The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Dowler, Bennet
DOWLER, Bennet, an American physician and physiologist, born in Ohio co., Va., April 16, 1797. He was educated at the university of Maryland, where in 1827 he received the degree of doctor of medicine. In 1836 he settled in New Orleans, and was for several years the editor of the “New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal.” From an early period in his career experiments upon the human body, immediately or very soon after death, occupied a large share of his attention, and the results of his investigations, comprising some important discoveries with regard to contractility, calorification, capillary circulation, &c., were published in 1843-'4. Since that time these and other original experiments have been extended, generalized, and analyzed by him. His researches on animal heat, in health, in disease, and after death, which have from time to time been published in medical journals, have led to important discoveries, particularly with reference to post mortem calorification, which his experiments have shown will, after death from fever, cholera, or sunstroke, &c., rise in some cases much higher than its antecedent maximum during the progress of the disease. In 1845 Dr. Dowler commenced a series of experiments in comparative physiology on the great saurian or alligator of Louisiana, which he regarded as better for the purpose than any of the cold-blooded animals usually selected for vivisection. From these experiments he was led to the conclusions that after decapitation the head, and more especially the trunk, afford evidences of possessing the faculties of sensation and volition for hours after a complete division of the animal; that the headless trunk, deprived of all the senses but that of touch, still retains the powers of perception and volition, and may act with intelligence in removing or avoiding an irritant; and that the functions and structures of the nervous system constitute a unity altogether inconsistent with the anatomical assumption of four distinct and separate sets of nerves, and a corresponding fourfold set of functions.