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exerted, the elasticity alone of the membrane brings it back again to its position. Does not this, if any thing can do it, bespeak an artist, master of his work, acquainted with his materials? "Of a thousand other things," say the French Academicians, "we perceive not the contrivance, because we understand them only by the effects, of which we know not the causes but we here treat of a machine, all the parts whereof are visible; and which need only be looked upon, to discover the reasons of its motion and action."
In the configuration of the muscle, which, though placed behind the eye, draws the nictitating membrane over the eye, there is, what the authors, just now quoted, deservedly call a marvellous mechanism. I suppose this structure to be found in other animals; but, in the memoirs from which this account is taken, it is anatomically demonstrated only in the cassowary. The muscle is passed through a loop formed by another muscle; and is there inflected, as if it were round a pulley. This is a peculiarity; and observe the advantage of it. A single muscle with a straight tendon, which is the common muscular form, would have been sufficient, if it had had power to draw far enough. But the contraction, necessary to draw the membrane over the whole eye, required a longer muscle than could lie straight at the bottom of the eye. Therefore, in order to have a greater length in a less compass, the cord of the main muscle makes an angle. This, so far, answers the end; but, still farther, it makes an angle, not round a fixed pivot, but round a loop formed by another muscle, which second muscle, whenever it contracts, of course twitches the first muscle at the point of inflection, and thereby assists the action designed by both.
One question may possibly have dwelt in the reader's mind during the perusal of these observations, namely, Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the faculty of vision at once? Why this circuitous perception; the ministry of so many means; an element provided for the purpose; reflected from opaque substances, refracted through transparent ones; and both according to precise laws; then, a complex organ, an
a Phil. Trans. 1796.
b Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, done into English, by order of the Royal Society, 1701, p. 249.
intricate and artificial apparatus, in order, by the operation of this element, and in conformity with the restrictions of these laws, to produce an image upon a membrane communicating with the brain? Wherefore all this? Why make the difficulty in order to surmount it? If to perceive objects by some other mode than that of touch, or objects which lay out of the reach of that sense, were the thing proposed; could not a simple volition of the Creator have communicated the capacity? Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power. This question belongs to the other senses, as well as to sight; to the general functions of animal life, as nutrition, secretion, respiration; to the economy of vegetables; and indeed to almost all the operations of nature. The question, therefore, is of very wide extent; and amongst other answers which may be given to it, besides reasons of which probably we are ignorant, one answer is this: It is only by the display of contrivance, that the existence, the agency, the wisdom of the Deity, could be testified to his rational creatures. This is the scale by which we ascend to all the knowledge of our Creator which we possess, so far as it depends upon the phænomena, or the works of nature. Take away this, and you take away from us every subject of observation, and ground of reasoning; I mean, as our rational faculties are formed at present. Whatever is done, God could have done without the intervention of instruments or means; but it is in the construction of instruments, in the choice and adaptation of means, that a creative intelligence is seen. It is this which constitutes the order and beauty of the universe. God, therefore, has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and to work his ends within those limits. The general laws of matter have perhaps the nature of these limits; its inertia, its re-action; the laws which govern the communication of motion, the refraction and reflection of light, the constitution of fluids non-elastic and elastic, the transmission of sound through the latter; the laws of magnetism, of electricity; and probably others, yet undiscovered. These are general laws; and when a particular purpose is to be effected, it is not by making a new law, nor by the suspension of the old ones, nor by making them wind, and bend, and yield to the occasion (for nature with great steadiness adheres to and supports them); but it is, as we have seen in the eye, by the interposition of an ap
paratus, corresponding with these laws, and suited to the exigency which results from them, that the purpose is at length attained. As we have said, therefore, God prescribes limits to his power, that he may let in the exercise, and thereby exhibit demonstrations of his wisdom. For then, i. e. such laws and limitations being laid down, it is as though one Being should have fixed certain rules; and, if we may so speak, provided certain materials; and, afterwards, have committed to another Being, out of these materials, and in subordination to these rules, the task of drawing forth a creation: a supposition which evidently leaves room, and induces indeed a necessity for contrivance. Nay, there may be many such agents, and many ranks of these. We do not advance this as a doctrine either of philosophy or of religion; but we say that the subject may safely be represented under this view; because the Deity, acting himself by general laws, will have the same consequences upon our reasoning, as if he had prescribed these laws to another. It has been said, that the problem of creation was," attraction and matter being given, to make a world out of them;" and, as above explained, this statement perhaps does not convey a false idea.
