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Title: The Mechanism of Life
Author: Leduc, Stéphane, 1853-1939
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Mechanism of Life" ***

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

       *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: Osmotic Productions. [_Frontispiece_]









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




141-145, WEST 36TH STREET

  _First Impression    March  1911_

  _Second Impression   January 1914_

  _Printed in England_

       *       *       *       *       *



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

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.

The present volume is a translation of Dr. Leduc's French edition, but it
is more than this, the work has been translated, revised and corrected, and
in many places re-written, by the author's own hand. I am responsible only
for the English form of the treatise, and can but regret that I have been
able to reproduce so imperfectly the charm of the original.



       *       *       *       *       *



C'est par l'initiative du Dr. Deane Butcher que cette ouvrage est presenté
aux lecteurs anglais, à la race qui a doté l'humanité de tant de
découvertes originales, geniales et d'une portée très générale.

Comme un être vivant, une idée exige pour naître et se développer le germe
et le milieu de développement. Il est indéniable que le peuple
anglo-américain constitue un milieu particulièrement favorable à la
naissance et au développement des idées nouvelles.

Pendant notre collaboration le Dr. Deane Butcher a été un critique
judicieux et éclairé, tous les changements dans l'édition anglaise sont dus
à ses observations. Il s'est assimilé l'ouvrage pour le traduire, et dans
beaucoup de parties, il a mis plus de clarté et de concision qu'il n'y en
avait dans le texte original.


  NANTES, 1911.

       *       *       *       *       *




  TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE                                     vii

  AUTHOR'S PREFACE                                          ix

  INTRODUCTION                                            xiii

  I. LIFE AND LIVING BEINGS                                  1

  II. SOLUTIONS                                             14

  III. ELECTROLYTIC SOLUTIONS                               24

  IV. COLLOIDS                                              36

  V. DIFFUSION AND OSMOSIS                                  43

  VI. PERIODICITY                                           67

  VII. COHESION AND CRYSTALLIZATION                         78

  VIII. KARYOKINESIS                                        89

  IX. ENERGETICS                                            97

  X. SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY                                     113


  A STUDY IN PHYSIOGENESIS                                 147


       *       *       *       *       *



Life was formerly regarded as a phenomenon entirely separated from the
other phenomena of Nature, and even up to the present time Science has
proved wholly unable to give a definition of Life; evolution, nutrition,
sensibility, growth, organization, none of these, not even the faculty of
reproduction, is the exclusive appanage of life.

Living things are made of the same chemical elements as minerals; a living
being is the arena of the same physical forces as those which affect the
inorganic world.

Life is difficult to define because it differs from one living being to
another; the life of a man is not that of a polyp or of a plant, and if we
find it impossible to discover the line which separates life from the other
phenomena of Nature, it is in fact because no such line of demarcation
exists--the passage from animate to inanimate is gradual and insensible.
The step between a stalagmite and a polyp is less than that between a polyp
and a man, and even the trained biologist is often at a loss to determine
whether a given borderland form is the result of life, or of the inanimate
forces of the mineral world.

A living being is a transformer of matter and energy--both matter and
energy being uncreateable and indestructible, i.e. invariable in quantity.
A living being is only a current of matter and of energy, both of which
change from moment to moment while passing through the organism.

That which constitutes a living being is its form; for a living thing is
born, develops, and dies with the form and structure of its organism. This
ephemeral nature of the living being, which perishes with the destruction
of its form, is in {xiv} marked contrast to the perennial character of the
matter and the energy which circulate within it.

The elementary phenomenon of life is the contact between an alimentary
liquid and a cell. For the essential phenomenon of life is nutrition, and
in order to be assimilated all the elements of an organism must be brought
into a state of solution. Hence the study of life may be best begun by the
study of those physico-chemical phenomena which result from the contact of
two different liquids. Biology is thus but a branch of the
physico-chemistry of liquids; it includes the study of electrolytic and
colloidal solutions, and of the molecular forces brought into play by
solution, osmosis, diffusion, cohesion, and crystallization.

In this volume I have endeavoured to give as much of the science of
energetics as can be treated without the use of mathematical formulæ; the
conception of entropy and Carnot's law of thermodynamics are also

The phenomena of catalysis and of diastatic fermentation have for the first
time been brought under the general laws of energetics. This I have done by
showing that catalysis is only one instance of the general law of the
transformation of potential into kinetic energy, viz. by the intervention
of a foreign exciting and stimulating energy which may be infinitely
smaller than the energy it transforms. This conception brings life into
line with other catalytic actions, and shows us a living being as a store
of potential energy, to be set free by an external stimulus which may also
excite sensation.

In a subsequent chapter I have dealt with the rise of Synthetic Biology,
whose history and methods I have described. It is only of late that the
progress of physico-chemical science has enabled us to enter into this
field of research, the final one in the evolution of biological science.

The present work contains some of the earliest results of this synthetic
biology. We shall see how it is possible by the mere diffusion of liquids
to obtain forms which imitate with the greatest accuracy not only the
ordinary cellular tissues, but the more complicated striated structures,
such as muscle and mother-of-pearl. We shall also see how it is {xv}
possible by simple liquid diffusion to reproduce in ordered and regular
succession complicated movements like those observed in the karyokinesis of
the living cell.

The essential character of the living being is its Form. This is the only
characteristic which it retains during the whole of its existence, with
which it is born, which causes its development, and disappears with its
death. The task of synthetic biology is the recognition of those
physico-chemical forces and conditions which can produce forms and
structures analogous to those of living beings. This is the subject of the
chapter on Morphogenesis.

The last chapter deals with the doctrine of Evolution. The chain of life is
of necessity a continuous one, from the mineral at one end to the most
complicated organism at the other. We cannot allow that it is broken at any
point, or that there is a link missing between animate and inanimate
nature. Hence the theory of evolution necessarily admits the
physico-chemical nature of life and the fact of spontaneous generation.
Only thus can the evolutionary theory become a rational one, a stimulating
and fertile inspirer of research. We seek for the physico-chemical forces
which produce forms and structures analogous to those of living beings, and
phenomena analogous to those of life. We study the alterations in
environment which modify these forms, and we seek in the past history of
our planet for those natural phenomena which have brought these
physico-chemical forces into play. In this way we may find the road which
will, we hope, lead some day to the discovery of the origin and the
evolution of life upon the earth.

       *       *       *       *       *





Primitive man distinguished but two kinds of bodies in nature, those which
were motionless and those which were animated. Movement was for him the
expression of life. The stream, the wind, the waves, all were alive, and
each was endowed with all the attributes of life--will, sentiment, and
passion. Ancient Greek mythology is but the poetic expression of this
primitive conception.

In the evolution of the intelligence, as in that of the body, the
development of the individual is but a repetition of the development of the
race. Even now children attribute life to everything that moves. For them a
little bird still lives in the inside of a watch, and produces the
tick-tick of the wheels. In modern times, however, we have learnt that
everything in nature moves, so that motion of itself cannot be considered
as the characteristic of life.

Heraclitus aptly compares life to a flame. Aristotle says, "Life is
nutrition, growth, and decay,--having for its cause a principle which has
its end in itself, namely [Greek: entelecheia]." This principle is itself
in need of definition, and Aristotle only substitutes one unknown epithet
for another.

Bichat defined life as the ensemble of the functions which resist death.
This is to define life in terms of death,--but death is but the end of
life, and cannot be defined without first defining life. Claude Bernard
rejects all definition of life as insufficient, and incompatible with
experimental science. {2}

Some modern physiologists regard sensibility, others irritability, as the
characteristic of life, and define life as the faculty of responding, by
some sort of change, to an external stimulus. As in the case of movement,
we have found by more attentive observation that this faculty also is
universal in nature. There is no action without reaction; an elastic body
repels the body that strikes it. Every object in nature dilates with heat,
contracts with cold, and is modified by the light which it absorbs.
Everything in nature responds to exterior action by a change, and hence
this faculty cannot be the characteristic of life.

A distinguished professor of physiology was accustomed to teach that the
disproportion between action and reaction was the characteristic of life.
"Allow a gramme weight to fall on a nerve, and the muscle will raise a
weight of ten grammes. This disproportion is the characteristic of life."
But there is a much greater disproportion between action and reaction when
the friction of a match blows up a powder factory, or the turning of a
switch lights the lamps and animates the tramways and the motors of a great
city. The disproportion between action and reaction is therefore no
characteristic of life.

The essential characteristic of life is often said to be nutrition--the
phenomenon by which a living organism absorbs matter from its environment,
subjects it to chemical metamorphosis, assimilates it, and finally ejects
the destructive products of metamorphosis into the surrounding medium. But
this characteristic is also common to a great number of ordinary chemical
reactions, so that we cannot call it peculiar to life. Consider, for
instance, a fragment of calcium chloride immersed in a solution of sodium
carbonate. It absorbs the carbonic ion, incorporates it into a molecule of
calcium carbonate, and ejects the chlorine ion into the surrounding medium.

It may be argued that this is merely a chemical process, since the
substance which determines the reaction is also modified, the chloride of
calcium changing into carbonate of calcium. But every living thing is also
changing its chemical {3} constitution during every moment of its
existence,--it is this change which constitutes the process of senile
involution. The substance of the child is other than that of the ovum, and
the substance of the adult is not that of the child. Hence we cannot regard
nutrition as the exclusive characteristic of life.

Other authorities regard growth and organization as the essentials of life.
But crystals also grow. It was said that the growth of a crystal differed
from that of a living thing, in that the former grew by the addition of
material from without--the juxtaposition of bricks, as it were--while the
latter grew by intussusception, an introduction of fresh material into the
substance of the organism. A crystal, moreover, was homogeneous, while the
tissues of a living being were differentiated--such differentiation
constituting the organization. At the present time, however, we recognize
the existence of a great variety of purely physical productions, the
so-called "osmotic growths," which increase by a process of
intussusception, and develop therefrom a marvellous complexity of
organization and of form. Hence growth and organization cannot be
considered as the essential characteristics of life.

Since, then, we are totally unable to define the exact boundary which
separates life from the physical phenomena of nature, we may fairly
conclude that no such separation exists. This is in conformity with the
"law of continuity,"--the principle which asserts that all the phenomena of
nature are continuous in time and space. Classes, divisions, and
separations are all artificial, made not by nature but by man. All the
forms and phenomena of nature are united by insensible transition; it is
impossible to separate them, and in the distinction between living and
non-living things we must content ourselves with relative definitions,
which are far from being precise.

Life can only be defined as the sum of all phenomena exhibited by living
beings, and its definition thus becomes a mere corollary to the definition
of a living being.

The true definition of a living being is that it is a transformer of
energy, receiving from its environment the energy {4} which it returns to
that environment under another form. All living organisms are transformers
of energy.

A living organism is also a transformer of matter. It absorbs matter from
its environment, transforms it, and returns it to its environment in a
different chemical condition. Living things are chemical transformers of

Living beings are also transformers of form. They commence as a very simple
form, which gradually develops and becomes more complicated.

The matter of which a living organism is constituted consists essentially
of certain solutions of crystalloids and colloids. To this we may add an
osmotic membrane to contain the liquids, and a solid skeleton to support
and protect them. Finally, it would seem that a colloid of one of the
albuminoid groups is a necessary constituent of every living being.

We may say, then, that a living being is a transformer of energy and of
matter, containing certain albuminoid substances, with an evolutionary
form, the constitution of which is essentially liquid.

A living being has but a limited duration. It is born, develops, becomes
organized, declines and dies. Through all the metamorphoses of form, of
substance, and of energy, informing the whole course of its existence,
there is a certain co-ordination, a certain harmony, which is necessary for
the conservation of the individual. This harmony we call Life. Discord is
disease,--the total cessation of the harmony is Death. When the form is
profoundly altered and the substance changed, the transformation of energy
no longer follows its regular course, the organism is dead.

After death the colloids which have constituted the form of the living
thing pass from their liquid state as "sols" into their coagulated state as
"gels." The metamorphoses of form, substance, and energy still continue,
but no longer harmoniously for the conservation of the individual, but in
dis-harmony for its dissolution. Finally, the form of the individual
disappears, the substance and the energy of the living being is resolved
and dispersed into other bodies and other phenomena. {5}

The results hitherto obtained from the study of life seem but
inconsiderable when compared with the time and labour devoted to the
question. Max Verworn exclaims, "Are we on a false track? Do we ask our
questions of Nature amiss, or do we not read her answers aright?"

Each branch of science at its commencement employs only the simpler methods
of observation. It is purely descriptive. The next step is to separate the
different parts of the object studied--to dissect and to analyse. The
science has now become analytical. The final stage is to reproduce the
substances, the forms, and the phenomena which have been the subject of
investigation. The science has at last become synthetical.

Up to the present time, biology has made use only of the first two methods,
the descriptive and the analytical. The analytical method is at a grave
disadvantage in all biological investigations, since it is impossible to
separate and analyse the elementary phenomena of life. The function of an
organ ceases when it is isolated from the organism of which it forms a
part. This is the chief cause of our lack of progress in the analysis of

It is only recently that we have been able to apply the synthetic method to
the study of the phenomena of life. Now that we know that a living organism
is but the arena for the transformation of energy, we may hope to reproduce
the elementary phenomena of life, by calling into play a similar
transformation of energy in a suitable medium.

Organic chemistry has already obtained numerous victories in the same
direction, and the rapid advance in the production of organic bodies by
chemical synthesis may be considered the first-fruits of synthetic biology.

A phenomenon is determined by a number of circumstances which we call its
causes, and of which it is the result. Every phenomenon, moreover,
contributes to the production of other phenomena which are called its
consequences. In order therefore to understand any phenomenon in its
entirety, we must determine all its causes both qualitatively and

Phenomena succeed one another in time as consequences {6} one of another,
and thus form an uninterrupted chain from the infinite of the past into the
infinite of the future. A living being gathers from its entourage a supply
of matter and of energy, which it transforms and returns. It is part and
parcel of the medium in which it lives, which acts upon it, and upon which
it acts. The living being and the medium in which it exists are mutually
interdependent. This medium is in its turn dependent on its entourage,--and
so on from medium to medium throughout the regions of infinite space.

One of the great laws of the universe is the law of continuity in time and
space. We must not lose sight of this law when we attempt to follow the
metamorphoses of matter, of energy and of form in living beings. Evolution
is but the expression of this law of continuity, this succession of
phenomena following one another like the links of a chain, without
discontinuity through the vast extent of time and space.

The other great universal law, that of conservation, applies with equal
force to living and to inanimate things. This law asserts the
uncreateability and the indestructibility of matter and of energy. A given
quantity of matter and of energy remains absolutely invariable through all
the transformations through which it may pass.

We need not here discuss the question of the possible transformation of
matter into ether, or of ether into ponderable matter. Such a
transformation, if it exists, would have but little bearing on the
phenomena of life. Moreover, it also will probably be found to conform to
the law of conservation of energy.

