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PERIODICITY OF DISEASES.
In a former communication, we gave a detailed account of certain experiments which tended to prove that all nature was not alive,' 'that all animated beings were not mere congeries of minute living bodies. By a number of well-conducted experiments, the result proved, that all the interstices of space, whether of the water, air, earth, or space- whether of inert or animated matter — were filled with animal and vegetable life: that these minute animalculæ exist in these interstices, and are attached to their surfaces, both in the larvæ and perfect state: that even the living human eye, is filled with them, their motion and presence being plainly discernible. Of the substances which formed the base of two hundred and eighty-eight experiments, honey and oil alone appeared to be exempt from the action of these minute and almost invisible class of beings.'
These being facts, on the accuracy of which the strictest reliance can be placed, the natural question then occurs of the duration of life of these animalcules, or atoms. If the following remarks can throw any new light on this subject, we trust that the French savans will take the matter into their own hands, and pursue the investigation zealously. We are confident that it is within the power of science to set this question at rest.
All fevers, of whatever type they may be, whether endemics, epidemics, or accidental, have a definite term of action, varying but slightly from the regular period. Fevers of a peculiar class, such as are denominated chills-and-fever, return periodically. They occur generally, every third day; but when the system is weakened by repeated attacks, they appear sometimes every day, and in extreme cases, twice in the twenty-four hours. These are the simplest kinds of fever, and are more under the control of medical skill than those of a different nature.
There are a variety of fevers which can take possession of the animal frame at pleasure; some few of a different character can never disturb the system but once: these are measles, whooping-cough, mumps, small-pox, and chicken-pox. The period of their influence over the human frame can be ascertained with singular exactness, owing to their character being contagious or infectious.
The term of life, in man, varies according to circumstances, but the average among all civilized nations is the same. This uniformity is easily accounted for, as the organic structure throughout the whole human family is the same, and it is only among barbarous nations, where there are great extremes of climate, that man does not live out his term — the threescore years and ten. With inferior animals the case is different, as the variety is endless, and as we descend in the scale,
thought can scarcely conceive of their numbers, and the variety of their organization.
Although animals themselves are a countless host, yet there are myriads of insects which find a birth-place for their progeny, as
well a food to sustain themselves, on every individual of the animal species. These insects, in their turn, are infested by others still smaller, and, finally, our limited vision, even with the most powerful glasses, can only trace them to the animated molecules, being the smallest yet discovered of what are termed infusory animals. There can be no doubt that there are living beings still smaller, and the mind turns from the subject abruptly, when it considers, that though we can comprehend the magnitude of beings far greater than those which the earth has ever yet seen, we shrink with awe at the thought that there must be animated life a thousand times smaller than any yet discovered !
Animal substances, whether active or inert, from the body of man to those small specks of almost questionable locomotive powers, are the proper food for all organic animated matter. Accordingly, it is not surprising, when experiment and observation prove, that if the larger animals feed on those which are smaller and weaker, there are others of insignificant size which have the power, not only of annoying, but of destroying the life, not alone of the mammoth but of the elm.
Plants, numberless as they are, and different as they are in structure and character, are assailed by as great a variety of enemies, as the animal tribe. Plants not only serve as a birth-place for millions of insects, but for food, likewise. The same pabulum which causes the growth and health of a plant, nourishes and sustains locomotive, atomic life. Whilst that invigorating pabulum is present, the green slime of stagnant water — the lowest in the scale of vegetation — gives birth to myriads of pestilential animalcules, of a longevity and active force proportionate to the quantity of nourishment that the precarious and fragile texture on which they harbor can supply.
The energies of this destructive, invisible class are not confined to the sphere on which they were generated. When in their perfect state, they can change their location like the insects in the dust of old cheese, which is an animal substance; they live equally well, and increase in numbers, in the dust of old figs, (a vegetable substance,) for these two insects are precisely the same. The malignant animalculæ can accommodate themselves to a nourishment far different from that which first sustained them. It is probable, that the same race which would produce the fevers incident to marshy places, might, under different circumstances, when rioting on more luxuriant food, produce the diseases called yellow fever, or cholera.
Water, air, and in fact all inert and organic animated matter, serve as birth-places to the smallest of organized bodies. We can easily imagine, that if a suitable effluvium were present, how fearfully destructive their accumulated numbers would be, if their station were in the atmosphere. We know that water, which receives but little injury from the action of large bodies that are passing through it, becomes impure, and undergoes a material change, when filled with the infusory animalcules.
Man, although he has by his ingenuity and intelligence succeeded in preventing noisome and offensive vermin from annoying and injuring
- of the very
his own person externally, and partially internally, yet he daily falls a victim to the destructive influence of an invisible race smallest of all that is created those which swarm, unseen, in the atmosphere, in water, in his apparel, and throughout the circulation of his oun body.
