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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/786

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766
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Science has already "banished the vital force from the entire province of organic chemical compounds, proving them to be subject to the same physical and chemical forces which determine the composition of mineral matter," and it now remains to test by analysis and synthesis the problem of organization itself.

It may very properly be asked, If the vital force has been banished from the entire province of organic chemical compounds, as asserted and demonstrated, in what it now resides, where is it located and what are its functions?

Chemical science has already demonstrated that all "proximate principles" and tissues of an organized body are, in an ultimate analysis, reducible to some of the elementary substances; and as, in inorganic bodies, morphological differences result from the various combinations of the ultimate elements, so, too, is it with organized bodies. So far as form alone is concerned, it is no more difficult to understand why organic compounds, under conditions of vital relations, take on the special form of a single speck of bioplasm in one case, of a vegetable in another, or of an animal form in another case, than it is to understand why the same elements will produce substances either allotropic or isomeric.

The phenomena are classified and thus explained, but in neither example is the ultimate nature or condition which causes the morphological difference known. There is no known force in nature capable of lifting the elements to the plane of animal organisms, except through the intermediate planes of the mineral and the vegetable kingdoms. Chemism is sufficient to form the mineral kingdom from the simple elements, which are under physical force alone. As the elementary combinations necessary to form a mineral involve an expenditure of force, which is transformed from a lower to a higher expression, so, in resolving the mineral back again to its elementary state, the force conserved in a higher state represents the original larger but weaker force of lower grade. The same is true when chemical compounds, as represented in the mineral kingdom, are lifted to the plane of the vegetable kingdom, or when the members of this class are raised to the highest class of the animal kingdom. In all cases the higher conditions depend upon the conditions of the next lower plane; and the conserved forces of the higher plane, when liberated by decomposition, represent the special functions of the organization.

There is not a phenomenon in animal life, from the earliest stage of germ-growth to the final stage of human development, but is susceptible of classification. The monera—mere specks of bioplasm—organisms without organs, so far as can be determined in their power to move, to receive nourishment, to react on external impressions and to reproduce their kind—not only manifest the fundamental properties of life, but display them under conditions so simple, so free from all