In marked contrast to the permanence of matter and of energy is the
ephemeral nature of form, as exhibited by living beings. Function, since it
is but the resultant of form, is also ephemeral. All the faculties of life
are bound up with its form,--a living being is born, exists, and dies with
its form.

The phenomena of life may in certain cases slow down from their normal
rapidity and intensity, as in hibernating {7} animals, or be entirely
suspended, as in seeds. This state of suspension of life, of latent life as
it were, reminds us of a machine that has been stopped, but which retains
its form and substance unaltered, and may be started again whenever the
obstacle to its progress is removed.

During the whole course of its life a living being is intimately dependent
on its entourage. For example, the phenomena of life are circumscribed
within very narrow limits of temperature. A living organism, consisting as
it does essentially of liquid solutions, can only exist at temperatures at
which such solutions remain liquid, i.e. between 0° C. and 100° C. Certain
organisms, it is true, may be frozen, but their life remains in a state of
suspension so long as their substance remains solid. Since the albuminoid
substances which are a necessary component of the living organism become
coagulated at 44° C., the manifestations of life diminish rapidly above
this temperature. The intensity of life may be said to augment gradually as
the temperature rises from 0° to 40°, and then to diminish rapidly as the
temperature rises above that point, becoming nearly extinct at 60° C.

Another condition indispensable to life is the presence of oxygen. Life,
compared by Heraclitus to a flame, is a combustion, an oxydation, for which
the presence of oxygen at a certain pressure is indispensable. There are,
it is true, certain anærobic micro-organisms which apparently exist without
oxygen, but these in reality obtain their oxygen from the medium in which
they grow.

Life is also influenced by light, by mechanical pressure, by the chemical
composition of its entourage, and by other conditions which we do not as
yet understand. In each case the conditions which are favourable or noxious
vary with the nature of the organism, some living in air, some in fresh
water, and others in the sea.

Formerly it was supposed that the substance of a living being was
essentially different from that of the mineral world, so much so that two
distinct chemistries were in existence--organic chemistry, the study of
substances derived from bodies which had once possessed life, and inorganic
chemistry, dealing {8} with minerals, metalloids, and metals. We now know
that a living organism is composed of exactly the same elements as those
which constitute the mineral world. These are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen,
nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, iron, sulphur, chlorine, sodium, potassium,
and one or two other elements in smaller quantity. It was formerly supposed
that the organic combinations of these elements were found only in living
organisms and could be fashioned only by vital forces. In more recent
times, however, an ever increasing number of organic substances have been
produced in the laboratory.

Organic bodies may be divided into four principal groups. (1)
_Carbohydrates_, including the sugars and the starches, all of which may be
considered as formed of carbon and water. (2) _Fats_, which may be
considered chemically as the ethers of glycerine, combinations of one
molecule of glycerine and three molecules of a fatty acid, with elimination
of water. (3) _Albuminoids_, substances whose molecules are complex,
containing nitrogen and sulphur in addition to carbon, oxygen, and
hydrogen. The albuminoid of the cell nucleus also contains phosphorus, and
the hæmoglobin of the blood contains iron. (4) _Minerals_ or inorganic
elements, such as chloride of sodium, phosphate of calcium, and carbonic
acid. This group also includes water, which is the most important
constituent, since it forms more than a moiety of the substance of all
living creatures.

Wöhler in 1828 accomplished the first synthesis of an organic substance,
urea, one of the products of the decomposition of albumin. Since then a
large number of organic substances have been prepared by the synthesis of
their inorganic elements. The most recent advance in this direction is that
of Emile Fischer, who has produced polypeptides having the same reactions
as the peptones, by combining a number of molecules of the amides of the
fatty acids.

In the further synthesis of organic compounds the problems we have before
us are of the same order as those already solved. There is no essential
difference between organic and inorganic chemistry; living organisms are
formed of the {9} same elements as the mineral world, and the organic
combinations of these elements may be realized in our laboratories, just as
in the laboratory of the living organism.

Not only so, but a living being only borrows for a short time those mineral
elements which, after having passed through the living organism, are
returned once again to the mineral kingdom from which they came.

All matter has life in itself--or, at any rate, all matter susceptible of
incorporation in a living cell. This life is potential while the element is
in the mineral state, and actual while the element is passing through a
living organism.

Mineral matter is changed into organic matter in its passage through a
vegetable organism. The carbonic acid produced by combustion and
respiration is absorbed by the chlorophyll of the leaves under the stimulus
of light--the oxygen of the carbonic acid being returned to the air, while
the carbon is utilized by the plant for the formation of sugar, starch,
cellulose, and fats.

Thus plants are fed in great part by their leaves, taking an important part
of their nourishment from the air, while by their roots they draw from the
earth the water, the phosphates, the mineral salts, and the nitrates
required for the formation of their albuminoid constituents. A vegetable is
a laboratory in which is carried out the process of organic synthesis by
which mineral materials are changed into organic matter. The first
synthetic reaction is the formation of a molecule of formic aldehyde,
CH_2O, by the combination of a molecule of water with an atom of carbon.

From this formic aldehyde, or formol, we may obtain all the various
carbohydrates by simple polymerization, i.e. by the association of several
molecules, with or without elimination of water. Thus two molecules of
formol form one molecule of acetic acid, 2CH_2O = C_2H_4O_2. Three
molecules of formol form a molecule of lactic acid, 3CH_2O = C_3H_6O_3. Six
molecules of formol represent glucose and levulose, 6CH_2O = C_6H_{12}O_6.
Twelve molecules of formol minus one molecule of water form saccharose,
lactose, cane sugar, and sugar of milk, 12CH_2O = C_{12}H_{22}O_{11} +
H_2O; _n_ times six {10} molecules of formol minus one molecule of water,
_n_(C_6H_{10}O_5), form starch and cellulose.

Animals derive their nourishment from vegetables either directly, or
indirectly through the flesh of herbivorous animals. The mineral matter,
rendered organic in its passage through a vegetable growth, is finally
returned by the agency of animal organisms to the mineral world again, in
the form of carbonic acid, water, urea, and nitrates. Thus vegetables may
be regarded as synthetic agents, and animals and microbes as agents of
decomposition. Here also the difference is only relative, for in certain
cases vegetables produce carbonic acid, while some animal organisms effect
synthetic combinations. Moreover, there are intermediary forms, such as
fungi, which possessing no chlorophyll are nourished like animals by
organic matter, and yet like vegetables are able to manufacture organic
matter from mineral salts.

The work of combustion begun by the animal organism is finished by the
action of micro-organisms, who complete the oxydation--the
re-mineralization of the chemical substances drawn originally from the
inorganic world by the agency of plant life.

To sum up. Vegetables obtain their nourishment from mineral substances,
which they reduce, de-oxydize, and charge with solar energy. Animal
organisms on the contrary oxydize, and micro-organisms complete the
oxydation of these substances, returning them to the mineral world as
water, carbonates, nitrates, and sulphates.

Thus matter circulates eternally from the mineral to the vegetable, from
the vegetable to the animal world, and back again. The matter which forms
our structure, which is to-day part and parcel of ourselves, has formed the
structure of an infinite number of living beings, and will continue to
pursue its endless reincarnation after our decease.

This endless cycle of life is also an endless cycle of energy. The
combination of carbon with water carried out by the agency of chlorophyll
can only take place with absorption of energy. This energy comes directly
from the sun, the red and orange light radiations being absorbed by the
chlorophyll. {11} The arrest of vegetation during the winter months is due
not so much to the lowering of temperature as to the diminution of the
radiant energy received from the sun. In the same way shade is harmful to
vegetation, since the radiant energy required for growth is prevented from
reaching the plant.

The energy radiated by the sun is accumulated and stored in the plant
tissues. Later on, animals feed on the plants and utilize this energy,
excreting the products of decomposition, _i.e._ the constituents of their
food minus the energy contained in it. Thus the whole of the energy which
animates living beings, the whole of the energy which constitutes life,
comes from the sun. To the sun also we owe all artificial heat, the energy
stored up in wood and coal. We are all of us children of the sun.

The radiant energy of the sun is transformed by plants into chemical
energy. It is this chemical energy which feeds the vital activity of
animals, who return it to the external world under the form of heat,
mechanical work, and muscular contraction, light in the glow-worm,
electricity in the electric eel.

There is a marked difference between the forms affected by organic and
inorganic substances. The forms of the mineral world are those of
crystals--geometrical forms, bounded by straight lines, planes, and regular
angles. Living organisms, on the contrary, affect forms which are less
regular--curved surfaces and rounded angles. The physical reason for this
difference in form lies in a difference of consistency, crystals being
solid, whereas living organisms are liquids or semi-liquids. The liquids of
nature, streams and clouds and dewdrops, affect the same rounded forms as
those of living organisms.

Living beings for the most part present a remarkable degree of symmetry.
Some, like radiolarians and star-fish, have a stellate form. In plants the
various organs often radiate from an axis, in such a manner that on turning
the plant about this axis the various forms are superposed thrice, four, or
more often five times in one complete revolution. It is remarkable how
often this number five recurs in the {12} divisions and parts of a living
organism. In other cases the similar parts are disposed symmetrically on
either side of a median line or plane, giving a series of homologous parts
which are not superposable.

The most important characteristic of a living being is its form. This is
implicitly admitted by naturalists, who classify animals and plants in
genera and species according to the differences and analogies of their

All living beings are composed of elementary organizations called cells. In
its complete state, a cell consists of a membrane or envelope containing a
mass of protoplasm, in the centre of which is a nucleus of differentiated
protoplasm. This nucleus may in its turn contain a nucleolus. In some cases
the cell is merely a protoplasmic mass without a visible envelope, so that
a cell may be defined as essentially a mass of protoplasm provided with a

A living organism may consist merely of a single cell, which is able alone
to accomplish all the functions of life. Most living beings, however,
consist of a collection of innumerable cells forming a cellular association
or community. When a number of cells are thus united to constitute a single
living being, the various functions of life are divided among different
cellular groups. Certain cells become specialized for the accomplishment of
a single function, and to each function corresponds a different form of
cell. It is thus easy to recognize by their form the nerve cells, the
muscle cells which perform the function of movement, and the glandular
cells which perform the function of secretion. The cells of a living being
are microscopic in size, and it is remarkable that they never attain to any
considerable dimensions.

In order that life may be maintained in a living organism, it is necessary
that a continual supply of aliment should be brought to it, and that
certain other substances, the waste-products of combustion, should be
eliminated. In order to be absorbed and assimilated, the alimentary
substances must be presented to the living organism in a liquid or gaseous
state. Thus the essential condition necessary for the {13} maintenance of
life is the contact of a living cell with a current of liquid. The
elementary physical phenomenon of life is the contact of two different
liquids. This is the necessary condition which renders possible the
chemical exchanges and the transformations of energy which constitute life.
It is in the study of the phenomena of liquid contact and diffusion that we
may best hope to pierce the secrets of life. The physics of vital action
are the physics of the phenomena which occur in liquids, and the study of
the physics of a liquid must be the preface and the basis of all inquiry
into the nature and origin of life.

       *       *       *       *       *




We have seen that living beings are transformers of energy and of matter,
evolutionary in form and liquid in consistency; that they are solutions of
colloids and crystalloids separated by osmotic membranes to form
microscopic cells, or consisting merely of a gelatinous mass of protoplasm,
with a nucleus of slightly differentiated material. The elementary
phenomenon of life is the contact of two different solutions. This is the
initial physical phenomenon from which proceed all the other phenomena of
life in accordance with the ordinary chemical and physical laws. Thus the
basis of biological science is the study of solution and of the phenomena
which occur between two different solutions, either in immediate contact or
when separated by a membrane.

A solution is a homogeneous mixture of one or more solutes in a liquid
solvent. Before solution the solute or dissolved substance may be solid,
liquid, or gaseous.

Solutes, or substances capable of solution, may be divided into two
classes--substances which are capable of crystallization, or crystalloids;
and those which are incapable of crystallization, the colloids.
Crystalloids may be divided again into two classes, those whose solutions
are ionizable and therefore conduct electricity, chiefly salts, acids, and
bases; and those whose solutions are non-ionizable and are therefore
non-conductors. These latter are for the most part crystallizable
substances of organic origin, such as sugars, urea, etc.

Avogadro's law asserts that under similar conditions of temperature and
pressure, equal volumes of various gases {15} contain an equal number of
molecules. Under similar conditions, the molecular weights of different
substances have therefore the same ratio as the weights of equal volumes of
their vapours. Hence if we fix arbitrarily the molecular weight of any one
substance, the molecular weight of all other substances is thereby
determined. The molecular weight of hydrogen has been arbitrarily fixed as
two, and hence the molecular weight of any substance will be double its
gaseous density when compared with that of hydrogen.

_Gramme-Molecule._--A gramme-molecule is the molecular weight of a body
expressed in grammes. Occasionally for brevity a gramme-molecule is spoken
of as a "molecule." Thus we may say that the molecular weight of oxygen is
16 grammes, meaning thereby that there are the same number of molecules in
16 grammes of oxygen as there are atoms in 1 gramme of hydrogen.

_Concentration._--The concentration of a solution is the ratio between the
quantity of the solute and the quantity of the solvent. The concentration
of a solution is expressed in various ways. (_a_) The weight of solute
dissolved in 100 grammes of the solvent. (_b_) The weight of solute present
in 100 grammes of the solution. (_c_) The weight of solute dissolved in a
litre of the solvent. (_d_) The weight of solute in a litre of the
solution. The most usual method is to give the concentration as the weight
of solute dissolved in 100 grammes or in one litre of the solvent.

_Molecular Concentration._--Many of the physical and biological properties
of a solution are proportional, not to its mass or weight concentration,
but to its molecular concentration, _i.e_. to the number of
gramme-molecules of the solute contained in a litre of the solution. Many
physical properties are quite independent of the nature of the solute,
depending only on its degree of molecular concentration.

_Normal Solution._--A normal solution is one which contains one
gramme-molecule of the solute per litre. A decinormal solution contains
one-tenth of a gramme-molecule of the solute per litre, and a centinormal
solution one-hundredth of a gramme-molecule. A normal solution of urea, for
example, {16} contains 60 grammes of urea per litre, while a normal
solution of sugar contains 342 grammes of sugar per litre.

_The Dissolved Substance is a Gas._--Van t' Hoff, using the data obtained
by the botanist Pfeffer, showed that the dissolved matter in a solution
behaved exactly as if it were a gas. The analogy is complete in every
respect. Like the gaseous molecules, the molecules of a solute are mobile
with respect to one another. Like those of a gas, the molecules of a solute
tend to spread themselves equally, and to fill the whole space at their
disposal, _i.e._ the whole volume of the solution. The surface of the
solution represents the vessel containing the gas, which confines it within
definite limits and prevents further expansion.

_Osmotic Pressure._--Like the molecules of a gas, the molecules of a solute
exercise pressure on the boundaries of the space containing it. This
osmotic pressure follows exactly the same laws as gaseous pressure. It has
the same constants, and all the notions acquired by the study of gaseous
pressure are applicable to osmotic pressure. Osmotic pressure is in fact
the gaseous pressure of the molecules of the solute.