We have made choice of the eye as an instance upon which to rest the argument of this chapter. Some single example was to be proposed: and the eye offered itself under the advantage of admitting of a strict comparison with optical instruments. The ear, it is probable, is no less artificially and mechanically adapted to its office, than the eye. But we know less about it: we do not so well understand the action, the use, or the mutual dependency of its internal parts. Its general form, however, both external and internal, is sufficient to show that it is an instrument adapted to the reception of sound; that is to say, already knowing that sound consists in pulses of the air, we perceive, in the structure of the air, a suitableness to receive impressions from this species of action, and to propagate these impressions to the brain. For of what does this structure consist? An external ear, (the concha,) calculated, like an ear trumpet to catch and collect the pulses of which we have spoken; in large quadrupeds, turning to the sound, and possessing a configuration, as well as motion, evidently fitted for the office; of a tube which leads into the head, lying at the root of
this outward ear, the folds and sinuses thereof tending and conducting the air towards it: of a thin membrane, like the pelt of a drum, stretched across this passage upon a bony rim: of a chain of moveable, and infinitely curious, bones, forming a communication, and the only communication that can be observed, between the membrane last mentioned and the interior channels and recesses of the skull of cavities, similar in shape and form to wind instruments of music, being spiral or portions of circles: of the eustachian tube, like the hole in a drum, to let the air pass freely into and out of the barrel of the ear, as the covering member vibrates, or as the temperature may be altered: the whole labyrinth hewn out of a rock; that is, wrought into the substance of the hardest bone of the body. This assemblage of connected parts constitutes together an apparatus, plainly enough relative to the transmission of sound, or of the impulses received from sound, and only to be lamented in not being better understood.
The communication within, formed by the small bones of the ear, is, to look upon, more like what we are accustomed to call machinery, than any thing I am acquainted with in animal bodies. It seems evidently designed to continue towards the sensorium the tremulous motions which are excited in the membrane of the tympanum, or what is better known by the name of the "drum of the ear." The compages of bones consists of four, which are so disposed, and so hinge upon one another, as that if the membrane, the drum of the ear, vibrate, all the four are put in motion together; and, by the result of their action, work the base of that which is the last in the series, upon an aperture which it closes, and upon which it plays, and which aperture opens into the tortuous canals that lead to the brain. This last bone of the four is called the stapes. The office of the drum of the ear is to spread out an extended surface, capable of receiving the impressions of sound, and of being put by them into a state of vibration. The office of the stapes is to repeat these vibrations. It is a repeating frigate, stationed more within the line. From which account of its action may be understood, how the sensation of sound will be excited, by any thing which communicates a vibratory motion to the stapes, though not, as in all ordinary cases, through the intervention of the membrani tympani. This is done by solid bodies applied to the bones of the skull, as by a metal bar holden at one end between the teeth, and touching at the other end a tremulous body. It likewise appears to be done, in a considerable degree, by the air it
self, even when this membrane, the drum of the ear, is greatly damaged. Either in the natural or preternatural state of the organ, the use of the chain of bones is to propagate the impulse in a direction towards the brain, and to propagate it with the advantage of a lever; which advantage consists in increasing the force and strength of the vibration, and at the same time diminishing the space through which it oscillates; both of which changes may augment or facilitate the still deeper action of the auditory nerves.
The benefit of the eustachian tube to the organ may be made out upon known pneumatic principles. Behind the drum of the ear is a second cavity, or barrel, called the tympanum. The eustachian tube is a slender pipe, but sufficient for the passage of air, leading from this cavity into the back part of the mouth. Now, it would not have done to have had a vacuum in this cavity: for, in that case, the pressure of the atmosphere from without would have burst the membrane which covered it. Nor would it have done to have filled the cavity with lymph or any other secretion; which would necessarily have obstructed, both the vibration of the membrane, and the play of the small bones. Nor, lastly, would it have done to have occupied the space with confined air, because the expansion of that air by heat, or its contraction by cold, would have distended or relaxed the covering membrane, in a degree inconsistent with the purpose which it was assigned to execute. The only remaining expedient, and that for which the eustachian tube serves, is to open to this cavity a communication with the external air. In one word; it exactly answers the purpose of the hole in a drum.
The membrani tympani itself, likewise, deserves all the examination which can be made of it. It is not found in the ears of fish; which furnishes an additional proof of what indeed is indicated by every thing about it, that it is appropriated to the action of air, or of an elastic medium. It bears an obvious resemblance to the pelt or head of a drum, from which it takes its It resembles also a drum-head in this principal property, that its use depends upon its tension. Tension is the state essential to it. Now we know that, in a drum, the pelt is carried over a hoop, and braced as occasion requires, by the means of strings attached to its circumference. In the membrane of the ear, the same purpose is provided for, more simply, but not less mechanically, nor less successfully, by a different expedient, viz. by the end of a bone (the handle of the malleus) pressing upon