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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/575

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565
ADDRESS BEFORE THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION.

these and other observers the most salient and, if I may use the expression, the grosser characters of animal organization had been recognized, little was known of the more intimate structure or texture of the parts. So far as could be determined by the unassisted vision, and so much as could be recognized by the use of a simple lens, had indeed been ascertained, and it was known that muscles, nerves and tendons were composed of threads or fibers, that the blood and lymph-vessels were tubes, that the parts which we call fasciæ and aponeuroses were thin membranes and so on.

Early in the present century Xavier Bichat, one of the most brilliant men of science during the Napoleonic era in France, published his 'Anatomie Generale' in which he formulated important general principles. Every animal is an assemblage of different organs, each of which discharges a function, and acting together, each in its own way, assists in the preservation of the whole. The organs are, as it were, special machines situated in the general building which constitutes the factory or body of the individual. But, further, each organ or special machine is itself formed of tissues which possess different properties. Some, as the blood-vessels, nerves, fibrous tissues, etc., are generally distributed throughout the animal body, whilst others, as bones, muscles, cartilage, etc., are found only in certain definite localities. While Bichat had acquired a definite philosophical conception of the general principles of construction and of the distribution of the tissues, neither he nor his pupil Béclard was in a position to determine the essential nature of the structural elements. The means and appliances at their disposal and at that of other observers in their generation were not sufficiently potent to complete the analysis.

Attempts were made in the third decennium of this century to improve the methods of examining minute objects by the manufacture of compound lenses, and, by doing away with chromatic and spherical aberration, to obtain, in addition to magnification of the object, a relatively large flat field of vision with clearness and sharpness of definition. When in January, 1830, Joseph Jackson Lister read to the Royal Society his memoir "On Some Properties in Achromatic Object-Glasses Applicable to the Improvement of Microscopes," he announced the principles on which combinations of lenses could be arranged, which would possess these qualities. By the skill of our opticians, microscopes have now for more than half a century been constructed which, in the hands of competent observers, have influenced and extended biological science with results comparable to those obtained by the astronomer through improvements in the telescope.

In the study of the minute structure of plants and animals the observer has frequently to deal with tissues and organs, most of which possess such softness and delicacy of substance and outline that, even