When a gas dilates and increases in volume, its temperature falls, and cold
is produced. Similarly, when a soluble substance is dissolved, it increases
in volume, and the temperature of the liquid falls. This phenomenon is well
known as a means of producing cold by a refrigerating mixture.

The phenomena of life are governed by the laws of gaseous pressure, since
all these phenomena take place in solutions. The fundamental laws of
biology are those of the distribution of substances in solution, which is
regulated by the laws of gaseous pressure, since all these laws are
applicable also to osmotic pressure.

_Boyle's Law_.--When a gas is compressed its volume is diminished. If the
pressure is doubled, the volume is reduced to one-half. The quantity V × P,
that is the volume multiplied by the pressure, is constant.

_Gay-Lussac's Law._--For a difference of temperature of a degree Centigrade
all gases dilate or contract by 1 / 273 of their volume at 0° Centigrade.

_Dalton's Law._--In a gaseous mixture, the total pressure is equal to the
sum of the pressures which each gas would exert if it alone filled the
whole of the receptacle.

_Pressure proportional to Molecular Concentration._--The above laws are
completely independent of the chemical nature of the gas, they depend only
on the number of gaseous molecules in a given space, _i.e._ on the
molecular concentration. If we double the mass of the gas in a given space,
we double the number of molecules, and we also double the pressure,
whatever the nature of the molecules. We may also double the pressure by
compressing the molecules of a gas, or of several gases, into a space half
the original size. The molecular concentration of a gas, or of a mixture of
gases, is the ratio of the number of molecules to the volume they occupy.
The pressure of a gas or of a mixture of gases is proportional to its
molecular concentration. This is a better and a shorter way of expressing
both Boyle's law and Dalton's law.

One gramme-molecule of a gas, whatever its nature, condensed into the
volume of 1 litre, has a pressure of 22.35 atmospheres. Similarly one
gramme-molecule of a solute, whatever its nature, when dissolved in a litre
of water, has the same pressure, viz. 22.35 atmospheres.

_Absolute Zero._--According to Gay-Lussac's law, the volume of a gas
diminishes by 1 / 273 of its volume at 0° C. for each degree fall of
temperature. Thus if the contraction is the same for all temperatures, the
volume would be reduced to zero at -273° C. This is the absolute zero of
temperature. Temperatures measured from this point are called absolute
temperatures, and are designated by the symbol T. If _t°_ indicates the
Centigrade temperature above the freezing point of water, then the absolute
temperature is equal to _t°_ + 273°.

_The Gaseous Constant._--Consider a mass of gas at 0° C. under a pressure
P_o, with volume V_o. At the absolute temperature T, if the pressure be
unaltered, the volume of this gas will be V_oT / 273. Therefore the
constant PV, the product of the pressure by the volume, will be represented
by P_oV_oT / 273. {18}

At the same temperature, but under another pressure P' the gas will have a
different volume V'. Since, according to Boyle's law, PV is constant (P'V'
= P_oV_o), it will still equal P_oV_oT / 273. Therefore P_oV_o / 273 is
also constant. This quantity is called "the gaseous constant," and if we
represent it by the symbol R, we obtain the general formula PV = RT for all
gases, or PV / T = R.

Suppose, for instance, we have a gramme-molecule of a gas at 0° C. in a
space of 1 litre. It has a pressure of 22.35 atmospheres at 0° C., or 273°
absolute temperature. Since PV = RT, R = PV / T = 1 × 22.35 / 273 = .0819.
This number .0819 is the numerical value of the constant R for all gases,
volume being measured in litres and pressure in atmospheres.

Substances in solution behave exactly like gases, they follow the same laws
and have the same constants. All the conceptions which have been acquired
by the study of gases are applicable to solutions, and therefore to the
phenomena of life. The osmotic pressure of a solution is the force with
which the molecules of the solute, like gaseous molecules, strive to
diffuse into space, and press on the limits which confine them, the
containing vessel being represented by the surfaces of the solution.
Osmotic pressure is measured in exactly the same way as gaseous pressure.
To measure steam pressure we insert a manometer in the walls of the boiler.
In the same way we may use a manometer to measure osmotic pressure. We
attach the tube to the walls of the porous vessel, allow the solvent to
increase in volume under the pressure of the solute, and measure the rise
of the liquid in the manometer tube.

_Pfeffer's Apparatus._--Pfeffer has designed an apparatus for the
measurement of osmotic pressure. It consists of a vessel of porous
porcelain, the pores of which are filled with a colloidal solution of
ferrocyanide of copper. This forms a semi-permeable membrane which permits
the passage of water into the vessel, but prevents the passage of sugar or
of any {19} colloid. The stopper which hermetically closes the vessel is
pierced for the reception of a mercury manometer. The vessel is filled with
a solution of sugar and plunged in a bath of water. The volume of the
solution in the interior of the vessel can vary, since water passes easily
in either direction through the pores of the vessel. The boundary of the
solvent has become extensible, and its volume can increase or diminish in
accordance with the osmotic pressure of the solute. Under the pressure of
the sugar water is sucked into the vessel like air into a bellows, the
solution passes into the tube of the manometer, and raises the column of
mercury until its pressure balances the osmotic pressure of the sugar

_Osmotic Pressure follows the Laws of Gaseous Pressure._--This osmotic
pressure is in fact gaseous pressure, and may be measured in millimetres of
mercury in just the same way. We may thus show that osmotic pressure
follows the laws of gaseous pressure as defined by Boyle, Dalton, and
Gay-Lussac. The coefficient of pressure variation for change of temperature
is the same for a solute as for a gas. The formula PV = RT is applicable to
both. The numerical value of the constant R is also the same for a solute
as for a gas. being .0819 for one gramme-molecule of either, when the
volume is expressed in litres and the pressure in atmospheres. The formula
PV = RT shows that for a given mass, with the same volume, the pressure
increases in proportion to the absolute temperature.

_Osmotic Pressure of Sugar._--A normal solution of sugar, containing 342
grammes of sugar per litre, has a pressure of 22.35 atmospheres, and it may
well be asked why such an enormous pressure is not more evident. The reason
will be found in the immense frictional resistance to diffusion. Frictional
resistance is proportional to the area of the surfaces in contact, and this
area increases rapidly with each division of the substance. When a solute
is resolved into its component molecules, its surface is enormously
increased, and therefore the friction between the molecules of the solute
and those of the solvent.

_Isotonic Solutions._--Two solutions which have the same {20} osmotic
pressure are said to be iso-osmotic or isotonic. When comparing two
solutions of different concentration, the solution with the higher osmotic
pressure is said to be hypertonic, and that with the lower osmotic pressure

_Lowering of the Freezing Point._--Pure water freezes at 0° C. Raoult
showed that the introduction of a non-ionizable substance, such as sugar or
alcohol, lowers the freezing point of a solution in proportion to the
molecular concentration of the solute. One gramme-molecule of the solute
introduced into one litre of the solution lowers its temperature of
congelation by 1.85° C. Thus a normal solution of any non-ionizable
substance in water freezes at -1.85° C. The measurement of this lowering of
the freezing point is called Cryoscopy, a method which is becoming of great
utility in medicine.

_Cryoscopy of Blood._--In order to determine the osmotic pressure of the
blood at 37° C., _i.e._ 98.6° F., the normal temperature, we proceed as
follows. On freezing the blood, we find that it congeals at -.56°. Its
molecular concentration is therefore .56 / 1.85 = .30, or about one-third
of a gramme-molecule per litre. Its osmotic pressure at 0° C. is therefore
.3 × 22.35 = 6.7 atmospheres. The increase of pressure with temperature is
the same as for a gas, viz. 1/273, or .00367 of its pressure at 0° for
every degree rise of temperature. The increase of pressure at 37° is
therefore .00367 × 37 × 6.7 = .9 atmospheres. The total osmotic pressure at
37° is therefore 6.7 + .9 = 7.6 atmospheres.

_Rise of Boiling Point._--Water under atmospheric pressure boils at a
temperature of 100° C. The addition of a solute whose solution does not
conduct electricity, such as sugar, causes a rise in the boiling point
proportional to the molecular concentration of that solute.

_Lowering of the Vapour Tension._--The vapour tension of a liquid is
lowered by the addition of a solute. A liquid boils at the temperature at
which its vapour tension equals that of the atmosphere. Since an aqueous
solution of sugar at atmospheric pressure does not begin to boil at 100°
C., it is manifest that its vapour tension is then less than that of the
{21} atmosphere. The addition of a solute such as sugar, whose solution is
not ionizable, and therefore does not conduct electricity, lowers the
vapour tension of the solution in proportion to the molecular concentration
of the solute.

_Corresponding Values._--We have thus found five properties of a solution
which vary proportionally, so that from the measurement of any one of them
we can determine the corresponding values of all the others. These are--

  1. The Molecular Concentration.
  2. The Osmotic Pressure.
  3. The Diminution of Vapour Tension.
  4. The Raising of the Boiling Point.
  5. The Lowering of the Freezing Point.

_Cryoscopy._--The usual method employed for the determination of the
molecular concentration and osmotic pressure of a solution is by
cryoscopy--the measurement of its temperature of congelation. A very
sensitive thermometer is used, the scale of which extends over only 5° and
is divided into hundredths of a degree. The liquid under examination is
placed in a test tube, in which the bulb of the thermometer is plunged, and
this is supported in a second tube with an air space all round it. The
whole is then suspended to the under side of the cover of the refrigerating
vessel, which may be cooled either by filling it with a freezing mixture,
or by the evaporation of ether. During the whole of the operation the
liquid is agitated by a mechanical stirrer. The first step is to determine
the freezing point of distilled water. As the water cools the mercury
gradually descends in the stem of the thermometer till it reaches a point
below the zero mark at 0° C. As soon as ice begins to form the mercury
rises, at first rapidly and then more slowly, reaches a maximum, and
finally descends again. This maximum reading is the true point of
congelation. The inner tube is then emptied, care being taken to leave a
few small ice crystals to serve as centres of congelation for the
subsequent experiment, thus avoiding supercooling of the solution. The
process is then repeated with the solution under examination. The
difference between {22} the two freezing points is the required "lowering
of the freezing point."

Cryoscopy is the method most used in biological research to determine
molecular concentration. It has, however, some grave defects. It
necessitates several cubic centimetres of the liquid under examination. It
gives us the constants of the solution at the temperature of freezing,
which is far below that of life. Organic liquids are easily altered and are
extremely sensible to minute differences of temperature, cryoscopy
therefore gives us no information as to the constitution of solutions under
normal conditions. It is desirable to have some other method of determining
molecular concentration and the other interdependent constants at the
normal temperature of life. A much better method, were it possible, would
be the direct determination of the vapour tension of the solutions under
normal conditions of temperature and pressure.

_Molecular Lowering of the Freezing Point._--For every substance whose
solution is not ionized and therefore does not conduct electricity, the
lowering of the freezing point is the same, viz. 1.85° C. for each
gramme-molecule of the solute per litre of the solution.

_Determination of the Molecular Concentration._--In order to obtain the
molecular concentration of a non-ionizable substance, we have only to
determine the lowering of the freezing point. Let A be the lowering of the
freezing point of any solution. On dividing it by 1.85 (the lowering of the
freezing point for a normal solution), we obtain the number of
gramme-molecules in a litre of the solution. If n be the number of
gramme-molecules per litre, then n = A / 1.85.

_Determination of the Osmotic Pressure._--The osmotic pressure P of a
solution may be obtained by multiplying its molecular concentration n by
22.35 atmospheres. P = n × 22.35 = A / 1.85 × 22.35.

_Determination of Molecular Weight._--The lowering of the freezing point
also enables us to calculate the molecular {23} weight of any non-ionizable
solute. Thus Bouchard has been able to determine by means of cryoscopy the
mean molecular weight of the substances eliminated by the urine. A weight
_x_ of the substance is dissolved in a litre of water, and the lowering of
the freezing point is observed. The value thus found divided by 1.85 gives
us n, the number of gramme-molecules per litre. The molecular weight M may
be determined by dividing the original weight x by n.

The study of osmotic pressure was begun by the Abbé Nollet; and one of his
disciples, Parrot, at an early date thus described its importance: "It is a
force analogous in all respects to the mechanical forces, a force able to
set matter in motion, or to act as a static force in producing pressure. It
is this force which causes the circulation of heterogeneous matter in the
liquids which serve as its vehicle. It is this force which produces those
actions which escape our notice by their minuteness and bewilder us by
their results. It is for the infinitely small particles of matter what
gravitation is for heavy masses. It can displace matter in solution upwards
against gravity as easily as downwards or in a horizontal direction."

Thus the recognition of the fact that a substance in solution is really a
gas, has at a single stroke put us in possession of the laws of osmotic
pressure--laws slowly and laboriously discovered by the long series of
investigations on the pressure of gases.

Osmotic pressure plays a most important rôle in the arena of life. It is
found at work in all the phenomena of life. When osmotic pressure fails,
life itself ceases.

       *       *       *       *       *




_Solutions which conduct Electricity._--The laws of solution which we have
studied in the previous chapter apply only to those solutions, chiefly of
organic origin, which do not conduct electricity. Solutions of electrolytes
such as the ordinary salts, acids, and bases, which are ionized on
solution, give values for the various constants of solution which do not
accord with those required by theory. If, for instance, we take a
gramme-molecule of an electrolyte such as chloride of sodium, and dissolve
it in a litre of water, we find that the lowering of the freezing point is
nearly double the theoretical value of 1.85°. The same holds good for the
osmotic pressure, and for all the constants which are proportional to the
molecular concentration of the solute. The solution behaves, in each case,
as if it contained more than one gramme-molecule of sodium chloride per
litre. It behaves, in fact, as if it contained i times the number of
molecules of solute originally introduced into it. If n be the original
number of molecules, then it will apparently contain n' = in molecules.
This law is universal for all electrolytic solutions; the theoretical value
for their concentration, osmotic pressure, and all the proportional
physical constants must be multiplied by this quantity, i = n'/n, which is
the ratio of the apparent number of the molecules present to the number
originally introduced.

A similar dissociation of the molecule is observed in the case of many
gases. The vapour of chloride of ammonium, for instance, is decomposed by
heat, and it may be shown experimentally that the increase of pressure on
heating above {25} that which theory demands, is due to an increase in the
number of the gaseous molecules present. Some of the vapour particles are
dissociated into two or more fragments, each of which plays the part of a
single molecule.

Arrhenius, in 1885, advanced the hypothesis that the apparent increase in
the number of molecules of an electrolytic solution was also due to
dissociation. This interpretation at once threw a flood of light on a
number of phenomena hitherto obscure.

_Coefficient of Dissociation._--We have seen that in order to obtain values
which accord with experiment we have to multiply the number of
gramme-molecules of the solute by the coefficient i, which is called the
Coefficient of Dissociation.

