Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/42

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34
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT BEFORE THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE.

By Sir WILLIAM TURNER, F. R. S.

II.
FUNCTION OF CELLS.

IT has already been stated that, when new cells arise within pre-existing cells, division of the nucleus is associated with cleavage of the cell plasm, so that it participates in the process of new cell-formation. Undoubtedly, however, its rôle is not limited to this function. It also plays an important part in secretion, nutrition and the special functions discharged by the cells in the tissues and organs of which they form morphological elements.

Between 1838 and 1842 observations were made which showed that cells were constituent parts of secreting glands and mucous membranes (Schwann, Henle). In 1842 John Goodsir communicated to the Royal Society of Edinburgh a memoir on secreting structures, in which he established the principle that cells are the ultimate secreting agents; he recognized in the cells of the liver, kidney and other organs the characteristic secretion of each gland. The secretion was, he said, situated between the nucleus and the cell wall. At first he thought that, as the nucleus was the reproductive organ of the cell, the secretion was formed in the interior of the cell by the agency of the cell wall; but three years later he regarded it as a product of the nucleus. The study of the process of spermatogenesis by his brother, Harry Goodsir, in which the head of the spermatozoon was found to correspond with the nucleus of the cell in which the spermatozoon arose, gave support to the view that the nucleus played an important part in the genesis of the characteristic product of the gland cell.

The physiological activity of the cell plasm and its complex chemical constitution soon after began to be recognized. Some years before Max Schultze had published his memoirs on the characters of protoplasm, Brücke had shown that the well-known changes in tint in the skin of the chameleon were due to pigment granules situated in cells in the skin which were sometimes diffused throughout the cells, at others concentrated in the center. Similar observations on the skin of the frog were made in 1854 by von Wittich and Harless. The movements were regarded as due to contraction of the cell wall on its contents. In a most interesting paper on the pigmentary system in the frog, pub-