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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/170

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Now, it is a remarkable fact that there is a special force, whose function it is to raise matter from each plane to the plane above, and to execute movements on the latter. Thus, it is the function of chemical affinity alone to raise matter from No. 1 to No. 2, as well as to execute all the movements, back and forth, by action and reaction; in a word, to produce all the phenomena on No. 2 which together constitute the science of chemistry. It is the prerogative of vegetable life-force alone to lift matter from No. 2 to No. 3, as well as to execute all the movements on that plane, which together constitute the science of vegetable physiology. It is the prerogative of animal life-force alone to lift matter from No. 3 to No. 4, and to preside over the movements on this plane, which together constitute the science of animal physiology. But there is no force in Nature capable of raising matter at once from No. 1 to No. 3, or from No. 2 to No. 4, without stopping and receiving an accession of force, of a different kind, on the intermediate plane. Plants cannot feed upon elements, but only on chemical compounds: animals cannot feed on minerals, but only on vegetables. We will see in the sequel that this is the necessary result of the principle of conservation of force in vital phenomena.

It is well known that atoms, in a nascent state, i. e., at the moment of their separation from previous combination, are endowed with peculiar and powerful affinity. Oxygen and nitrogen, nitrogen and hydrogen, hydrogen and carbon, which show no affinity for each other under ordinary circumstances, readily unite when one or both are in a nascent condition. The reason seems to be that, when the elements of a compound are torn asunder, the chemical affinity which previously bound them together is set free, ready and eager to unite the nascent elements with whatever they come in contact with. This state of exalted chemical energy is retained but a little while, because it is liable to be changed into some other form of force, probably heat, and is therefore no longer chemical energy. To illustrate by the planes: matter falling down from No. 2 to No. 1 generates force by which matter is lifted from No. 1 to No. 2. Decomposition generates the force by which combination is effected. This principle underlies every thing I shall further say.

There are, therefore, two ideas or principles underlying this paper: 1. The correlation of vital with physical and chemical forces; 2. That in all cases vital force is produced by decomposition––is transformed by nascent affinity. Neither of these is new. Grove, many years ago, brought out, in a vague manner, the idea that vital force was correlated with chemical and physical forces.[1] In 1848 Dr. Freke, M. R. I. A., of Dublin, first advanced the idea that vital force of animal life was generated by decomposition. In 1851 the same idea was brought out again by Dr. Walters, of St. Louis. These papers were un-

  1. In 1845 Dr. J. R. Mayer published a paper on "Organic Motion and Nutrition." I have not seen it.