This coefficient of dissociation, i, may be found by observing the lowering
of the freezing point of a normal solution, and dividing it by 1.85. i =

The coefficient of dissociation varies with the degree of concentration of
the solution, rising to a maximum when the solution is sufficiently

If we know i, the coefficient of dissociation for a given solute, contained
in a solution of a definite concentration, we can find n', the number of
particles present in a solution containing n gramme-molecules of the solute
per litre, since n' = in. On the other hand, if from a consideration of its
freezing point and other constants we find that an electrolytic solution
appears to contain n' gramme-molecules per litre, the real number of
chemical gramme-molecules in one litre of the solution will be only n' / i
= n.

Very concentrated solutions do not conform to these laws. In this they
resemble gases, which as they approach their point of condensation tend
less and less to conform to the laws of gaseous pressure.

_Electrolysis._--If we take a solution of an acid, a salt, or a base, and
dip into it two metallic rods, one connected to the positive and the other
to the negative pole of a battery, we {26} find that the metals or metallic
radicals of the solution are liberated at the negative pole, while the acid
radicals of the salts and acids and the hydroxyl of the bases are liberated
at the positive pole. The liberated substances may either be discharged
unchanged, or they may enter into new combinations, causing a series of
secondary reactions.

_Electrolytes._--Solutions which conduct electricity are called
Electrolytes, and the conducting metallic rods dipping into the solution
are the Electrodes. Faraday gave the names of Ions to the atoms or
atom-groups liberated at either electrode. The ions liberated at the
positive electrode are the Anions, and those at the negative electrode are
the Cations. The only solutions which possess any notable degree of
electrical conductivity are the aqueous solutions of the various salts,
acids, and bases, and in these solutions only do we meet with those
phenomena of dissociation which are evidenced by anomalies of osmotic
pressure, freezing point and the like,--anomalies which show that the
solution contains a greater number of molecules than that indicated by its
molecular concentration. These anomalies are due to dissociation, the
division of some of the molecules into fragments, each of which plays the
part of a separate molecule, contributing its quota to the osmotic tension
and vapour pressure of the solution, in fact to all the phenomena which are
dependent on the degree of molecular concentration. The electrical
conductivity of a solution is therefore proved to be dependent on its
molecular dissociation.

_Arrhenius' Theory of Electrolysis._--In 1885, Arrhenius brought forward
his theory of the transport of electricity by an electrolyte. According to
this hypothesis, the electric current is carried by the ions, the positive
charges by the cations, and the negative charges by the anions. In virtue
of the attraction between charges of different sign, and repulsion between
charges of like sign, the cations are repelled by the positive charge on
the anode, and attracted by the negative charge on the cathode. Similarly
the anions are repelled by the cathode and attracted by the anode. {27}

An electrolytic solution contains three varieties of particles, positive
ions or cations, negative ions or anions, and undissociated neutral
molecules. The molecular concentration of such a solution, with the
corresponding constants, depends on the total number of these particles,
_i.e._ the sum of the ions and the undissociated neutral molecules. We may
indicate an ion by placing above it the sign of its electrical charge, one
sign for each valency. Thus Na^+ and Cl^- indicate the two ions of a salt
solution; Cu^{++} and SO_4^{--} the two ions of a solution of sulphate of
copper. A point is sometimes substituted for the + sign, and a comma for
the - sign. Thus Na^. and Cl^,; Cu^{..} and SO_4^{,,}.

My friend Dr. Lewis Jones has given a very vivid picture of the processes
which go on in an electrolytic solution when an electric current is
passing. He compares an electrolytic cell to a ballroom, in which are
gyrating a number of dancing couples, representing the neutral molecules,
and a number of isolated ladies and gentlemen representing the anions and
cations respectively. If we suppose a mirror at one end of the ballroom and
a buffet at the other, the ladies will gradually accumulate around the
mirror, and the gentlemen around the buffet. Moreover, the dancing couples
will gradually be dissociated in order to follow this movement.

_Degree of Dissociation._--The degree of dissociation is the fraction of
the molecules in the solution which have undergone dissociation. Let n be
the total number of molecules of the solute, and n" the number of
dissociated molecules. Then n" / n = a will represent the degree of
dissociation. Let k be the number of ions into which each molecule is
split. Then a = n"k / nk, _i.e._ the degree of dissociation is the ratio of
the number of ions actually present in a solution to the number which would
be present if all the molecules of the solute were dissociated.

Let n' be the total number of particles present in a solution {28}
containing n molecules, each of which is composed of k ions. Then if a is
the degree of dissociation,

  n' = n - an + ank,
  n' = n[1 + a (k - 1)],
  n' / n = 1 + a (k - 1) = i.

We thus obtain i the coefficient of dissociation, in terms of the degree of
dissociation a and the number of ions in each molecule k.

If there is no dissociation, _i.e._ if a = 0, then n' = n, and i = 1. If
all the molecules are dissociated, a = 1, and i = k.

_Faraday's Law._--Faraday found that the quantity of electricity required
to liberate one gramme-molecule of any radical is 96.537 coulombs for each
valency of the radical.

_Electrochemical Equivalent._--The electrochemical equivalent of a radical
is the weight liberated by one coulomb of electricity. It is equal to the
molecular weight of the ion, divided by 96.537 times its valency.

_Electrolytic Conductivity._--The conductivity of an electrolyte is the
inverse of its resistance. C = 1/R.

For a given difference of potential the conductivity of an electrolyte is
proportional to the number of ions in unit volume, the electrical charge on
each ion, and the velocity of the ions.

_The specific conductivity_ [Delta] of an electrolyte is the conductivity
of a cube of the solution, each face of which is one square centimetre in
area. The _molecular conductivity_ of an electrolyte is the conductivity of
a solution containing one gramme-molecule of the substance placed between
two parallel conducting plates, one centimetre apart. The molecular
conductivity is independent of the volume occupied by the gramme-molecule
of the solute, depending only on the degree of dissociation. The molecular
conductivity U is equal to the product of V, the volume of the molecule, by
[Delta], its specific conductivity. U = V[Delta]. Whence [Delta] = U / V,
_i.e._ the specific {29} conductivity equals the molecular conductivity
divided by the volume.

The conductivity of an electrolyte is proportional to the number of ions in
a volume of the solution containing one gramme-molecule. Let M_{[infinity]}
be the conductivity for complete dissociation and M_v the molecular
conductivity at the volume V. Then

  M_v / M_{[infinity]} = n"k / nk = n" / n = a,

the degree of dissociation. This is Ostwald's law, which says that the
degree of dissociation is equal to the ratio of conductivity when the
gramme-molecule occupies a volume V, to its conductivity when the solution
is so dilute that dissociation is complete. Hence the degree of
dissociation may also be determined by comparing the electrical
conductivities of two solutions of different degrees of concentration.

    |         --    --    --     |  --    --    --                |
    |         SO_4  SO_4  SO_4   |  SO_4  SO_4  SO_4              |
    |                            |                                |
    |         ++    ++    ++     |  ++    ++    ++                |
    |         Cu    Cu    Cu     |  Cu    Cu    Cu                |
    |                            |                                |

FIG. 1.--Before the passage of the current.

    |                     --     |  --    --                      |
    |                     SO_4   |  SO_4  SO_4  SO_4  SO_4  SO_4  |
  - |                            |                                | +
    |                     ++     |  ++    ++                      |
    |   Cu    Cu    Cu    Cu     |  Cu    Cu                      |
    |                            |                                |

FIG. 2.--After the passage of the current.

_Velocity of the Ions._--If the electrolytic cell is divided into two
segments by means of a porous diaphragm, we shall find after a time an
unequal distribution of the solute on the two sides. For instance, with a
solution of sulphate of copper, after the current has passed for some time
there will be a diminution of concentration in the liquid on both sides of
the diaphragm, but the loss will be very unequally divided. Two-thirds of
the loss of concentration will be on the side of the negative electrode and
only one-third on the positive side. In 1853, Hittorf gave the following
ingenious explanation of this phenomenon:-- {30}

Fig. 1 represents an electrolytic vessel containing a solution of sulphate
of copper, the vertical line indicating a porous partition separating the
vessel into two parts. Fig. 2 shows the same vessel after the passage of
the current. The acid radical has travelled twice as fast as the metal. For
each copper ion which has passed through the porous plate towards the
cathode two acid radicals have passed through it towards the anode. Three
ions have been liberated at either electrode, but in consequence of the
difference of velocity with which the positive and the negative ions have
travelled, the negative side of the vessel contains only one molecule of
copper sulphate and has lost two-thirds of its molecular concentration,
while the positive side contains two molecules of copper sulphate and has
only lost one-third of its concentration. This proves clearly that the ions
move in different directions with different velocities. Let u be the
velocity of the anions, and v the velocity of the cations. Let n be the
loss of concentration at the cathode, and 1 - n the loss of concentration
at the anode. Then

  u / v = n / (1 - n),

_i.e._ the loss of concentration at the cathode is to the loss of
concentration at the anode as the velocity of the anions is to that of the
cations. Hence by measuring the loss of concentration at the two
electrodes, we have an easy means of determining the comparative velocity
of different ions.

In 1876, Kohlrausch compared the conductivity of the chlorides, bromides,
and iodides of potassium, sodium, and ammonium respectively. He found that
altering the cation did not affect the _differences_ of conductivity
between the three salts, thus showing that these differences of
conductivity were dependent on the nature of the anion only, and not on the
particular base with which it was combined. The difference of conductivity
between an iodide and a bromide, for example, is the same whether
potassium, sodium, or ammonium salts are compared. A similar experiment has
been made with a series of cations combined with various anions. The
difference of conductivity of the salts in the series is the same whichever
anion is used, _i.e._ the difference of conductivity between potassium
chloride and sodium chloride is the same as that between {31} potassium
bromide and sodium bromide. Hence we may conclude that the conductivity of
any salt is an ionic property.

Kohlrausch's law may be expressed by the formula c = d(u + v), where c is
the conductivity of the salt, d the degree of dissociation, _i.e._ the
fraction of the electrolyte broken up into ions, and u and v the velocity
of the anions and cations respectively. When all the molecules of the
electrolyte are dissociated, d = 1, and the formula becomes c_{[infinity]}
= u + v.

As we have already seen, a salt is formed by the union of a metal M with an
acid radical R. Potassium sulphate, K_2SO_4, consists of the metal K_2 and
the acid radical SO_4. Ammonium chloride, NH_4Cl, consists of the basic
radical NH_4 and the acid radical Cl. The various acids may be considered
as salts of the metal hydrogen. Thus sulphuric acid, H_2SO_4, is the
sulphate of hydrogen. Bases may be considered as salts with the hydroxyl
group, OH, replacing the acid radical. Thus potash, KOH, is the hydroxyl of
potassium. The various electrolytic combinations may be represented by the
following symbols:--

  Salts = MR.
  Acids = HR.
  Bases = MOH.

The various chemical reactions of an electrolyte are all ionic reactions,
the chemical activity of an electrolytic solution being proportional to its
electric conductivity, _i.e._ the degree of dissociation of its ions. The
acidity of an electrolytic solution is due to the presence of the
dissociated ion H^+, and its strength is determined by the concentration of
these free hydrogen ions. Hence the greater the degree of dissociation the
stronger the acid.

The basic character of a solution is determined by the presence of the
hydroxyl radical OH^-. The greater the concentration of the hydroxyl ions,
_i.e._ the greater the dissociation, the stronger is the base.

The ions H^+ and OH^- are of special importance, since they are the ions of
water, H_2O = H^+ + OH^-. The degree of {32} dissociation of pure water is
but small. Water is, however, the most important of all the various agents
in the chemical reactions of life, since a large number of organic
substances are decomposed by water by a process of hydrolysis, and a vast
number of organic substances are but combinations of carbon with the ions
H^+ and OH^-, their diversity being due to variations in the relative
proportions and grouping.

_The Chemical, Therapeutic, and Toxic Actions of Ions._--The chemical,
therapeutic, antiseptic, and toxic actions of electrolytic solutions are
almost exclusively due to ionization. Take, for instance, a solution of
nitrate of silver in which the addition of chlorine produces a white
precipitate of chloride of silver. This precipitate occurs only when the
solution added is one such as NaCl, where the chlorine is present as the
free ion Cl^-. No such precipitate is produced in a solution of chlorate of
potassium or chloracetic acid, where the chlorine is entangled in the
complex ion ClO_3 or C_2H_3ClO_2.

Since, then, the toxic and pharmacological properties of an electrolyte
depend entirely on the ionic grouping, it behoves the physician and the
biologist to study the structure and grouping of the ions in a molecule,
rather than that of the atoms. Consider for a moment the totally different
properties of the phosphides and the phosphates. The former are extremely
toxic, while the latter are perfectly harmless. There is not the slightest
analogy between their actions on the living organism. On the other hand,
all the phosphides produce the same toxic and therapeutic effects, whatever
the cation with which they are united. Their toxic properties are derived
from the presence of the free phosphorus ion P^{---}. The phosphates
contain phosphorus in the same proportion as the phosphides, but this
phosphorus is harmlessly entangled in the complex ion PO_4^{---}, whose
properties are absolutely different from those of the ion P^{---}.

The above considerations apply equally to the chlorides and chlorates, the
iodides and iodates, the sulphides and sulphates, and in general to all
chemical salts. {33}

The question has an intimate bearing on practical pharmacology. When we
prescribe a cacodylate or an amylarsinate, we are not prescribing an
arsenical treatment whose effects can be compared with those of an
arsenide, an arsenite, or an arsenate. This fact is sufficiently indicated
by the difference in the toxic doses of the different salts. Each variety
of arsenical ion has its own special physiological and therapeutic
properties. We do not expect to obtain the results of a ferruginous
treatment from the administration of a ferrocyanide or a ferricyanide. Both
contain iron, it is true, but neither possess the properties of the cation
Fe^{+++}, but rather those of the complex anion of which they form a part.

We have already said that most of the therapeutic, toxic, and caustic
actions of an electrolyte are due to ionic action, and the substances can
therefore have no toxic action unless they are dissociated. Many of the
solvents employed in medicine, such as alcohol, glycerine, vaseline, and
chloroform dissolve the electrolytes but do not dissociate them into ions,
and these solutions therefore do not conduct electricity. Such solutions
have no therapeutic action. With the absence of dissociation all the ionic
toxic and caustic effects also disappear entirely, and only re-appear as
the water of the tissue is able slowly to effect the necessary

Carbolic acid dissolved in glycerine is hardly caustic and but very
slightly toxic. We have met with several instances in which a tablespoonful
of carbolized glycerine, in equal parts, has been swallowed without any ill
effect, either caustic or toxic, whereas the same dose dissolved in water
would have been fatal. This absence of dissociation has enabled the surgeon
Mencière to inject carbolic and glycerine in equal proportions into the
larger joints, the part being subsequently washed out with pure alcohol.
Thus by employing vaseline, oil, or glycerine as a solvent, and avoiding
the access of water, we are able to use electrolytic antiseptics in very
concentrated form. Their action is brought out very slowly, as the water of
the organism effects the necessary dissociation of the electrolyte. {34}

Since all chemical, toxic, and therapeutic actions are ionic, they are
proportional to the degree of ionic concentration, _i.e._ to the number of
ions in a given volume. The only point of importance, that which determines
their activity, whether chemical or therapeutic, is the degree of
ionization or dissociation. For example, all acids have the same cation
H^+. They have all identical properties, but they differ widely in the
intensity of their action. There are weak acids such as acetic acid, and
strong acids like sulphuric acid. The stronger acids are those which are
more thoroughly dissociated, and in which the ion H^+ is very concentrated;
whereas the feeble acids are but slightly dissociated, so that the ion H^+
is less concentrated.

