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of the lungs; in which organs they still further divide into innumerable ramifications, and form a beautiful net-work of vessels upon the air-vesicles of which the substance of the lungs consists; and by this mean every particle of blood is exposed in its turn to the full influence of the vital gases of the atmosphere, and becomes thoroughly assimilated to the nature of the animal system it is to support. The invisibly minute arteries now terminate in equally minute veins, which progressively unite till they centre in four common trunks, which carry back the blood, now thoroughly ventilated and of a florid hue, to the left side or corporeal department of the heart.
From this quarter the corporeal circulation comnences; the stimulus of the blood itself excites he heart to that alternate contraction which constitutes pulsation, and which is continued through the whole course of the arteries; and by this very contraction the blood is impelled to the remotest part of the body, the arterial vessels continuing to divide and to subdivide, and to branch out in every possible direction, till the eye can no longer follow them, even when aided by the best microscopes.
The arterial blood having thus visited every portion of every organ, and supplied it with the food of life, is now returned, faint, exhausted, and of a purple hue, by the veins, as in the pulmonary circulation; it receives, a short space before it reaches the heart, its regular recruit of new matter from the digestive organs, and then empties itself into the right side or pulmonary department of the heart, whence it is again sent to the lungs, as before, for a new supply of vital power.
The circulation of the blood, therefore, depends upon two distinct sets of vessels, arteries and veins, the former of which carry it forward to every part of the system, and the latter return it to its central source. Both sets of vessels are generally considered as consisting of three distinct layers or tunics: an external, which in the arteries is peculiarly elastic; a middle, which is muscular in both, but whose existence is doubted by some physiologists; and an internal, which may be regarded as the common covering or cuticle. The projectile power exercised over the arteries is unquestionably the contraction to which the muscular tunic of the heart is excited by the stimulus of the blood itself; and which contraction would be permanent, but that the heart appears to become exhausted in a considerable. degree of its muscular irritability by the exertion that produces the contraction, and hence speedily returns to its prior state of relaxation, exhibiting that alternating succession of systole and diastole which constitutes pulsation.*
In the venal system, however, we meet with even fewer proofs of muscular fibre than in the arterial, and no such force of the heart as to produce pulsation on a pressure of the finger; and hence, to this
* Physiological experiments have sufficiently proved of late . that the same alternation of contraction and dilatation does not take place in the arteries in a free or natural state; for where there is no resistance to the flow of the blood along their canals, there is no variation in their diameter; and that it is only the pressure of the finger or some other substance against the side of an artery that produces its pulse. Study of Med. ii. p. 16. Experimental Inquiry into the Nature, &c. of the Arterial Pulse, by C. H. Parry, M. D. 1816.
moment, we are in a greater degree of ignorance as to the projectile power by which the system is actuated. The theories that have been chiefly advanced upon the subject are, first, that of a vis à tergo, or an impetus given to the blood by the arterial contraction, which is supposed by its supporters to be sufficient to operate through the whole length of the venal canals; secondly, that of capillary attraction, the nature of which we explained in a former lecture; and, lastly, a theory of a much more complicated kind than either, and which supposes the projectile power to result jointly from the impetus communicated by the heart and arteries, from the pressure of the surrounding organs, and especially from the elasticity of the lungs, and the play of the diaphragm, in conjunction with the natural irritability of the delicate membrane that lines the interior of the veins. It is unnecessary to enter into a consideration of any of these theories; for they all stand self-convicted of incompetency; and the last, which is the most operose of the whole, has been only invented to supply the acknowledged inefficacy of the other two.* Whatever this projectile power
* It has of late been pretty clearly established, that by far the most active power in the return of the blood to the heart from the veins is the comparative vacuum which takes place in the ventricles of the heart when exhausted of blood by the systole or alternating contraction of this organ; in consequence of which, the venous blood is, as it were, sucked up into the right ventricle from the venæ cavæ, or venous system at large. So that the heart, upon this beautiful principle of simplification, becomes alternately a forcing and a suction pump. By its contraction it forces the blood into the arterial system, and by its vacuum it sucks it up from the venous. See Stud. of Med. ii. p. 19. 2d edit. 1825.
consists of, it appears to have some resemblance to that of the vegetable system; and, like many of the vessels in the latter, is assisted by the artifice of numerous valves inserted in different parts of the venal tubes.
The most important process which takes place in the circulation of the blood is that of its ventilation in the lungs. It is this process which constitutes the economy of RESPIRATION, and has till of late been involved in more than Cimmerian darkness.
We see the blood conveyed to the lungs of a deep purple hue, faint and exhausted by being drained in a considerable degree of its vital power, or immature and unassimilated to the nature of the system it is about to support, in consequence of its being received fresh from the lacteal trunk. We find it returned from the lungs spirited with newness of life, perfect in its conformation, more readily disposed to coagulate, and the dead purple hue transformed into a bright scarlet. How has this wonderful change been accomplished? what has it parted with? what has it received? and by what means has so beneficial a barter been produced?
These are questions which have occupied the attention of physiologists in almost all ages; and though we have not yet attained to any thing like demonstration, or even universally acceded to any common theory, the experiments of modern times have established a variety of very important facts which may ultimately lead to such a theory, and clear away the difficulties by which we are still en
These facts I shall proceed to examine in language as familiar as I can employ: I must nevertheless
presume upon a general acquaintance with the elementary principles and nomenclature of modern chemistry, since a summary survey of zoonomy is not designed to enter into a detail of its mere alphabet or rudiments, but to apply and harmonize detached facts that relate to it, and to condense the materials that have been collected by others into a narrow but regular compass.
The chief substance which has been ascertained to be introduced from the atmosphere into the airvesicles of the lungs during the act of respiration, and from these into the blood, is oxygene, of which the atmosphere, when pure, consists of about twentyeight parts in a hundred, the remaining seventy-two being nitrogene.
That this gaseous fluid enters into the lungs is rendered highly probable from a multiplicity of experiments, which concur in proving that a larger portion of oxygene is received by every act of inspiration than is returned by every correspondent act of expiration; and that it passes from the air-vesicles of the lungs into the blood we have also reason to believe from the change of colour which immediately takes place in the latter, and from other experiments made, out of the body, as well as in the body, which abundantly ascertain that oxygene has a power of producing this change, and of converting the deep purple of the blood into a bright scarlet.
It is also supposed very generally, that a considerable portion of caloric or the matter of heat, in its elementary form, is communicated to the blood at the same time and in conjunction with the oxygene; but as this substance has hitherto proved imponder