Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/39

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CHEMICAL PHYSIOLOGY.

rounds them. Whether such a sweeping and almost revolutionary notion will stand the test of further verification must be left to the future; so also must the equally important idea that nervous impulses are to be mainly explained on an electrolytic basis. But whether or not all the details of such work will stand the test of time, the experiments I have briefly alluded to are sufficient to show the importance of physical chemistry to the physiologist, and they also form a useful commentary on what I was saying just now about vitalism. Such eminently' vital phenomena as movement and fertilization are to be explained in whole or in part as due to the physical action of inorganic substances. Are not such suggestions indications of the undesirability of postulating the existence of any special mystic vital force?

I have spoken up to this point of physical chemistry as a branch of inorganic chemistry; there are already indications of its importance also in relation to organic chemistry. Many eminent chemists consider that the future advance of organic chemistry will be on the new physical lines. It is impossible to forecast where this will lead us; suffice it to say that not only physiology, but also pathology, pharmacology, and even therapeutics, will receive new accessions to knowledge the importance of which will be enormous.

I have now briefly sketched what appear to me to be the two main features of the chemical physiology of to-day, and the two lines, organic and inorganic, along which I believe it will progress in the future.

Let me now press upon you the importance in physiology, as in all experimental sciences, of the necessity first of bold experimentation, and secondly of bold theorizing from experimental data. Without experiment all theorizing is futile; the discovery of gravitation would never have seen the light if laborious years of work had not convinced Newton that it could be deduced from his observations. The Darwinian theory was similarly based upon data and experiments which occupied the greater part of its author's lifetime to collect and perform. Pasteur in France and Virchow in Germany supply other instances of the same devotion to work which was followed by the promulgation of wide-sweeping generalizations.

And after all it is the general law which is the main object of research; isolated facts may be interesting and are often of value, but it is not until facts are correlated and the discoveries ascertain their interrelationships that anything of epoch-making importance is given to the world.

It is, however, frequently the case that a thinker with keen insight can see the general law even before the facts upon which it rests are fully worked out. Often such bold theorizers are right, but even if