Paul and Krönig have shown that the bactericidal action of different salts
also varies with their degree of dissociation, _i.e._ with the
concentration of the active ions. They made a series of observations on the
bactericidal action of various salts of mercury, the bichloride, the
bibromide, and the bicyanide, on the spores of _Bacillus anthracis_. The
following results were obtained from a comparison of solutions containing 1
gramme-molecule of the salt in 64 litres of water. With the bichloride
solution, after exposure to the solution for twenty minutes, only 7
colonies of the bacillus were developed. After exposure to a similar
solution of the bibromide the number of colonies was 34. The antiseptic
action of the bichloride was therefore five times as great as that of the
bibromide. The bicyanide of mercury, however, even when four times as
concentrated, permitted the growth of an enormous number of colonies,
showing that it had no appreciable antiseptic action whatever.
Nevertheless, the proportion of Hg is the same in all the solutions, and if
there were any difference one would naturally expect that the ion Cy^-
would be more toxic than Cl^- or Br^-. The real condition which varies in
these solutions and determines their activity is the degree of
dissociation. The whole of the antiseptic property resides in the ion
Hg^{++}. This ion is very {35} concentrated in the highly dissociated
solution HgCl_2, less concentrated in the less ionized solution HgBr_2, and
exceedingly dilute in the HgCy_2, which is hardly ionized at all.

What is true of the bactericidal action of the salts of mercury is equally
true of their therapeutic effect. It is a great mistake to estimate the
medicinal activity of a solution of a salt of mercury, or indeed of any
electrolytic solution, simply by its degree of molecular concentration. The
important point is the degree of dissociation, which is the only true
measure of its activity. In the intramuscular injection of mercury salts it
is by no means a matter of indifference what salt we employ. A salt should
be used such as the bichloride or the biniodide, which is easily
dissociated. Other salts are often employed because they occasion less pain
at the site of injection; but the pain is a sign of the degree of activity
of the preparation. The pain, it is true, may be avoided by using a salt
which is less easily dissociated, or in which the mercury is bound up in a
complex ion, but by so doing we diminish the efficacy of the remedy. It is
moreover quite easy to diminish, or even entirely to suppress, the pain, by
using a very dilute solution of an active ionized salt. A one-half per
cent. or even one-quarter per cent. solution of the bichloride or biniodide
of mercury may be injected very slowly in sufficient quantity without
producing the slightest discomfort. Local action depends entirely on ionic
concentration. One drop of pure sulphuric acid will destroy the skin,
whereas the same amount if diluted in a tumblerful of water will furnish a
refreshing drink.

       *       *       *       *       *




As we have already seen, living organisms are formed essentially of
liquids. These liquids are solutions of crystallizable substances or
crystalloids, and non-crystallizable substances or colloids--a
classification which we owe to Graham.

The liquids are the most important constituents of a living organism, since
they are the seat of all the chemical and physical phenomena of life. The
junction of two liquids of different concentration is the arena in which
takes place both the chemical transformation of matter and the correlative
transformation of energy. In a former chapter we have passed in review the
class of crystalloids, we will now turn our attention to the characteristic
properties of colloids.

_Colloids._--Colloids differ from crystalloids in that they do not form
crystals from solution, being completely amorphous when in the solid state.
The solution of a colloid solidifies in the same form which it possessed in
the liquid state, the solvent being enclosed in the meshes of a sort of
network formed by the solute. This form is approximately retained even
after the water has evaporated by drying, the passage from the liquid state
of solution to the solid state being effected through a series of
intermediary states, such as a clot, coagulum, or jelly. This passage from
the state of solution into a state of jelly is called coagulation. Some
colloids, such as gelatine, coagulate with cold; while others, such as
egg-albumin, coagulate with heat. Some, like the caseine of milk, require
the addition of certain chemical substances to set up coagulation; while
still others, such as the fibrin of blood, appear to coagulate
spontaneously. The physical phenomena of {37} coagulation are still but
little understood. In some cases it is a reversible phenomenon, thus
gelatine coagulated by cold is redissolved by heat; whereas with other
colloids the process is irreversible, albumin coagulated by heat is not
redissolved on cooling.

Colloids in a state of coagulation have a vacuolar or sponge-like
structure. The solvent is imprisoned in the vacuoles of the clot, and is
expelled little by little by its retraction. Colloids diffused in water are
usually called colloidal solutions, but they are not true solutions. Such a
pseudo-solution of a colloid is called a "sol," while a colloid in a state
of coagulation is called a "gel." Colloidal solutions spread but little,
diffuse very slowly in the liquids of the body, and cannot penetrate
organic membranes.

Colloidal solutions diffuse light, unlike crystalloid solutions, which are
transparent. We all know how the trajectory of a beam of sunlight through a
darkened room is rendered visible by the particles of dust. In the same way
if a colloidal solution is illuminated by a transverse ray of light, the
light is diffused by the molecules of the colloid in semi-solution, and the
liquid appears faintly illuminated on a dark background. The light diffused
by a colloidal solution is polarized, which shows that it is reflected

Siedentopf and Sigmondy have applied this principle of lateral illumination
on a dark background to the construction of the ultra-microscope. With the
aid of this instrument we may not only see, but count the particles in a
colloidal solution, which is in reality merely a pseudo-solution or
suspension, in contradistinction to the true solution of a crystalloid.

Colloidal solutions possess only a very feeble osmotic pressure. The
lowering of the freezing point and the other corresponding constants are
also quite insignificant. This arises from the fact that the molecules of a
colloid are extremely large when compared with those of a crystalloid. For
example let us take colloidal substance whose molecular weight is 2000. A
solution containing 40 grammes per litre would have an osmotic pressure
only one-fiftieth of that of a {38} solution of similar strength of a
crystalloid whose molecular weight was 40.

Not only so, but on measuring the molecular concentration, the osmotic
pressure, and the other constants of a colloidal solution, we find values
even lower than those which we should expect from a consideration of its
molecular weight. This is probably due to the tendency of a colloid to
polymerization, i.e. to form groups or associations of molecules. Suppose,
for instance, that the molecules of a colloidal solution are aggregated
into groups of ten. Since each group plays the part of a simple molecule,
the osmotic pressure will be ten times less than that corresponding to the
quantity of the solute present. Such a group of molecules is called by
Naegeli a "micella."

Similar phenomena of aggregation may be observed in the molecules of many
inorganic substances. The molecule of iodine, for example, is monatomic at
1200° C., but becomes diatomic at the ordinary temperature. Sulphur at 860°
C. is a gas with a vapour density of 2.2, while at 500° C. its vapour
density rises to 6.6. In both of these cases two or more molecules of the
element have been condensed into one as a result of the fall of

We frequently find that two successive cryoscopic observations on the
freezing point of the same colloidal solution will vary. This is due to the
extreme sensitiveness of the micellæ, which absorb or abandon their extra
molecules under the slightest influence. This mobility in the constitution
of the micellæ appears to be one of the principal causes of the peculiar
properties of colloidal solutions.

The phenomenon of polymerization appears to be reversible. The micellæ are
formed under certain conditions, and are disintegrated when these
conditions are removed. The osmotic pressure varies in the same manner,
diminishing with polymerization and augmenting with the disintegration of
the micellæ. One may easily understand what an important rôle is played by
this alternate polymerization and disintegration in the phenomena of life.

Most colloidal substances are precipitated from their solutions by the
addition of very small quantities of electrolytic {39} solutions.
Non-electrolytic solutions do not appear to provoke this precipitation.
This is not a chemical action, for an exceedingly small quantity of an
electrolyte is able to precipitate an indefinite quantity of the colloid.
The precipitation is probably due to the electric charges carried by the
dissociated ions of the electrolytes.

When an electric current is passed through a colloid solution, the course
of the molecules of the colloid is sometimes towards the cathode and
sometimes towards the anode, according to the nature of the colloid and of
the solvent. This displacement would appear to indicate a difference of
electric potential between the molecules of the colloid and those of the
solvent. Hardy has shown that in an alkaline solution the molecules of
albumin travel towards the anode, while in an acid solution they travel
towards the cathode.

_Metallic Colloids._--Carey Lea and afterwards Credé succeeded in obtaining
silver in colloidal solution by ordinary chemical means. Professor Bredig
has introduced a more general method of obtaining a number of metals in
colloidal solutions in a state of great purity. He causes an electric arc
to pass between two rods of the metal immersed in distilled water. The
cathode is thus pulverized into a very fine powder which rests in
suspension in the liquid, constituting a colloidal solution. Bredig has in
this way prepared sols of platinum, palladium, iridium, silver, and

_Catalytic Properties of Colloids._--Catalysis is the property possessed by
certain bodies of initiating chemical reaction. The mass of the catalyzing
body has no definite proportion to that of the substances entering into the
reaction, and the appearance of the catalyzer is in no way altered by the

Ostwald has shown that catalysis consists essentially in the acceleration
or retardation of chemical reactions which would take place without the
action of the catalyzer, but more slowly.

Catalytic reactions are very numerous in chemistry. The inversion of sugar
by acids, the etherization of alcohol by sulphuric acid, the decomposition
of hydrogen peroxide by {40} platinum black are all instances of catalysis.
Fermentation by means of a soluble ferment or diastase, a phenomenon which
may almost be called vital, is also a catalytic action. The action of
pepsin, of the pancreatic ferment, of zymase, and of other similar ferments
has a great analogy with the purely physical phenomenon of catalysis. The
diastases are all colloids, and so are many other catalyzers.

A catalyzer is a stimulus which excites a transformation of energy. The
catalyzer plays the same rôle in a chemical transformation as does the
minimal exciting force which sets free the accumulation of potential energy
previous to its transformation into kinetic energy. A catalyzer is the
friction of the match which sets free the chemical energy of the powder

Bredig has studied the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by
metallic colloids prepared by his electric method. He found that 1
atom-gramme of colloidal platinum gives a sensible catalytic effect when
diluted with 70 million litres of water. Caustic soda and other chemical
substances inhibit the catalytic action of colloidal platinum in the same
way as they inhibit the fermenting action of diastase. The curve of
decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by colloidal platinum may be compared
with the curve of fermentation by emulsin. Both are equally affected by the
addition of an alkali. Many other chemical and physical agents have a
similar inhibitory action on the catalysis of colloidal metals and on
diastasic fermentation. Thus a mere trace of sulphuretted hydrogen or
hydrocyanic acid will paralyse the action of a colloidal metal, just as it
does that of a ferment. This is what Bredig calls the poisoning of metallic

We may hope that the further study of catalysis, a purely physico-chemical
phenomenon, may throw more light on the mechanism of diastasic
fermentation, which is essentially a vital reaction.

It must not be forgotten that all classification is artificial and
arbitrary, and only to be used as long as it facilitates study. This
observation is particularly applicable to the classification of substances
into crystalloids and colloids. {41} There is no sharp line between the two
groups, the passage is gradual, and it is impossible to say where one group
ends and the other begins. Many colloids such as hæmoglobin are
crystallizable, and many crystallizable substances are coagulable. Many
substances appear at one time in the crystalloid state and at another time
in the colloidal state, so that instead of dividing substances into
colloids and crystalloids, we should rather consider these expressions as
denoting different phases assumed by the same substance.

In order to define clearly our various classes and divisions, we are apt to
exaggerate slight differences of properties or composition. We say that
colloids have no osmotic pressure, whereas in fact the osmotic pressure of
the colloids though feeble plays a very important part in the phenomena of

So in other departments of science--a factor which is almost infinitesimal
may yet exercise a vast influence on the results. It is by infinitesimal
variations of pressure, a thousandth of a millimetre or less, that we
obtain the various degrees of penetration in the Röntgen rays.

The division into solutions and pseudo-solutions or suspensions is also an
arbitrary one. A true solution is also a suspension of the molecules of the
solute. There is no essential difference between a solution and a
suspension, but only a difference in the size of the molecules, or
agglomerations of molecules, in one case so small as to be transparent, and
in the other case just big enough to diffuse light. There are moreover many
properties common to colloidal solutions and suspensions of fine powders,
such as kaolin, mastic, charcoal, or Indian ink. These particles in
suspension are precipitated by solutions of electrolytes in a manner
similar to the coagulation of colloids.

The surface of every liquid is covered by a very thin layer, a sort of
membrane slightly differentiated from the rest of the liquid. This membrane
may be a chemical one, a pellicular precipitate like that which is formed
by the contact of two membranogenous liquids. On the other hand, the
membrane may not differ from the subjacent liquid in chemical composition,
but only in physical properties. If we {42} consider the molecules in the
middle of a liquid, each molecule is subjected to the cohesive attraction
of molecules on every side, attractions which neutralize one another. At
the surface of the liquid, however, there are quite other conditions of
equilibrium. There each molecule is drawn downwards towards the centre of
the liquid, and there is no compensating attraction in an opposite
direction. The resultant pressure is normal to the surface of the liquid,
and is mechanically equivalent to an elastic membrane which tends to
diminish the surface, and hence the volume of the liquid. We may therefore
regard this surface tension as acting the part of a veritable physical

There is a still further differentiation of the surface of a liquid. When
the liquid is not a simple one, but complex as in a solution, we find that
the concentration of the solute is greater at the surface than in the
interior. This is the so-called phenomenon of "adsorption," which is
another cause for the production of a physical membrane covering the
surface of a liquid.

Substances in a colloidal state have a great tendency to form these
chemical or physical membranes at the point of contact between the
colloidal solute and the solvent. This is probably the reason why the
coagulum of a colloidal liquid usually presents a vacuolar or spongy

       *       *       *       *       *




_Diffusion and Osmosis._--If we place a lump of sugar in the bottom of a
glass of water, it will dissolve, and spread by slow degrees equally
throughout the whole volume of the liquid. If we pour a concentrated
solution of sulphate of copper into the bottom of a glass vessel, and
carefully pour over it a layer of clear water, the liquids, at first
sharply separated by their difference of density, will gradually mix, so as
to form a solution having exactly the same composition in all parts of the
jar. The process whereby the sugar and the copper sulphate spread uniformly
through the whole mass of the liquid in opposition to gravity is called
Diffusion. This diffusion of the solute is a phenomenon exactly analogous
to the expansion of a gas. It is the expression of osmotic pressure, or
rather of the difference of the osmotic pressure of the solute in different
parts of the vessel. The molecules of the solute move from a place where
the osmotic pressure is greater towards a position where the osmotic
pressure is less. The water molecules on the other hand pass from positions
where the osmotic pressure of the solute is less towards positions where it
is greater. As a consequence of this double circulation the osmotic
pressure tends to become equalized in all parts of the vessel.

