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Dead plants and animals must be analyzed in their turn. All sorts of exorganic products and exuviae, the excrements and the corpses of organized nature, are therefore macerated, decocted, distilled, and submitted to the last analysis. But they yield no new element, being just made of the common dust of the ground! Some fourteen or fifteen of the old mineral elements are all they contain; four of them in a more notable proportion (by a great way) than the other ten or eleven-hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon, three gases and one solid. So large and prominent a place in the chemistry of dead bodies is occupied by these three soft airs and that one hardest of matters, (airs and the diamond!) that Stöckhardt, a recent systematic writer, classifies them under the title of organogens. There seems to be an impression that they are the essential elements of matter that has been organized; and that the other ingredients, such as sulphur, phosphorus, chlorine and iron, are only of secondary importance. It is very striking to find that water and common air contain the four chief constituents of plants, animals and the body of man, common air containing carbonic acid (or carbon dissolved in oxygen) as well as ammonia, which is composed of nitrogen and hydrogen. Out of water and common air the vegetable world builds its thousand living forms. These forms, once dead, contain cheese, fibrin and albumen of the very same composition as the albumen, fibrin and cheese of dead animals, to say nothing of starch, and sugar, and oil, and a hundred other less important principles. Vegetable and animal fibrin are mainly composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Sugar and starch are composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen; in other words, of pure coal and water. The compounds, the transitions, the analogies, the transformations of what has been called organic chemistry, are as wonderful and instructive as they are multitudinous.
What has been called organic chemistry, for after all it is nothing but a name, and a wrong one. There is no such science; it is only the chemistry of exorganic forms, of substances that have been living, but are now dead, of the mere refuse and remains of organisation. The composition of those favoured substances from which the vegetable world weaves its tissues is known-water, carbonic acid, ammonia-the last of these being a product of the spontaneous decomposition of dead plants and animals, and all of them (taken together) containing hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon, the four organogens of the elemental list. The composition of the proximate principles, (such as vegetable fibrin, cheese and albumen, sugar and oil,) which are extractable by easy processes from dead plants, on the other hand, is also known. But the composition of the truly living
tissues of vegetable forms neither is nor can be known. They die the moment chemistry puts her finger on them. She can trace the organogens into the living plant and out of it, but not What may be the mode of arrangement of these organogens, or of their possible ingredients in matter which is genuinely alive, chemistry can never know. The living frame even of a mushroom is enchanted and sacred ground, where the poor chemist can only take the shoes off his feet, and confess the sanctity of life.
All this is to be said with still more emphasis of animal figures, for it is not always easy to discriminate between what is exuvial and what is really alive in a plant. But the ox and the wether crop the grass of the field, thereby sustaining an incalculably more vivid life than what they destroy, and when they die their bodies yield fibrin, cheese and albumen of precisely similar composition to those of the plants they have killed and fed upon. Man himself supplies the wants of his body from either the roots, fruits and seeds of the earth, or from the dead remains of the animal kingdom; unless, indeed, when he draws his sustenance from an ingenious and culinary mixture of both vegetable and animal remains, as is the case among the minority in these temperate latitudes. In this capital instance also the chemist can follow the organogens into the thrilling organism-the food with its understood composition into the mouth and digestive viscera, the air into the lungs, and water to every pore; but he cannot pass a step beyond the threshold. He can but await the hour of death, and then submit what was the body of a brother to his fiery taxis. He may take a dead muscle and get fibrin out of it, a dead brain and find albumen, and then resolve his albumen and fibrin into their common elements, but he shall never analyze either a muscle or a brain.
There is even a gulf between those compounds, into which the constituents of a living creature fall on dissolution, and all the ordinary compounds of chemistry: the very ruins of life are as inimitable, as they are sacred in their origin. After all, it is in vain that the chemist assures the world how sugar is nothing but a compound of carbon and water, so long as he cannot make a particle of sugar out of water and carbon. And, if this is to be said of sugar, which is almost half-way down from the mount of life to the general plain of mineral existence, it must be affirmed with loud protest concerning what are called the plastic ingredients of the dead, fibrin and the rest. In brief, we do not, certainly, know the composition even of exorganic products:-we only know that, when submitted to particular processes of analysis, they yield the organogens in such and such proportions. It is a beautiful science, this of exorganic chemistry, (for we can
not consent to call it organic,) but it is only analytical; it is not synthetical at all. It can only take its things down, it cannot put them up again. The inorganic chemist resolves water into oxygen and hydrogen, but he also unites hydrogen and oxygen again, thereby reproducing water: whereas, the exorganic chemist cannot make a particle of oil, or alcohol, or cheese, or flesh, although he is able to destroy them and read off the carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen they yield, and must therefore have contained in some sense or other. Even exorganic chemistry is only a half-opened book, while organic chemistry, proper, is a volume never to be opened at all. There it gleams ever before us, beautiful, assuredly full of more than oriental marvels, but clasped with living adamant, guarded by a flaming sword, not to be approached. It is surely nothing less than a ceaseless. memorial, that there are things which the very nature of them inexorably hides from the unready eye of man, so long as he is in the flesh; for none but a disembodied soul can ever pursue the study of the chemistry of life. Yet, everything that exists is for study, and this surpassing sphere must have its surpassing students in reserve; whence some fond Liebig or Mülder might well argue the confident hope of a future state, as different from the future state belonging to their present doctrine, as heaven from earth.
