Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/187

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183
THE PHYSIOLOGY OF DIGESTION
food, which being exposed to their vessels is taken up; but the fluid thus taken up can not be imitated by any mixture of earth and water, any more than we can imitate chyle by combining aliments with the fluids of the alimentary canal. As we thus have proofs the one is a secretory process, why not admit that of the other to be so also, since the circumstances of each so perfectly agree.

One hundred years later the obscure importance of the absorbing alimentary tract must still be emphasized. In the words of a popular textbook: the energy that controls absorption resides in the wall of the intestine, presumably in the epithelial cells and constitutes a special form of imbibition which is not yet understood. Thus the dignity of the living structures still remains unchallenged.

The uncertainty regarding the acidity of the gastric juice which still prevailed twenty years after Young's paper was. published has already been mentioned. Even as late as 1812 Montegre insisted that what was supposed to be gastric juice is nothing but swallowed saliva. An American, Professor Smith, suggested that digestion is performed "by the veins of the stomach, and by the liver." Vague ideas like these, in contrast with modest experimental inquiries illustrated by the monograph which we have reviewed in some detail, led Dr. Beaumont to remark:

It is unfortunate for the interests of physiological science that it generally falls to the lot of men of vivid imaginations, and great powers of mind, to become restive under the restraints of a tedious and routine mode of thinking, and to strike out into bold and original hypotheses to elucidate the operations of nature, or to account for the phenomena that are constantly submitting to their inspection. The process of developing truth, by patient and persevering investigation, experiment and research, is incompatible with unrestrained genius. The drudgery of science is left to humbler and more unpretending laborers. The flight of genius is, however, frequently erratic.