Diffusion appears to be the fundamental physical phenomenon of life. It is
going on continually in the tissues of all living beings, and a study of
the laws of diffusion and osmosis is therefore absolutely necessary for a
just conception of vital phenomena.

_Coefficient of Diffusion._--The coefficient of diffusion has {44} been
defined by Fick as the quantity of a solute which in one second traverses
each square centimetre of the cross section of a column of liquid 1
centimetre long, between the opposite sides of which there is unit
difference of concentration. Nernst in his definition substitutes "unit
difference of osmotic pressure" for "unit difference of concentration."

Until recently it was generally believed that diffusion took place in
colloids and plasmas just as in pure water. This is, however, by no means
the case: the differences are considerable. When a solute is introduced
into a colloidal solution, the greater the concentration of the colloid the
slower will be the diffusion. This may be shown by a simple experiment.
Several glass plates are prepared, by spreading on each a solution of
gelatine of different concentration, to which a few drops of phenol
phthalein have been added. If now a drop of an alkaline solution be placed
on each plate, we can see that the drop diffuses more slowly through the
more concentrated gelatine solution, since the presence of the alkali is
rendered visible by the coloration of the phenol phthalein. A similar
demonstration may be made by allowing drops of acid to diffuse through
solutions of gelatine made slightly alkaline and coloured with phenol
phthalein. In general, we find on experiment that when similar drops of any
coloured or colouring solution are left for an equal time on plates of
gelatine of different degrees of concentration, the greater the
concentration of the gelatine the smaller will be the circle of coloration

We may show that the rapidity of diffusion diminishes as the gelatinous
concentration increases, by another experiment. If we put side by side on
our gelatine plate a drop of sulphate of copper and another of ferrocyanide
of potassium, the point of contact of the two fluids will be sharply marked
by a line of precipitate. We find that under similar conditions the time
between the sowing of the drops and the formation of this line of
precipitate is longer when the gelatine is more concentrated.

_Osmosis._--In 1748, l'Abbé Nollet discovered that when a pig's bladder
filled with alcohol was plunged into water, the {45} water passed into the
bladder more rapidly than the alcohol passed out; the bladder became
distended, the internal pressure increased, and the liquid spirted out when
the bladder was pricked by a pin. This passage of certain substances in
solution through an animal membrane is called Osmosis, and membranes which
exhibit this property are called osmotic membranes.

_Precipitated Membranes._--In 1867, Traube of Breslau discovered that
osmotic membranes could be made artificially. Certain chemical precipitates
such as copper ferrocyanide can form membranes having properties analogous
to those of osmotic membranes. With these precipitated membranes Traube
made a number of interesting experiments. These have lately been collected
in the volume of his memoirs published by his son.

_Osmotic Membranes._--Osmotic membranes were formerly called semi-permeable
membranes, being regarded as membranes which allow water to pass through
them, but arrest the passage of the solute. This definition is inexact,
since no membrane permeable to water is absolutely impermeable to the
solutes. All we can say is that certain membranes are more permeable to
water than to the substances in solution, and are moreover very unequally
permeable to the various substances in solution. As a rule a membrane is
much more permeable to a solute whose molecule is of small dimensions.
Molecules of salt, for instance, pass through such a membrane much more
quickly than do those of sugar. The term "osmotic membrane" should
therefore in all cases replace that of "semi-permeable membrane."

Osmotic membranes behave exactly like colloids. The resistance which they
oppose to the passage of different substances varies with the nature of the
liquid or solute concerned. There is no real difference between the passage
of a solution through an osmotic membrane and its diffusion through a
colloid. The protoplasm of a living organism, being a colloid, acts exactly
like an osmotic membrane so far as regards the distribution of solutions
and substances in solution. {46}

The diffusion of molecules through a colloid, a plasma, or a membrane is
governed by laws precisely analogous to Ohm's law, which governs the
transport of electricity. The intensity or rapidity of diffusion is
proportional to the difference of osmotic pressure, and varies inversely
with the resistance.

In the case of molecular diffusion, however, the rapidity of diffusion
depends also on the size and nature of the molecules of the diffusing
substance. The theory of the resistance of the various plasmas and
membranes to diffusion has been but little understood; we can discover
hardly any reference to it in the literature of the subject.

The laws of diffusion apply equally to the diffusion of ions. Nernst has
shown that there is a difference of electric potential at the surface of
contact of two electrolytic solutions of different degrees of
concentration. Both the positive and negative ions of the more concentrated
solution pass into the less concentrated solution, but the ions of one sign
will pass more rapidly than those of the other sign, because being smaller,
they meet with less resistance.

The resistance of the medium plays a most important part in all the
phenomena of diffusion. When two solutions of different concentration come
into contact, the interchange of molecules and ions which occurs is unequal
owing to the differences in resistance. Hence both solutions become
modified not only in concentration but also in composition. It has long
been known that diffusion can cause the decomposition of certain easily
decomposed substances, and it would appear probable that diffusion is also
capable of producing new chemical combinations.

The separation of the liberated ions in consequence of the unequal
resistance which they meet with in the medium they traverse often
determines chemical reaction. This ionic separation is a fertile agent of
chemical transformation in the living organism, and may be the determinant
cause in those chemical reactions which constitute the phenomena of

When different liquids come into contact there are two distinct series of
phenomena, those due to osmotic pressure and those due to differences of
chemical composition. Even {47} with isotonic solutions there will be a
transfer of the solutes if these are of different chemical constitution.
Take, for instance, two isotonic solutions, one of salt and another of
sugar. When these are brought into contact there is no transference of
water from one solution to the other, but there is a transference of the
solutes. In the salt solution the osmotic pressure of the sugar is zero.
Hence the difference of osmotic pressure of the sugar in the two solutions
will cause the molecules of sugar to diffuse into the salt solution. For
the same reason the salt will diffuse into the sugar solution.

A disregard of this fact, that a solute will always pass from a solution
where its osmotic pressure is high, into one where its osmotic pressure is
low, is a frequent source of error. Thus it is said to be contrary to the
laws of osmosis that solutes should pass from the blood, with its low
osmotic pressure, into the urine, where the general osmotic pressure is
higher; the more so because in consequence of the exchange the osmotic
pressure of the urine is still further increased. Such an exchange, it is
argued, is contrary to the ordinary laws of physics, and can therefore only
be accomplished by some occult vital action. This, however, is not the
fact, as is proved by experiment.

Consider an inextensible osmotic cell containing a solution of sugar, the
walls of the cell being impermeable to sugar but permeable to salt. Let us
plunge such a cell into a solution of salt, which has a lower osmotic
pressure than the sugar solution. Since the walls of the cell are
inextensible, the quantity of water in the cell cannot increase. The salt,
however, will pass into the cell, since the osmotic pressure of the salt is
greater on the outside than on the inside, and the walls are permeable to
the molecules of salt. This passage will continue until the osmotic
pressure of the salt is equal inside and outside the cell; at the same time
the total osmotic pressure within the cell will have increased, in spite of
its being originally greater than the osmotic pressure outside.

_Plasmolysis._--We all know that a cut flower soon dries {48} up and fades.
When, however, we place the shrivelled flower in water, the contracted
protoplasm swells up again and refills the cells, which become turgid, and
the flower revives. This phenomenon is due to the fact that vegetable
protoplasm holds in solution substances like sugars and salts which have a
high osmotic pressure. Consequently water has a tendency to penetrate the
cellular walls of plants, to distend the cells and render them turgescent.
De Vries has used this phenomenon for the measurement of osmotic tension.
He employs for this purpose the turgid cells of the plant _Tradescantia
discolor_. The cells are placed under the microscope and irrigated with a
solution of nitrate of soda. On gradually increasing the concentration of
the solution there comes a moment when the protoplasmic mass is seen to
contract and to detach itself from the walls of the cell. This phenomenon,
which is known as plasmolysis, occurs at the moment when the solution of
nitrate of soda begins to abstract water from the protoplasmic juice,
_i.e._ when the osmotic tension of the nitrate of soda becomes greater than
that of the protoplasmic liquid. So long as the osmotic tension of the soda
solution is less than that of the protoplasm, there will be a tendency for
water to penetrate the cell wall and swell the protoplasm. When the osmotic
tension of the solution which bathes the cell is identical with that of the
cellular juice, there is no change in the volume of the protoplasm. In this
way we are able to determine the osmotic pressure of any solution. We have
only to dilute the solution till it has no effect on the protoplasm of the
vegetable cells. Since the osmotic tension of this protoplasm is known, we
can easily calculate the osmotic tension of the solution from the degree of
dilution required.

_Red Blood Corpuscles as Indicators of Isotony._--In 1886, Hamburger showed
that the weakest solutions of various substances which would allow the
deposition of the red blood cells, without being dilute enough to dissolve
the hæmoglobin, were isotonic to one another, and also to the blood serum,
and to the contents of the blood corpuscles. This is Hamburger's method of
determining the osmotic {49} tension of a liquid. The diluted solution is
gradually increased in strength until, when a drop of blood is added to it,
the corpuscles are just precipitated, and no hæmoglobin is dissolved.

_The Hæmatocrite._--In 1891, Hedin devised an instrument for determining
the influence of different solutions on the red blood corpuscles. This
instrument, the hæmatocrite, is a graduated pipette, designed to measure
the volume of the globules separated by centrifugation from a given volume
of blood under the influence of the liquid whose osmotic pressure is to be
measured. The method depends on the principle that solutions isotonic to
the blood corpuscles and to the blood serum will not alter the volume of
the blood corpuscles, whereas hypertonic solutions decrease that volume.

_Action of Solutions of Different Degrees of Concentration on Living
Cells_.--We have just seen that a living cell, whether vegetable or animal,
is not altered in volume when immersed in an isotonic solution that does
not act upon it chemically. When immersed in a hypertonic solution, it
retracts; in a slightly hypotonic solution it absorbs water and becomes
turgescent, while in a very hypotonic solution it swells up and bursts. In
a hypertonic solution the red blood cells retract and fall to the bottom of
the glass, the rapidity with which they are deposited depending on the
amount of retraction. In a hypotonic solution they swell up and burst, the
hæmoglobin dissolving in the liquid and colouring it red. This is the
phenomenon of hæmatolysis. According to Hamburger, the serum of blood may
be considerably diluted with water before producing hæmatolysis.
Experimenting with the blood of the frog, he found that the globules
remained intact in size and shape when irrigated with a salt solution
containing .64 per cent. of salt, this solution being isotonic with the
frog's blood serum. On the other hand, they did not begin to lose their
hæmoglobin till the proportion of salt was reduced to below .22 per cent.
Thus frog's serum may be diluted with 200 per cent. of water before
producing hæmatolysis. In mammals the blood corpuscles remain invariable in
a salt solution of about .9 per cent., and begin to lose their {50}
hæmoglobin approximately in a .6 per cent. solution. A solution of .9 per
cent. of NaCl is therefore isotonic to the contents of the red blood
corpuscles, to the serum of the blood, and to the cells of the tissues. It
by no means follows that the cells of the blood and tissues undergo no
change when irrigated with a .9 per cent. solution of chloride of sodium.
They do not lose or gain water, it is true, and they retain their volume
and their specific gravity. But they do undergo a chemical alteration, by
the exchange of their electrolytes with those of the solution. Hamburger
has pointed out that in mammals the shape of the red corpuscles is altered
in every liquid other than the blood serum; even in the lymph of the same
animal there is a diminution of the long diameter, and an increase of the
shorter diameter, while the concave discs become more spherical.

All the cells of a living organism are extremely sensitive to slight
differences of osmotic pressure--the cells of epithelial tissue and of the
nervous system as well as the blood cells. For instance, the introduction
of too concentrated a saline solution into the nasal cavity will set up
rhinitis and destroy the terminations of the olfactory nerves. Pure water,
on the other hand, is itself a caustic. There is a spring at Gastein, in
the Tyrol, which is called the poison spring, the "Gift-Brunnen." The water
of this spring is almost absolutely pure, hence it has a tendency to
distend and burst the epithelium cells of the digestive tract, and thus
gives rise to the deleterious effects which have given it its name.
Ordinary drinking water is never pure, it contains in solution salts from
the soil and gases from the atmosphere. These give it an osmotic pressure
which prevents the deleterious effects of a strongly hypotonic liquid.
During a surgical operation it is of the first importance not to injure the
living surfaces by flooding them with strongly hypertonic or hypotonic
solutions. This precaution becomes still more important when foreign
liquids are brought into contact with the delicate cells of the large
surfaces of the serous membranes. Gardeners are well aware of the noxious
influence of a low osmotic pressure. They water the soil around the roots
of a plant, so that the water may take up {51} some of the salts from the
soil before being absorbed by the plant. Pure water poured over the heart
of a delicate plant may burst its cells owing to its low osmotic pressure.
In many medical and surgical applications, on the other hand, a low osmotic
pressure is of advantage. Thus, in order to remove the dry crusts of eczema
and impetigo, the most efficacious application is a compress of cotton wool
soaked in warm distilled water. Under the influence of such a hypotonic
solution the dry cells rapidly swell up, burst, and are dissolved.

Cooking is also very much a question of osmotic pressure. If salt is put
into the water in which potatoes and other vegetables are boiled, osmosis
is set up and a current of water passes from the vegetable cells to the
salt water. The cellular tissue of the vegetable becomes contracted and
dried, and the membranes become adherent, the vegetable loses weight and
becomes difficult of digestion, in consequence of its hard and waxy
consistency, which prevents the action of the digestive juices. Vegetables
should be cooked in soft water, and should be salted after cooking. When so
treated, a potato absorbs water, the cells swell up, the skin bursts, the
grains of starch also swell up and burst, and the pulp becomes more
friable. The digestive juice is thus able to penetrate the different parts
of the vegetable rapidly, and digestion is facilitated. Any one can easily
prove for himself that a potato boiled in salt water diminishes in weight,
whilst its weight increases when it is cooked in soft water.

The method of cryoscopy is also of considerable service in forensic
medicine. As shown by Carrara, the cryoscopy of the blood is an important
aid in determining the question whether a body found in the water was
thrown in before or after death. In the former case the concentration of
the blood will be much diminished. In certain experiments on dogs the
cryoscopic examination of the blood showed a freezing point of -.6° C. The
dog was then drowned, when the freezing point of the blood in the left
ventricle was increased to -.29° C., and that in the right ventricle to
-.42° C. On the other hand, when a dog was killed before being thrown into
the water, the {52} osmotic pressure of the blood was hardly decreased even
after an immersion of 72 hours. In the case of persons or animals drowned
in sea water, a similar alteration of the point of congelation is observed,
but in the reverse direction. In this case the osmotic pressure is raised
considerably in those who are drowned, whereas no such rise is observed in
those who are thrown into the sea after death.