As length of life and gestation vary so much in visible animals, so likewise does it vary in the smallest that we yet know. Some insectsthe locust - of which several kinds are known are from seven to seventeen years in passing from the egg to the winged or perfect state. The beetle, an endless variety, from the egg to the fly, live from a single day to three years. The curculio, of which there are many varieties, have three or four generations in a season. Then come a million of others mere ephemera — whose span of life is scarcely an hour. But whether it be one hour or seventeen years, the change from the egg to the fly is always performed in the same period of time, by every individual of the same species, provided the principle which stimulates life to action be present.
Certain seeds, when peculiar excitement is withheld, lie for a number of years without germinating, sometimes for a century; whereas, in a suitable temperature, they will vegetate in the regular time. This is likewise the case with the eggs of the minute infusory animalcules. Dried plants, kept in paper for more than a century, will be found to have a number of these eggs on them, all of which become animated at the end of three or more days after being steeped in water, even if the water be distilled. The eggs of the common hen are vivified in twenty-one days, but if they are kept at a low temperature, from the air, they will remain for a much longer period without losing the vital principle.
But, however long the time may be that vitality is suspended, still, when the proper stimulants are present - heat and moisture - the period for the emerging of the plant or insect is the same: the vivification is as certain as the diurnal motion of the sun.
The eggs or larvæ of pestilential animalcules exist in great abundance, at all times, in low, damp, fenny places, and in the dense effluvium that arises from the multifarious depositions of animal and vegetable matter which unavoidably accumulate around wharves and unventilated places. These pestilential animalcules lie inert at a low temperature, and are but slightly malignant at the hottest periods, unless they have a suitable medium for the full development of their energies. This medium may not always exist in the neighbourhood, but of whatever nature it is, we are certain that when it does make its appearance when some foreign substance is wasted to the spot bilious, yellow, and other malignant fevers, are the result.
One fact is forced upon our observation that the virus, which gives this additional malignity to the energies of the minute animalcules, does not always exist in one spot — is not the result of local combination. Nor when it is imported, does it always show its peculiarly destructive character. There is no doubt that this peculiar virus for so it appears we must call what in fact is the larvæ of animalcules — is imported every year from hotter climates, but the union with the domestic species does not take place, unless suitable facilities occur. Heat and moisture, stagnation of air, and several other favorable circumstances must combine to produce those terrible diseases which cause immediate annihilation.
The laws which belong to organization, apply as well to the structure and motion of these invisible animalcules, as to those of the mammoth. These minute creatures live, sustain themselves, and deposite their eggs, by the regulation of a settled principle -- all of the same species, in the same order of time — just as occurs to the locust and the vine-fretter, the former being vivified from three to seventeen years, and the latter, like all ephemera, from one hour to twenty-four. As water and air are filled with animated monads, (these invisible insects have yet no name,) millions are swallowed in every draught of water, and millions are drawn into the system with every breath. This being the case, what may be the result of their admission into the circulation ?
When the human system is in perfect health, the effect of the centrifugal power of this system is to expel all extraneous matter; this is done either through the lungs or through the pores - for breath and perspiration, when submitted to the microscope, show the presence of animalcules. But if the lungs are inflamed, what then becomes of the myriads of animalcules which breed, and move, and live in the human body!
By recent experiment, it is found that the stomach, or digestive organ, has no power over the vitality of certain species of the vermin and reptile tribes. They can have free ingress, and the aggravated cases of infantile fevers are often owing to their retention in the system. It is when the circulation is unable to expel the minute infusory or invisible animalcules from the body by the usual outlets, that they exert a malign influence over us—and as their numbers increase, so is there an increase of the pestilential virus, or fatal action. There are millions of animalcules that live and die in us.
Keeping all this in view, and allowing that any living organized thing has its own proper period of time allotted for the vivification of the egg, or larvæ, it is fair to conclude, that if the animalcules which are drawn into the system, are of a class to be vivified every third, fourth, ninth, or fourteenth day, then the vastness of the brood, thus rendered active, may produce those fevers which are called tertians, intermittent, bilious, and putrid. This theory would naturally and philosophically account for the regular return of fevers.
- a phenomenon which cannot be explained in any other way.
There is another question still for philosophy to solve. Why is it that certain diseases can only disturb the human system once? Whooping-cough, measles, mumps, chicken-pox and small.pox, rarely make their appearance in the same subject more than once.
Animalcules get into the system through the lungs, going immediately into the circulation, producing bilious and other fevers; others, again, enter through the lungs and pores, thus causing infectious and contagious fevers. The vivification of the eggs of the former may be different from the latter, requiring no particular nidus to bring their young into life. The animalcules that enter by the inlets of the lungs and pores are perhaps so constructed as that a very peculiar nest is necessary to the full development of their offspring.
The queen-bee lays the eggs of the neuter or working-bee first; then those of the drones, and lastly those of queen-bees. The supposition