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The Mechanism of Life   By: (1853-1939)

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Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected: they are listed at the end of the text.

THE MECHANISM OF LIFE

[Illustration: Osmotic Productions. [ Frontispiece ]

THE

MECHANISM OF LIFE

BY

DR. STÉPHANE LEDUC

PROFESSEUR À L'ÉCOLE DE MÉDECINE DE NANTES

TRANSLATED BY

W. DEANE BUTCHER

FORMERLY PRESIDENT OF THE RÖNTGEN SOCIETY, AND OF THE ELECTRO THERAPEUTICAL SECTION OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF MEDICINE

"La nature a formé, et forme tous les jours les êtres les plus simples par génération spontanée." LAMARCK.

[Illustration]

NEW YORK

REBMAN COMPANY

HERALD SQUARE BUILDING 141 145, WEST 36TH STREET

First Impression March 1911

Second Impression January 1914

Printed in England

{vii}

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

Professor Leduc's Théorie Physico chimique de la Vie et Générations Spontanées has excited a good deal of attention, and not a little opposition, on the Continent. As recently as 1907 the Académie des Sciences excluded from its Comptes Rendus the report of these experimental researches on diffusion and osmosis, because it touched too closely on the burning question of spontaneous generation.

As the author points out, Lamarck's early evolutionary hypothesis was killed by opposition and neglect, and had to be reborn in England before it obtained universal acceptance as the Darwinian Theory. Not unnaturally, therefore, he turns for an appreciation of his work to the free air and wide horizon of the English speaking countries.

He has entitled his book "The Mechanism of Life," since however little we may know of the origin of life, we may yet hope to get a glimpse of the machinery, and perhaps even hear the whirr of the wheels in Nature's workshop. The subject is of entrancing interest to the biologist and the physician, quite apart from its bearing on the question of spontaneous generation. Whatever view may be entertained by the different schools of thought as to the nature and significance of life, all alike will welcome this new and important contribution to our knowledge of the mechanism by which Nature constructs the bewildering variety of her forms.

There is, I think, no more wonderful and illuminating spectacle than that of an osmotic growth, a crude lump of brute inanimate matter germinating before our very eyes, putting forth bud and stem and root and branch and leaf and fruit, with no stimulus from germ or seed, without even {viii} the presence of organic matter. For these mineral growths are not mere crystallizations as many suppose; they increase by intussusception and not by accretion. They exhibit the phenomena of circulation and respiration, and a crude sort of reproduction by budding; they have a period of vigorous youthful growth, of old age, of death and of decay. They imitate the forms, the colour, the texture, and even the microscopical structure of organic growth so closely as to deceive the very elect. When we find, moreover, that the processes of nutrition are carried on in these osmotic productions just as in living beings, that an injury to an osmotic growth is repaired by the coagulation of its internal sap, and that it is able to perform periodic movements just as an animal or a plant, we are at a loss to define any line of separation between these mineral forms and those of organic life.

In the present volume the author has collected all the data necessary for a complete survey of the mechanism of life, which consists essentially of those phenomena which are exhibited at the contact of solutions of different degrees of concentration. Whatever may be the verdict as to the author's case for spontaneous generation, all will agree that the book is a most brilliant and stimulating study, founded on the personal investigation of a born experimenter... Continue reading book >>




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