The circulation of the sap in plants and trees is also in great part due to
osmotic pressure. The aspiration of the water from the soil is due to the
intracellular osmotic pressure in the roots, which causes the sap to rise
in the stem of a plant as it would in the tube of a manometer. From a
knowledge of the osmotic pressure of the intracellular liquid of the roots,
we may calculate the height to which the sap can be raised in the trunk of
a tree, _i.e._ the maximum height to which the tree can possibly grow.
Suppose, for instance, the plasma of the rootlets has an osmotic pressure
of six atmospheres, corresponding to that of a 9 per cent. solution of
sugar. A pressure of six atmospheres is equal to the weight of a column of
water 6 × .76 × 13.596 = 61.95 metres high. This, then, is the maximum
height to which this osmotic pressure is able to lift the sap. That is to
say, a tree whose rootlets contain a solution of sugar of 9 per cent.
concentration, or its equivalent, can grow to a height of 62 metres.

Cryoscopy is also of great use in practical medicine, more especially for
the examination of the urine. The freezing point of urine varies from
-1.26° C. to -2.35°. Koryani has studied the ratio of the point of
congelation of urine to that of a solution containing an equal quantity of
chloride of sodium. He finds that the ratio (freezing point of urine) /
(freezing point of NaCl) increases when the circulation through the tubules
of the kidney is diminished.

Hans Koeppe has shown that the hydrochloric acid of the gastric juice is
produced by the osmotic exchanges between the blood and the gastric
contents. The ion Na^+ of the salt in the stomach contents exchanges with
an ion H^+ of the monobasic salts of the blood, NaHCO_3 + NaCl = HCl +
Na_2CO_3. {53}

_Influence of Muscular Contraction on the Intramuscular Osmotic
Pressure._--When a muscle is immersed in an isotonic salt solution it does
not change in weight. In a hypertonic solution it loses weight in
consequence of a loss of water, which passes from the muscle into the
solution to equalize the osmotic pressure. It gains weight in a hypotonic
solution, the water current setting towards the point of higher
concentration. It is easy, therefore, to tell whether the osmotic pressure
in a muscle is above or below that of a given solution, by observing
whether the muscle gains or loses weight when immersed in it. Thus we may
measure the osmotic pressure in a muscle by finding a salt solution in
which the muscle neither gains nor loses weight. In this way we have been
able to prove that the osmotic pressure of a tired muscle is higher than
that of the normal muscle. Our experiments were carried out on the muscles
of frogs. After having pithed the frog, one of the hind legs is removed by
a single stroke of the scissors. The leg is skinned, dried with blotting
paper, and weighed. It is then placed in a salt solution whose freezing
point is -.53° C. At 15° C. such a solution has an osmotic pressure of 6.6
atmospheres. We next proceed to determine the osmotic pressure of the
corresponding leg after it has been tired by muscular work. For this it is
stimulated by an intermittent faradic current passing once a second for
five minutes. The leg is then skinned, dried, weighed, and placed in the
same salt solution. After eight hours' immersion the legs are weighed
again. The following are the results of six experiments, the numbers
representing fractions of the original weight:--

Change of weight of untired leg--

  After  8 hours  -.000.
  After 16 hours  -.000.
  After 24 hours  -.006.

Change of weight of stimulated leg--

  After  8 hours  +.050.
  After 16 hours  +.080.
  After 24 hours  +.101.


This result shows that muscular work provoked by electric stimulation
noticeably increases the osmotic pressure of the muscle.

In order to discover the exact osmotic pressure in the stimulated muscles
we repeated the series of experiments, using more and more concentrated
solutions. In a solution whose freezing point was -.57°, we obtained the
following values:--

Change of weight of untired leg--

  After  8 hours  -.000.
  After 16 hours  -.004.
  After 24 hours  -.006.

Change of weight of stimulated leg--

  After  8 hours  +.039.
  After 16 hours  +.072.
  After 24 hours  +.099.

Finally, in a solution freezing at -.72°, _i.e._ with an osmotic pressure
at 15° C. of 9.176 atmospheres, we obtained the following mean values for
the untired leg:--

  After  8 hours  -.04.
  After 16 hours  -.05.
  After 24 hours  -.05.

In this solution, freezing at -.72° C., some of the stimulated muscles
showed no diminution in weight, while others showed a very small
diminution, and others again a slight augmentation, the maximum increase
being .085 of the initial weight. The solution is therefore practically
isotonic with the stimulated muscle.

In this case the elevation of the intramuscular osmotic pressure produced
by the electrical excitation and the muscular contractions was therefore
2.5 atmospheres, or more than 2.6 kilogrammes per square centimetre of

I made further experiments in order to discover whether the variation in
osmotic pressure depended on the duration of {55} the muscular contraction.
For this purpose I used a solution freezing at -.53° C. and immersed in it
untired muscles, and muscles which had been electrically excited for two,
four, and six minutes respectively. The following are the results:--

  Untired muscles.   Muscles stimulated once a second during
                     2 Minutes.   4 Minutes.   6 Minutes.
       .000             +.026        +.084        +.094
      +.001             +.034        +.065        +.093
      +.005             +.045        +.079        +.097
       .000             +.037        +.070        +.095
       .000             +.032        +.072        +.096

Mean of all the observations--

      +.0012            +.0348       +.074        +.095

These experiments show clearly that the osmotic intramuscular pressure
rises in proportion to the duration of the electrical stimulation.

In order to determine the influence of the work accomplished by the muscle
on the elevation of the osmotic pressure, I made the following experiment.
The two hind legs of a frog were submitted to the same electrical
excitation, one leg being left at liberty, and the other being stretched by
a hundred-gramme weight, acting by a cord and pulley. After exciting them
electrically for five minutes, the legs were immersed for twenty-four hours
in a saline solution freezing at .53° C. The free limb showed an
augmentation of .085 of the initial weight, and the stretched limb an
increase of .106 of the initial weight. It is evident, therefore, that the
osmotic pressure increases with the amount of work done by a muscle.

Briefly, then, the results of our experiments are as follow:--

1. Muscular contraction electrically produced causes an increase of the
osmotic pressure in a muscle.

2. The intramuscular osmotic pressure may reach, or even exceed, 2.5
atmospheres, or 2.6 kilogrammes per square centimetre of surface.

3. When a muscle is made to contract once a second, the {56} elevation of
the osmotic pressure increases with the number of contractions.

4. The intramuscular osmotic pressure increases with the work done by the

5. Fatigue is caused by the increase of osmotic pressure in a contracting

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--Fields of diffusive force.

(_a_) Monopolar field of diffusion. A drop of blood in a saline solution of
higher concentration.

(_b_) Bipolar field of diffusion. Two poles of opposite signs. On the right
a grain of salt forming a hypertonic pole of concentration, on the left a
drop of blood forming a hypotonic pole of dilution. ]

_The Field of Diffusion._--Just as Faraday introduced the conception of a
field of magnetic force and a field of electric force to explain magnetic
and electrical phenomena, so we may elucidate the phenomena of diffusion by
the conception of a field of diffusion, with centres or poles of diffusive
force. If we consider a solution as a field of diffusion, any point where
the concentration is greater than that of the rest may be considered as a
centre of force, attractive for the molecules of water, and repulsive for
the molecules of the solute. In the same way any point of less
concentration may be regarded as a centre of attraction for the molecules
of the solute, and a centre of repulsion for the molecules of water.

A field of diffusion may be monopolar or bipolar. A bipolar field has a
hypertonic pole or centre of concentration, and a hypotonic pole or centre
of dilution. By analogy with the magnetic and electric fields we may
designate the hypertonic pole as the positive pole of diffusion, and the
hypotonic as the negative pole. {57}

The positive and negative poles and the lines of force in the field of
diffusion may be illustrated by the following experiment. A thin layer of
salt water is spread over an absolutely horizontal plate of glass. If now
we take a drop of blood, or of Indian ink, and drop it carefully into the
middle of the salt solution, we shall find that the coloured particles will
travel along the lines of diffusive force, and thus map out for us a
monopolar field of diffusion, as in Fig. 3 a. Again, if we place two
similar drops side by side in a salt solution, their lines of diffusion
will repel one another, as in Fig. 4.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--Two drops of blood in a more concentrated solution,
showing a field of diffusion between two poles of the same sign.]

Now let us put into the solution, side by side, one drop of less
concentration and another of greater concentration than the solution. The
lines of diffusion will pass from one drop to the other, diverging from the
centre of one drop and converging towards the centre of the other (Fig. 3
_b_). In this manner we are able to obtain diffusion fields analogous to
the magnetic fields between poles of the same sign and poles of opposite

The conception of poles of diffusion is of the greatest importance in
biology, throwing a flood of light on a number of phenomena, such as
karyokinesis, which have hitherto been regarded as of a mysterious nature.
It also enables us to appreciate the rôle played by diffusion in many other
biological phenomena. Consider, for example, a centre of anabolism in a
living organism. Here the molecules of the living protoplasm are in process
of construction, simpler molecules being united and built up to form larger
and more complex groups. As a result of this aggregation the number of
molecules in a given area is diminished, _i.e._ the concentration and the
osmotic pressure fall, producing a hypotonic centre of diffusion. We may
thus regard every centre of anabolism as a negative pole of diffusion. {58}

Consider, on the other hand, a centre of catabolism, where the molecules
are being broken up into fragments or smaller groups. The concentration of
the solution is increased, the osmotic pressure is raised, and we have a
hypertonic centre of diffusion. Every centre of catabolism is therefore a
positive pole of diffusion. Similar considerations as to the formation and
breaking up of the molecules in anabolism and catabolism apply to

The diffusion field has similar properties to the magnetic and the electric
field. Thus there is repulsion between poles of similar sign, and
attraction between poles of different signs. A simple experiment will show
this. A field of diffusion is made by pouring on a horizontal glass plate a
10 per cent. solution of gelatine to which 5 per cent. of salt has been
added. The gelatine being set, we place side by side on its surface two
drops, one of water, and one of a salt solution of greater concentration
than 5 per cent. We have thus two poles of diffusion of contrary signs, a
hypotonic pole at the water drop, and a hypertonic pole at the salt drop.
Diffusion immediately begins to take place through the gelatine, the drops
become elongated, advance towards one another, touch, and unite. If, on the
contrary, the two neighbouring drops are both more concentrated or both
less concentrated than the medium, they exhibit signs of repulsion as in
Fig. 4.

Diffusion not only sets up currents in the water and in the solutes, but it
also determines movements in any particles that may be in suspension, such
as blood corpuscles, particles of Indian ink, and the like. These particles
are drawn along with the water stream which passes from the hypotonic
centres or regions toward those which are hypertonic.

These considerations suggest a vast field of inquiry in biology, pathology,
and therapeutics. Inflammation, for example, is characterized by
tumefaction, turgescence of the tissues, and redness. The essence of
inflammation would appear to be destructive dis-assimilation with intense
catabolism. We have seen that a centre of catabolism is a hypertonic focus
of diffusion. Hence the osmotic pressure in an inflamed region is
increased, turgescence is produced, and {59} the current of water carries
with it the blood globules which produce the redness.

The phenomenon of agglutination may also possibly be due to osmotic
pressure, a positive centre of diffusion attracting and agglomerating the
particles held in suspension.

_Tactism and Tropism._--The phenomena of tactism and tropism may also be
partly explained by the action of these diffusion currents of particles in
suspension, these polar attractions and repulsions. In all experiments on
this subject we should take into account the possible influence of osmotic
pressure, since many of the causes of tactism or tropism also modify the
osmotic pressure at the point of action, and it is possible that this
modification is the true cause of the phenomenon. Osmotactism and
osmotropism have not as yet been sufficiently studied.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--Liquid figures of diffusion.

The six negative poles of diffusion are coloured with Indian ink. The
positive pole in the centre is uncoloured and is formed by a drop of KNO_3

Thus it may be said that osmotic pressure dominates all the kinetic and
dynamic phenomena of life, all those at least which are not purely
mechanical, like the movements of respiration and circulation. The study of
these vital phenomena is greatly facilitated by the conception of the field
of diffusion and poles of diffusion, and of the lines of force, which are
the trajectories of the molecules of the solutes, and the particles and
globules in suspension.

_The Morphogenic Effects of Diffusion._--Many interesting experiments may
be made showing variations of the lines of force in a field of diffusion,
and how liquids subjected only to differences of osmotic pressure diffuse
and mix with one {60} another in definite patterns. When a liquid diffuses
in another undisturbed by the influence of gravity, it produces figures of
geometric regularity, and we may thus obtain figures and forms of infinite
variety. The following is our method of procedure. A glass plate is placed
absolutely horizontal and is covered with a thin layer of water or of
saline solution. Then with a pipette we introduce into the solution, in a
regular pattern, a number of drops of liquid coloured with Indian ink. A
wonderful variety of patterns and figures may be obtained by employing
solutions of different concentration and varying the position of the drops.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--Pattern produced in gelatine by the diffusion of
drops of concentrated solutions of nitrate of silver and bromide of

Instead of the water or salt solution, we may spread on the plate a 5 or 10
per cent. solution of gelatine, containing various salts in solution. If
now we sow on this gelatine drops of various solutions which give
colorations with the salts in the gelatine, we may obtain forms of perfect
regularity, presenting most beautiful colours and contrasts. The drops, of
course, must be placed in a symmetrical pattern. In this way we may obtain
an endless number of ornamental figures.

In order to cover a lantern slide 8½ cm. × 10 cm., about 5 c.c. of gelatine
is required. To this amount of gelatine we add a single drop of a saturated
solution of salicylate of sodium, and spread the liquid gelatine evenly
over the plate. When the gelatine has set, we put the plate over a diagram,
a hexagon for instance, and place a drop of ferrous sulphate solution at
each of the six angles. The drops immediately diffuse {61} through the
gelatine, and the result after a time is the production of a beautiful
purple rosette. The gelatine must be carefully covered to prevent its
drying until the diffusion is complete. The preparation may then be dried
and mounted as a lantern slide, and will give the most brilliant effect on
projection. If the gelatine has been treated with a drop of potassium
ferrocyanide solution instead of salicylate of sodium, a few drops of
FeSO_4 will give a blue pattern. Or we may treat the gelatine with
ferrocyanide of potassium and salicylate of sodium mixed, and thus obtain
an intermediary colour on the addition of FeSO_4. We may, indeed, vary
indefinitely the nature and concentration of the solution, as well as the
number and position of the drops. The results have all the charm of the
unexpected, which adds greatly to the interest of the experiment.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--Pattern produced in gelatine by the diffusion of
drops of silver nitrate and sodium carbonate.]

These experiments are not merely a scientific toy. They show us the
possibility, hitherto unsuspected, that a vast number of the forms and
colours of nature may be the result of diffusion. Thus many of the
phenomena of life, hitherto so mysterious, present themselves to us as
merely the consequences of the diffusion of one liquid into another. One
cannot help hoping that the study of diffusion will throw still further
light on the subject.

