Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/33

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27
CHEMICAL PHYSIOLOGY.
THE PRESENT POSITION OF CHEMICAL PHYSIOLOGY.[1]
By Professor W. D. HALLIBURTON, M.D., F.R.S.
KING'S COLLEGE, LONDON.

AN engineer who desires to thoroughly understand how a machine works must necessarily know its construction. If the machine becomes erratic in its action, and he wishes to put it into proper working order, a preliminary acquaintance with its normal structure and function is an obvious necessity.

If we apply this to the more delicate machinery of the animal body we at once see how a knowledge of function (physiology and pathology) is impossible without a preliminary acquaintance with structure or anatomy.

It is therefore not surprising, it is indeed in the nature of things, that physiology originated with the great anatomists of the past. It was not until Vesalius and Harvey by tedious dissections laid bare the broad facts of structure that any theorizing concerning the uses of the constituent organs of the body had any firm foundation.

Important and essential as the knowledge is that can be revealed by the scalpel, the introduction and use of the microscope furnished physiologists with a still more valuable instrument. By it much that was before unseen came into view, and microscopic anatomy and physiology grew in stature and knowledge simultaneously.

The weapons in the armory of the modern physiologist are multitudinous in number and complex in construction, and enable him in the experimental investigation of his subject to accurately measure and record the workings of the different parts of the machinery he has to study. But preeminent among these instruments stands the test tube and the chemical operations typified by that simple piece of glass.

Herein one sees at once a striking distinction between the mechanism of a living animal and that of a machine like a steam engine or a watch. It is quite possible to be an excellent watchmaker or to drive a steam engine intelligently without any chemical knowledge of the various metals that enter into its composition. In order to set the mechanism right if it goes wrong all the preliminary knowledge which is necessary is of an anatomical nature. The parts of which an engine is composed are stable; the oil that lubricates it and the fuel that feeds

  1. Presidential address to the Physiological Section at the Belfast Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.