Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/707

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MONERA, AND THE PROBLEM OF LIFE.

reduce carbonic acid furnished by animals, forming therefrom organic compounds of high calorific value; and that these food-compounds reunite in the animal with the oxygen inhaled by it, yielding by this combustion all the power exhibited in its vital manifestations.

While this—from our present point of view—fundamentally erroneous and most misleading conception exerted an all but universal sway over scientific minds, it happened that, under its influence, so early as 1844, our illustrious and veteran scientist and philosophical historian, Dr. John W. Draper, succeeded in establishing, by a series of beautiful experiments, a far deeper and vastly more essential connection in Nature.

This connection, if I am not greatly mistaken, is destined to become the redeeming thread by which Science will extricate itself from the mechanical maze of rigid resistance and equivalent mass-motion. By dint of so significant and mathematically available a clew, it may in time reach a somewhat more commensurate recognition of effects synthetically secured, of inherent cumulative elaboration, the unforfeitable boon of specific dynamical influences, which with restless toil are ever busy, widening the scope of qualitative wealth, intensifying the intestine sensitiveness and sympathetic response by which substances inwardly answer the inward call of other substances.

The marvelously slender thread of vivifying connection, traced to its origin by Draper, is an ethereal but most definite band of vital dependence, absolute dependence. It is a truly promethean beam, for without it no life, no fire on earth. You suppress from the entire amount of solar influence—calorific, luminous, and chemical—solely the yellow rays, and you have quenched life at its starting-point: no more elaboration of organic compounds by chlorophyl-protoplasm, no more food-supply, no more vitality. You have cut off the thread of life, the golden band of union by which the still embryonic vitality of our planet receives sustenance from the mighty parent-orb. This great discovery of Draper the recent researches of Sachs and Pfeffer have only essentially corroborated.

It is here, then, that the knot of organic complexity is being really tied in Nature, and this is, therefore, the exact point at which the mystery of organic synthesis has to be unraveled. A most specific dynamical influence meets here in a peculiar preexisting substratum with certain inferior matter, and under this confluence of conditions, by a chemical process of reduction and substitution, molecular organization is effected.

In framing my hypothesis of the origin of organic compounds on our globe, I would closely adhere to the above facts. After what I have learned with regard to the yellow rays, I would not expect aboriginal organic synthesis to have taken place at the bottom of the sea, where all dynamical influences must be dispersed, or so suffused as to have lost their definite efficiency. I would then imagine some probable