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VOL. II.-NO. VII.
Fig. 9. Geoglossum viscosum
Agarics, with hymenium (Crimson. disposed in lamella... Brown & white
Hymenium in veins.....
Hymenium in pores..............
Hymenium enclosed in a ( Light brown.
Asci in clubs...........
Asci within the cup..
Fig. 17. P. coccinea......
BY ISAAC ASHE, M.B., CH. M.
T is a characteristic difference between the works of man and the works of the Creator that the former has to adopt many contrivances, and employ a cumbrous machinery, to bring about a single result, whereas the Creator generally accomplishes several ends by one and the same agent; and in few organs of the body, or in none, perhaps, is this more manifest, than in that one of which we are about to present to our readers a brief sketch.
We little think when we look at the Skin of our bodies, apparently so simple, what a wonderfully complex structure it really possesses, or how numerous, how varied and important, are the uses it serves in our animal economy.
Our readers would, perhaps, be startled to hear that our stomach, our liver, nay, even our brain itself, are less necessary to life than our skin. Yet it is well known that we may do without food, live without calling our stomach into action, for several days; that the liver also may wholly cease to act for several days before death ensues; and it has also been known that several monsters have been born without any brain whatever, which yet have survived for several days, discharging all the functions of organic life,-exercising motion, sucking at the breast like other infants, digesting their food, &c.,—and have continued so to do for a number of days greater than the number of hours it would be possible to survive were the functions of the skin completely stopped. The experiment has actually been made on the lower animals, and the results show that the skin is a most important auxiliary to the lungs in the process of aëration of the blood; and that if its functions be arrested, as has been done by varnishing the fur in a rabbit, or gilding the skin in a pig, the unfortunate animal dies in a couple of hours or so, with all the symptoms which would be produced by a slow cutting off of the supply of air to the lungs. On one occasion, before this fact was known, the experiment was unfortu nately performed on a child, and with a like fatal result. This was on the occasion of the accession of Leo the Tenth to the Papal chair, when he gilded a child all over at Florence to represent the Golden Age; but the unfortunate child died in a few hours very unexpectedly, representing, we suppose, the short
duration of the age in question, and causing no little astonishment and speculation among philosophers, and probably no less superstitious feeling in the minds of the vulgar.
From these experiments we can easily infer how important a matter it must be to keep this organ constantly in an efficient state for the discharge of this as well as its other important functions. Indeed, this one organ the Creator has put specially into our charge, while all the other organs of our body are beyond our control. Yet often when we have neglected this charge, and suffer in consequence, we lay the blame upon organs wholly guiltless of our sufferings, such as the liver or stomach, which will work perfectly right without our care or attention, if we only give them fair play, and do not, by our neglect of the skin, throw upon them an amount of work twice as great as their proper share.
In insects, the entire respiration is conducted by means of pores in the skin, to which the name of spiracles is given, and of internal tubes called trachea, and they possess neither lungs nor gills. Hence arises the difficulty of drowning an insect in water; for as the pores are guarded by minute hairs, the water cannot enter them but if a feather dipped in oil be applied to the abdominal portion of an insect's body, as to the yellow part of a wasp, it falls dead immediately; being, in fact, suffocated by the oil, which readily enters the pores in spite of the hairs, and so stops the respiration.
Aeration of the blood is not, however, the only function which the skin has to discharge; absorption is another, though not of equal importance. This is carried on by a system of vessels called the lymphatic vessels, which permeate the skin everywhere over the whole surface of the body. To illustrate this function, we may mention the fact, that persons in whom disease has closed up the natural entrance to the stomach by the throat have been kept alive for days and weeks by being frequently immersed in a warm milk bath. The late celebrated Duc de Pasquier, who died a short time ago at the age of ninety, had been kept alive for some weeks before his death by this means. Various salts, also, have been detected in the secretions of persons who have used baths containing those salts in solution, such salts having been taken up by the skin. Persons in distress for want of water at sea have also sometimes relieved their thirst by bathing the body in sea-water, so rapidly is absorption carried on under such circumstances.
Another and a most important function of the skin it discharges as the organ of the special sense of touch, which is only a highly exalted form of general sensation, which also resides specially in the skin. Under certain circumstances the reference of sensation to the part of the body touched becomes