In the meantime, it is to be most thankfully acknowledged, that the results of the so-called organic chemistry of the day are full of importance and beauty; and that neither for "the candlemaker" nor the speculator, but for the practical student of the sciences of nature. It is an immense affair to know precisely what mineral compounds and elements the vegetable world takes to itself, spins into such a strange variety of unanalyzable shapes, and quickens with life. It is no less interesting to observe the proximate principles composing the excrements and exuviae of these curious creatures, and then to discover the proportions in which the organogens can be extracted from those inimitable proximates. In one word, the tracing of the common chemical elements into the living plant, followed by the exact recovery of them after death, and that in combinations as unique as they are multifarious and mutually related, is knowledge of the most engaging and valuable nature. It is still more desirable, of course, to be apprized of the precise analytical (if not synthetical) composition of the food thus prepared for the animal kingdom, its exact relations to that of animal remains, if not of animals themselves, the nature of the processes of expiration and inspiration in so far as these are chemical, the manner of action of the properly chemical poisons, and so forth through a thousand details. In brief, there is no domain of physical science more positive and
Limits of Organic Chemistry.
instructive, or even more wonderful than the exorganic chemistry of the present school, notwithstanding the inevitable but too often forgotten fact, that it is only the chemistry of the lifeless and the dead; the lifeless food of plants, the organogens with the sccondary ingredients of these living fabrics, and the dead proximate principles (fibrin and the rest) of both plants and animals. It has already vastly extended the boundaries of chemistry, if not of physiology; and it is likely to lead, in the long run, to ideas which may be invaluable (were they only negative) in the future study of physiology itself. It appears to us, in fact, that the only thing wanted to steady the perilous tread of the wouldbe organic chemistry is the ever-present recognition of the fact, that there is no evidence yet forthcoming of the existence of carbon and its companions (as such) in even dead flesh and blood, much less in "the blood which is the life," and the muscle which leaps under the prick of pain or moves obedient to the will. And if it be in the very highest degree probable, though neither proved nor easily conceived to be capable of being proved, that living creatures use carbon and the rest (just as they are) for its purposes, it is certainly neither susceptible of proof, nor probable, that they are arranged into particles of fibrin and so forth in the live body. No sooner does that cease to be alive than it falls down into masses of fibrin, jelly, and their likes; exposed to moisture and air, these in their turn speedily fall down into still less organoid compounds; and at last the whole affair falls down into water, carbonic acid, ammonia, and other common bodies, lapsing back into the bosom of ordinary nature, where compounds can be not only decomposed, but compounded again by the hand of skill. That is all that can be said, and then the circle is complete.
The structural physiologists agree with all this, for they have never given in to the views of the ultra-chemical school. Even the thoughtful exorganic chemist will allow the halfness of the conquests he has yet made; that he can take down everything. and put up nothing; and that the living particle is for ever beyond his grasp. Mr. Wilkinson, too, is likely quite prepared to grant all the importance we claim for the analytical labours of the chemist, although his strong feeling of their irrelevancy to his own inquiries has tempted him to speak with light scorn of the dealers in carbon and chemical formulae. The truth seems just to be, that each school overvalues its own point of view, and underrates the positions of the others. It is the old story: men are fragments; may man yet prove a whole! In the meantime the wise student will travel from school to school, like the old scholars, and await the development of a many-sided doctrine. In the prosecution of such a course of study, being in all likeli
hood more or less familiar with the ways of both the chemical and the structural physiologists, he cannot well do better than bestow a serious perusal on the volume now under notice. It will probably increase his temptation to do so, to be told that it may (with all respect for the striking originality of its author) be regarded as the Swedenborgian text-book on the subject, brought up to the present state of positive science, and set forth in the happiest style of illustration. It is now well understood that the Swedish seer looked at nature, say rather the universe, from a point of view never occupied by any other philosopher or school of science; and that alone is a circumstance to make his manner of thought dear to every open inquirer, especially since it is notorious that he was unquestionably one of the most learned and accomplished men of his own or any other time. In addition to this great recommendation-(the absolute newness of the point of view, in so far as the most of us are concerned)—the fact that Swedenborg and his disciples profess to look at all things from Christ, as the centre and soul of creation, must enhance the interest of a work written from that point of view for the Christian student of nature and of books.
After what has been said above concerning the true bearings of chemistry upon the science of the human body, the less initiated reader is prepared in some degree for the peculiar, altogether unassailable, and even mysterious character implicitly and habitually, we had almost said latently, assigned by our author even to the material stuff which gives its substance to the human body. But it has already been hinted that he has little more respect for the microscopists than for the chemists; the final cause of the microscope is the production of patterns for the weaver; and the microscopical observers deserve importance only as a sub-committee of Drapers' Hall! Alive to the stinging fact, that chemistry, like the antique Medusa, turns everything it touches to stone, he cannot, for the life of him, perceive what the peering of educated eyes through magnifying glasses at fibres, cells, cell-germs, and blood-globules can do for the knowledge of man's body as man's! All this is extreme and ungenial and illiberal, according to our thinking; yet it is very true that these structurists are, just like the chemists, prone to an overweening estimate of the vital bearings of their quaint and engrossing inquiries upon a large and manly doctrine of the physiology of man's body. But if those prying students have neglected the weightier matters of this law, neither should any critic overlook the anise and the cummin. Mr. Wilkinson knows this in his heart, for the gist of his complaint against the observers in question (when stripped of its contemptuous banter) is just that they claim too much for their province, and that they