This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
"Come, gentle reader, leave all meaner things To low ambition, and the pride of kings. Let us, since life can little more supply Than just to look about us, and to die; Expatiate free o'er all this scene of Man, A mighty maze! but not without a plan. A wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous shoot; Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore, Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar: Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies, And catch the manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can, But vindicate the ways of God to man."
We shall, in the first place, enter on the consideration 01 The Curiosities of the Human Body. - The following account is abridged from the works of the late Drs. Hunter and Paley.
Dr. Hunter shows that all the parts of the human frame are requisite to the wants and well-being of such a creature as man. He observes, that, first the mind, the thinking immaterial agent, must be provided with a place of immediate residence, which shall have all the requisites for the union of spirit and body; accordingly, she is provided with the brain, where she dwells as governor and superintendant of the whole fabric.
In the next place, as she is to hold a correspondence with all the material beings around her, she must be supplied with organs fitted to receive the different kinds of impression which they will make. In fact, therefore, we see that she is provided with the organ* of sense, as we call them: the eye is adapted to light; the ear to sound; the nose to smell; the mouth to taste; and the skin to touch.
Further, she must be furnished with organs of communication between herself in the brain, and those organs of sense; to give her information of all the impressions that are made upon them; and she must have organs between herself in the brain, and every other part of the body, fitted to convey her commands and influence over the whole. For these purposes the nerves are actually given. They are soft white chords which rue from the brain, the immediate residence of the mind, and disperse themselves in branches through all parts of the body They convey all the different kinds of sensations to the mind in the brain; and likewise carry out from thence all her commands to the other parts of the body. They are intended to be occasional monitors against all such impressions as might endanger the well-being of the whole, or of any particular part; which vindicates the Creator of all things, in having actually subjected us to those many disagreeable and painful sensations which we are exposed to from a thousand accidents in life.
Moreover, the mind, in this corporeal system, must be endued with the power of moving from place to place; that she may have intercourse with a variety of objects; that she may fly from such as are disagreeable, dangerous, or hurtful; and pursue such as are pleasant and useful to her. And accordingly she is furnished with limbs, with muscles and tendons, the instruments of motion, which are found in every part of the fabric where motion is necessary.
But to support, to give firmness and shape to the fabric; to keep the softer parts in their proper places; to give fixed points for, and the proper directions to its motions, as well as to protect some of the more important and tender organs from external injuries, there must be some firm prop-work interwoven through the whole. And in fact, for such purposes the bones are given.
The prop-work is not made with one rigid fabric, for that would prevent motion. Therefore there are a number of bones.
These pieces must all be firmly bound together, to prevent their dislocation. And this end is perfectly well answered by the ligaments.
The extremities of these bony pieces, where they move and rub upon one another, must have smooth and slippery surfaces for easy motion. This is most happily provided for, by the cartilages and mucus of the joints.
The interstices of all these parts must be filled up with some soft and ductile matter, which shall keep them in their places, unite them, and at the same time allow them to move a little upon one another; these purposes are answered by the cellular membrane, or edipose substance.
There must be an outward covering over the whole apparatus, both to give it compactness, and to defend it from a thousand injuries; which, in fact, are the very purposes of the skin and other integuments.
Say, what the various bones so wisely wrought ? How was their frame to such perfection brought ? What did their figures for their uses lit, Their numbers fix, and joints adapted knit; And made them all in that just order stand, Which motion, strength, and ornament, demand?
Lastly, the mind being formed for society and intercourse with beings of her own kind, she must be endued with powers of expressing and communicating her thoughts by some visible marks or signs, which shall be both easy to herself, and admit of great variety. And accordingly she is provided with the organs and faculty of speech, by which she can throw out signs with amazing facility, and vary them without end.
Thus we have built up an animal body, which would seem to be pretty complete; but as it is the nature of matter to be altered and worked upon by matter, so in a very little time such a living creature must be destroyed, if there is no provision for repairing the injuries which she must commit upon herself, and those which she must be exposed to from without. Therefore a treasure of blood is actually provided in the heart and vascular system, full of nutritious and healing particles; fluid enough to penetrate into the minutest parts of the animal; impelled by the heart, and conveyed by the arteries, it washes every part, builds up what was broken down, and sweeps away the old and useless materials. Hence we see the necessity or advantage of the heart and arterial system.
What more there was of the blood than enough to repair the present damages of the machine, must not be lost, but should be returned again to the heart; and for this purpose the venous system is provided. These requisites in the animal explain the circulation of the blood, a priori.*
* This subject will be more fully explained hereafter.
All this provision, however, would not be sufficient; for the store of blood would soon be consumed, and the fabric would break down, if there was not a provision made by fresh supplies. These we observe, in fact, are profusely scattered round he. in the animal and vegetable kingdoms; and she is furnished with hands, the fittest instruments that could be contrived for gathering them, and for preparing them in then varieties for the mouth.
But these supplies, which we call food, must be considerably changed; they must be converted into blood. Therefore she is provided with teeth for cutting and bruising the food, and with a stomach for melting it down; in short, with all the organs subservient to digestion : the finer parts of the aliments only can be useful in the constitution; these must be taken up and conveyed into the blood, and the dregs must be thrown off. With this view, the intestinal canal is provided. it separates the nutritious parts, which we call chyle, to be conveyed into the blood by the system of the absorbent vessels; and the coarser parts pass downwards to be ejected.
We have now got our animal not only furnished with what is wanting for immediate existence, but also with powers of protracting that existence to an indefinite length of time. But its duration, we may presume, must necessarily be limited; for as it is nourished, grows, and is raised up to its full strength and utmost perfection; so it must in time, in common with all material beings, begin to decay, and then hurry on into final ruin.
Thus we see, by the imperfect survey which human reason is able to take of this subject, that the animal man must necessarily be complex in his corporeal system, and in its operations.
He must have one great and general system, the vascular, branching through the whole circulation: another, the nervous, with its appendages - the organs of sense, for every kind of feeling: and a third, for the union and connection of all these parts.
Besides these primary and general systems, he requires others, which may be more local or confined: one, for strength, support, and protection, - the bony compages : another, for the requisite motions of the parts among themselves, as well as for moving from place to place, - the muscular system: another to prepare nourishment for the daily recruit of the body, - the digestive organs.
Dr. Paley observes, that, of all the different systems in the human body, the use and necessity are not more apparent, than the wisdom and contrivance which have been exerted, in putting them all into the most compact and convenient form: in disposing them so, that they shall mutually receive from, and give helps to one another: and that all, or many of the parts, shall not only answer their principal end or purpose, but operate successfully and usefully in a variety of secondary ways. If we consider the whole animal machine in this light, and compare it with any machine in which human art has exerted its utmost, we shall be convinced, beyond the possibility of doubt, that there are intelligence and power far sur-passing what humanity can boast of