mentary fibre consists of fibrillae, marked at 
equal distances by dark lines, which by their 
lateral apposition occasion the appearance 
of cross striae. Hence he styled the fibre a 
primitive fasciculus. By this term, which has 
been generally adopted, undue importance is 
attributed to the longitudinal cleavage, for the 
elementary fibre may as justly be called a pile 
as a bundle. It is not, however, in strictness, 
either one or the other. 
In the period that has elapsed since Fon¬ 
tana’s description was published, up to the 
last few years, no real addition has been made 
to our knowledge, and so discredited or for¬ 
gotten, at least in this country, were the labours 
of the authors already enumerated, that the 
anatomy of the muscular fibre was taken up 
as a new inquiry in 1818 by Sir Everard Home 
and Mr. Bauer’.} The latter very excellent 
observer must have been deceived by the im¬ 
perfection of his glasses, which do not seem to 
have been adapted to so minute a structure, 
for his results, as published by Sir E. Home, 
have had the effect of retarding rather than of 
advancing our knowledge, by raising doubts as 
to the credibility of any conclusions founded 
on microscopical research. In 1832, Dr. 
Hodgkin and Mr. Lister§ re-discovered the 
transverse markings on the elementary fibre of 
voluntary muscle and of the heart, and pointed 
out, as Muys and Fontana had done, that 
their presence was a character by which this 
could be distinguished from the fibre of the 
uterus, bladder, &c., which latter they con¬ 
sequently denied to be muscular. Since then, 
many inquirers, both in this country and 
abroad, have taken up the subject with im¬ 
proved instruments. 
Among those who have arrived at conclu¬ 
sions similar to those of Fontana may be men¬ 
tioned the names of Lauth, Miiller, Schwann, 
and Henle. Others, however, have entertained 
very opposite and, as 1 believe, erroneous views 
of the composition of the fibre. MandlH con¬ 
ceives the cross markings to be produced by a 
* Some of these preparations were lately shewn 
me by Baron Larrey, to whom they were presented 
by Prochaska himself, during the occupation of 
Vienna by the French. 
+ Sur le Venin de la Vipère, &c. 1781. 
f Phil. Trans. 1818 & 1826. 
$ Appendix to Translation of Dr. Edwards’s work, 
De l’Influence des Agens Physiques sur la Vie. 
Traité pratique du Microscope, p. 74-5. Paris, 


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