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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/791

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PHYSIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF VITAL FORCE.

of their existence with the physical and chemical forces of the inorganic world.

Over one thousand organic compounds, which but a few years since were supposed to be formed within the vegetable or animal body only by the action of a "vital force," are now produced synthetically from the elements which constitute them, and "there is every reason to expect," says the conservative but able author of "The New Chemistry," Professor Cooke, "that in the no distant future the chemist will be able to prepare, in his laboratory, both the material of which the cell is fashioned and the various products with which it becomes filled during life."

It is true that the knowledge of man has not yet enabled him to make a vegetable or an animal cell, but this is no evidence in favor of a "vital force" per se, but an indication of ignorance relative to the ultimate constitution of the cell. Indeed, pseudo-organic forms, which resemble living cells, having heterogeneous contents, and true inclosing membranes possessing dialyzing power, have already been reported as produced by Monnier and Vogt.

It is well, however, to remind ourselves of the fact that the "cell," as commonly understood, embracing a cell-wall and an internal nucleus, represents in itself an advanced condition of organization, and not, as is so often inferred, the most primitive and simplest of life-forms. "Cell," in biology, "is a technical term used to denote a unit of living tissue," and the fact that the chemist can not make it is not proof that an independent life-principle resides in it, but is proof of ignorance of its organic formation.

If the fact of a "vital force," distinct from physical and chemical forces, is to be established because of inability to make by synthesis a living cell, then, in logical fairness, should this force, or some other equally independent of physical and chemical laws, be declared to preside over the genesis and potencies of those inorganic elements and bodies which thus far have defied, not synthesis only, but analysis also.

In germinal matter is found the apparent seat of life, for this it is that transforms pabulum to build the tissues at first, and in it lies the potency of restoring to physical completeness portions of the body that may be injured or diseased. The repair of living tissues after mutilation is not, however, positive evidence of the existence of a special principle, for the same action occurs in inorganic materials.

Pasteur records the fact that "when a crystal is broken on any one of its faces, and replaced in the fluid of crystallization, we remark that while the crystal increases in all directions by the deposit of crystalline particles, a very decided simultaneous action takes place at the broken or injured part, and this action suffices in a few hours, not merely for the general, regular formation of increase over all parts of the crystal, but also for the restoration of regularity in the injured