Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/801

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great advance in the experimental study of the nervous system. He first demonstrated, though in no thoroughly satisfactory manner, the twofold function of the spinal roots. It is true that Bell did say some things derogatory of physiological experiment about the beginning of this century. But it is also true that his actions speak louder than his words. By reference to his works, we find that Bell made this great discovery in the only way possible—viz., by means of vivisectional experiments. He actually vivisected asses, kittens, rabbits, fowls, monkeys, and dogs, performing the same experiments for which Magendie has been so severely criticised.[1] Charles Bell was exceedingly sensitive upon the point of causing pain to animals, as is shown by several passages in his works; and it is certainly a strong argument for the necessity of vivisection that a man of his sensitive nature should be compelled to resort to this method in order to demonstrate the truth of his theories. It must be remembered that he had no anæsthetics, and therefore his position can not apply to the present discussion of the subject. Were he operating to-day, with chloroform, ether, morphine, chloral, paraldehyde, cocaine, and other anæsthetics at his disposal, he need have had no twinges of conscience about the pain his experiments occasioned.

Magendie completed Bell's work, placing it upon a firm basis by means of experiments for which he has been accused of most atrocious cruelty. It is sufficient to reply that Magendie, too, worked before anæsthetics were discovered, and when people's ideas about physical pain were very different from our ideas at present. And Magendie was, to say the least, as oblivious to his own suffering as he was to that of the animals he experimented upon. When cholera broke out in France, in 1832, he went as a volunteer into the center of the afflicted district, and afterward served in the great cholera hospital, the Hôtel Dieu, during the epidemic in Paris, and for his heroism received the cross of the Legion of Honor[2]—"The fiend Magendie."

Take, for example, another great line of physiological work than which few discoveries have been of more practical value to human life. Upon a knowledge of the physiology of respiration we build and ventilate, or ought to, at least, dwelling and school houses, audience rooms, and hospitals.

The first important discovery in this line was made by Sir

  1. Charles Bell. Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain. London, 1811. Transcribed by H. U. D., 1813. Also, Nervous System of the Human Body. London, 1830.
  2. J. C. Dalton. Magendie as a Physiologist. International Review, February, 1880, p. 120. The story of Magendie's repentance and distrust of vivisection, shortly before his death, has often been adduced against this method of research. After careful search through all the accounts of Magendie's life (thirteen in number), Dalton is able to say that there is no intimation of any ground for this idea.