If a number of spheres, each capable of expansion and deformation, are
produced simultaneously in a liquid, they will form polyhedra when they
expand by growth. This is the {62} precise architecture of a vast number of
living organisms and tissues, which are formed by the union of microscopic
polyhedra or cells. A section of such a polyhedral structure would appear
as a tissue of polygons. It is interesting to note that the simple process
of diffusion will produce such structures under conditions closely allied
to those which govern the development of the tissues of a living organism.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--Pattern produced in gelatine by the diffusion of
drops of a solution of nitrate of silver and of citrate of potassium.]

We may obtain this cellular structure by a simple experiment. On a glass
plate we spread a 5 per cent. solution of pure gelatine, and when set sow
on it a number of drops of a 5 to 10 per cent. solution of ferrocyanide of
potassium. The drops must be placed at regular intervals of 5 mm. all over
the plate. When these have been allowed to diffuse and the gelatine has
dried, we obtain a preparation which exactly resembles the section of a
vegetable cellular tissue (Fig. 9). The drops have by mutual pressure
formed polygons, which appear in section as cells, with a membranous
envelope, a {63} nucleus, and a cytoplasm, which is in many cases entirely
separated from the membrane. These cells when united form a veritable
tissue, in all respects similar to the cellular structure of a living

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--Tissue of artificial cells formed by the diffusion
in gelatine of drops of potassium ferrocyanide.]

In the preparation showing artificial cells the cellular structure is not
directly visible until the gelatine has dried. One sees only a gelatinous
mass analogous to the protoplasm of a living organism. This mass is
nevertheless organized, or at least in process of organization, as we may
see by the refraction when its image is projected on the screen.

During the cell-formation, and as long as there is any difference of
concentration in the gelatine, each cell is the arena of active molecular
movement. There is a double current, as in the living cell, a stream of
water from the periphery to the centre, and of the solute from the centre
to the periphery. This molecular activity--the life of the artificial
cell--may be prolonged by appropriate nourishment, {64} _i.e._ by
continually repairing the loss of concentration at the centre of the cell.

The life of the artificial cell may also be prolonged by maintaining around
it an appropriate medium. If we prematurely dry such a preparation of
artificial cells, the molecular currents will cease, to recur again when we
restore the necessary humidity to the preparation. This to my mind gives us
a most vivid picture of the conditions of latent life in seeds and many

These artificial cells, like living organisms, have an evolutionary
existence. The first stage corresponds to the process of organization, the
gelatine representing the blastema, and the drop the nucleus. Thus the cell
becomes organized, forming its own cytoplasm and its own enveloping

The second stage in the life of this artificial cell is the period during
which the metabolism of the cell is active and tends to equalize the
concentration of the liquid in the cell and in the surrounding medium.

The third stage is the period of decline. The double molecular current
gradually slows down as the difference of concentration decreases between
the cell contents and its entourage. When this equality of concentration
has become complete the molecular currents cease, the cell has terminated
its existence; it is dead. The currents of substance and of energy have
ceased to flow--the form only remains.

These artificial cells are sensible to most of the influences which affect
living organisms. Like living cells they are influenced both in their
organization and in their development by humidity, dryness, acidity, or
alkalinity. They are also greatly affected by the addition of minute
quantities of chemical substances either to the gelatinous blastema or to
the drops which represent the primary nuclei. We may in this way obtain
endless varieties, nuclei which are opaque or transparent, with or without
a nucleolus, and cells containing homogeneous cytoplasm without a nucleus.
We may also obtain cells with cytoplasm filling the whole of the cellular
cavity or separated from the cell-membrane. We may obtain {65} cells
imitating all the natural tissues, cells without a membranous envelope,
cells with thick walls adhering to one another, or cells with wide
intracellular spaces.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.--Artificial liquid cells, formed by coloured drops
of concentrated salt solution in a less concentrated salt solution.]

The forms of these artificial cells depend on the number and relative
position of the drops which represent the nuclei, and on the molecular
concentration or osmotic tension of the solution. The number of the
cellular polyhedra is determined by the number of centres of diffusion. The
magnitude of the dihedral angles, from which radiate three and occasionally
four walls, depends on the position of the hypertonic poles of diffusion.
The curvature of a surface is determined by the differences of
concentration on either side. Between isotonic solutions the surface is
plane, whilst it is curved between solutions of different osmotic
pressures, the convexity being directed towards the hypertonic solution.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--Liquid cells with a fringe of cilia, obtained by
sowing coloured drops of concentrated salt solution in a weaker salt
solution. The contents of the cells have undergone segmentation.]

The time required for these artificial cells to grow varies from two to
twenty-four hours, according to the concentration of the gelatine, the
growth being most rapid in dilute solutions.

Similar cells may be produced in water. If we pour a thin layer of water on
a horizontal plate, and with a pipette {66} sow in it a number of drops of
salt water coloured with Indian ink, we may obtain artificial cells
composed entirely of liquid, having the same characters as those produced
in a gelatinous solution.

It is possible by liquid diffusion to produce not only ordinary cells but
ciliated cells. If we spread a layer of salt water on a horizontal glass
plate, and sow in it drops of Indian ink, artificial cells are produced by
diffusion. At the edge of the preparation there is often to be seen a sort
of fringe, analogous to the cilia of living cells (Fig. 11).

These tissues of artificial cells demonstrate the fact that inorganic
matter is able to organize itself into forms and structures analogous to
those of living organisms under the action of the simple physical forces of
osmotic pressure and diffusion. The structures thus produced have functions
which are also analogous to those of living beings, a double current of
diffusion, an evolutionary existence, and a latent vitality when desiccated
or congealed.

       *       *       *       *       *




_Periodic Precipitation._--A phenomenon is said to be periodic when it
varies in time and space and is identically reproduced at equal intervals.
We are surrounded on all sides by periodic phenomena; summer and winter,
day and night, sleep and waking, rhythm and rhyme, flux and reflux, the
movements of respiration and the beating of the heart, all are periodic.
Our first sorrows were appeased by the periodic rhythm of the cradle, and
in our later years the periodic swing of the rocking-chair and the hammock
still soothe the infirmities of old age.

Sound is a periodic movement of the atmosphere which brings to us harmony
and melody. Light consists of periodic undulations of the ether which
convey to us the beauty of form and colour. Periodic ethereal waves waft to
us the wireless message through terrestrial space and the radiant energy of
the sun and stars.

It is therefore not to be wondered at that the phenomena of diffusion are
also periodic. According to Professor Quinke of Heidelberg, the first
mention of the periodic formation of chemical precipitates must be
attributed to Runge in 1885. Since that time these precipitates have been
studied by a number of authors, and particularly by R. Liesegang of
Düsseldorf, who in 1907 published a work on the subject, entitled _On
Stratification by Diffusion_.

In 1901 I presented to the Congress of Ajaccio a number of preparations
showing concentric rings, alternately transparent and opaque, obtained by
diffusing a drop of potassium ferrocyanide solution in gelatine containing
a trace of ferric {68} sulphate. At the Congress of Rheims in 1907 I
exhibited the result of some further experiments on the same subject.

These periodic precipitates may be obtained from a great number of
different chemical substances. The following is the best method of
demonstrating the phenomenon. A glass lantern slide is carefully cleaned
and placed absolutely level. We then take 5 c.c. of a 10 per cent. solution
of gelatine and add to it one drop of a concentrated solution of sodium
arsenate. This is poured over the glass plate whilst hot, and as soon as it
is quite set, but before it can dry, we allow a drop of silver nitrate
solution containing a trace of nitric acid to fall on it from a pipette.
The drop slowly spreads in the gelatine, and we thus obtain magnificent
rings of periodic precipitates of arsenate of silver, with which any one
may easily repeat the experiments detailed in this chapter.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--Lines of diffusion precipitate, showing the
simultaneous propagation of "undulations of different wave-length.]

_Circular Waves of Precipitation._--The wave-front of the periodic rings of
precipitates is always perpendicular to the rays of diffusion. The distance
between the rings depends on the concentration of the diffusing solution.
The greater the fall of concentration, the less is the interval between the
rings. Each ring represents an equipotential line in the field of
diffusion. These equipotential lines of diffusion give us the best and most
concrete reproduction of the mode of propagation of periodic waves in
space. They are, in fact, a visible diagram of the propagation of the waves
of light and sound. Occasionally we may observe in the gelatine the
simultaneous propagation of undulations of different wave-length, just as
we have them in the ether and the air. These diffusion wavelets {69} give
us a very beautiful representation of the simultaneous propagation of
undulations of different wave-length in the same medium.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--Waves of diffusion refracted at a plane surface on
passing from a less concentrated into a more concentrated solution. The
refracted wave-front is flattened, the wave-length being less in the denser

Like waves of light and sound, these waves of diffusion are refracted when
they pass from one medium into another of a different density, where they
have a different velocity. When, for instance, a diffusion wave passes from
a 5 per cent. solution of gelatine into a 10 per cent. solution, the
wave-front is retarded, the retardation being proportional to the length of
the path through the denser medium. Hence the wave-front is flattened, the
curvature of the refracted wave being less than that of the original wave
of diffusion. The contrary is the case when the wave-front passes into a
medium where its velocity is greater. The middle of the wave-front now
travels faster than the flanks, and the curvature is increased.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.--Transformation of a spherical wave-front into a
plane wave-front by a convergent diopter.]

These diffusion rings furnish us with most excellent diagrams of refraction
at a "diopter," _i.e._ a spherical surface separating two media of
different densities. Fig. 14 shows the refraction at a convergent diopter,
_i.e_. a surface where the denser medium is convex. The diffusion waves in
this case emanate from the principal focus of the diopter, and therefore
become plane on passing through the convex surface of the denser gelatine.

These periodic diffusion rings also illustrate the phenomena of colour
diffraction. Diffusion waves of different {70} wavelength are unequally
refracted by a gelatine lens. Hence rings of different wave-length which,
originating at the same spot, are at first concentric, are no longer
parallel after passing through a gelatine lens. A convergent lens which
will change the long spherical incident waves into shorter plane waves,
will transform the short incident waves into concave waves whose curvature
is opposite to that of the original waves, _i.e._ it will transform a
divergent into a convergent beam. This is an illustration of what is called
the aberration of refrangibility.

In the same way we may demonstrate the course of diffusion waves through a
gelatine prism, showing the refraction on their incidence and again on
emergence. The prism is made of a stronger gelatine solution, which is more
refractive than the gelatine around it. The waves of diffusion whilst
traversing the prism are retarded, and this retardation is greatest at the
base where the passage is longer. Hence the wave-front is tilted towards
the base of the prism, and this tilting is repeated when the wave-front
leaves the prism.

If we examine diffusion waves of different wave-length on their emergence
from the gelatine prism, we shall see that they cut one another. With a
dense prism, the wave-front of the shorter waves is more tilted towards the
base than the wave-front of the longer waves. For diffusion as for light
the shorter waves are the most refracted. Both refraction and dispersion
are due to the unequal resistances of the medium to undulatory movements of
different periodicity.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--Diffraction of diffusion waves on passing through
a narrow aperture.]

_Diffraction._--When light traverses a minute orifice, instead {71} of
passing on in a straight line, it spreads out like a fan, forming a
diverging cone of light, just as if the orifice were itself a luminous
point. This is the phenomenon of diffraction which has hitherto been
considered incompatible with the emission theory of light. Diffusion waves
may also be made to pass through a narrow orifice, when they will behave
exactly like the waves of light. The new waves radiate from the orifice
like a fan, instead of giving a cone of waves bounded by lines passing
through the circumference of the orifice and the original centre of
radiation. Thus on passing through a small orifice diffusion waves exhibit
the phenomenon of diffraction just as light waves do.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.--Interference of diffusion waves.]

_Interference._--The phenomenon of interference may also be illustrated by
waves of diffusion. If on a gelatine plate we produce two series of
diffusion waves from two separate centres, we get at certain points an
appearance corresponding to the interference of two sets of light waves.
This appearance is best shown by sowing on the gelatine film a straight row
of drops equidistant from one another. It should be remarked that this
phenomenon of the production of circles of precipitate separated by
transparent spaces, although periodic, is not of necessity vibratory or
undulatory. It would thus appear that periodic phenomena may be propagated
through space without vibratory or oscillatory motion. If we submit to a
critical examination the various experiments which have established the
undulatory theory of light, we find that they do indeed demonstrate the
periodic nature of light, but in no wise prove that light is a vibratory
movement of the ether. {72} On the contrary, the hypothesis that light is
propagated by vibratory movements is open to many objections. Even the
Zeeman effect, although it may tend to establish the fact that light is
produced by vibratory movement, by no means proves that it is propagated in
the same manner. When the theory was accepted that the transmission of
light was periodic it was supposed that this periodic transmission could
only be vibratory or undulatory in character, since waves or vibrations
were the only periodic phenomena known at that time. We now know that there
are other means of periodic transmission which are apparently not
undulatory. The periodic precipitates produced by diffusion show us the
transmission of spherical waves through space, which follow the laws of
light, although the periodic phenomenon is apparently emissive rather than

It will be remembered that Newton considered light to be produced by
projectile-like particles emanating from a centre, and proceeding in
straight lines in all directions. This emission theory of light was
abandoned in favour of Huygens' undulatory theory.

It was said that the phenomena of interference and diffraction could not be
explained by the theory of emission, while the undulatory theory gave a
simple explanation. The scientific mind was unable to conceive the idea of
emission and periodicity as taking part in the same phenomenon. The savants
and thinkers who have meditated on this question have always considered the
theory of emission and that of periodicity as incompatible. Nevertheless,
we are here in presence of a phenomenon in which emission and periodicity
exist simultaneously. The molecules emanating from our drop are diffused in
straight radiating lines, and yet produce periodic precipitates which are
subject to interference and diffraction like the undulations of Huygens.

The phenomena associated with the pressure of light, the {73} discovery of
the cathode rays and the radiations of radium, together with the
introduction of the electron theory of electricity, all seem to have
brought again into greater prominence Newton's original conception of the
emissionary nature of light.

Some of the phenomena of radiation can be explained only by the emission
theory, and others by the undulatory theory of light. All these
difficulties would be solved if we admitted the hypothesis that radiating
bodies project electrons, which produce in the ether periodic waves similar
to those formed in our gelatine films by the molecules of diffusion.

These diffusion films are of the greatest possible service in the practical
teaching of optics. They place before the eye of the student a working
model as it were of the undulations of light. When projected on the screen,
they give excellent pictures of the phenomena of refraction, diffraction,
and interference, and the simultaneous propagation of undulation of
different wave-lengths, and they show in a visible manner the changes of
wave-length in media of different densities.

Diffusion waves differ greatly in length, varying from several millimetres
to 2 [mu]. Many are even shorter than this, too short to be separately
distinguished even under the highest power of the microscope, when they
give the effect of moiré or mother-of-pearl.

It is easy to construct a spectroscopic grating in this way with fine lines
whose distance apart is of the order of a micron, separated by clear
spaces. Every physical laboratory may thus produce its own spectroscopic
gratings, rectilinear, circular, or of any desired form.

The most beautiful colour effects may be produced with these diffusion
gratings, as we have shown at the Congress of Rheims in 1907. We have a
considerable collection of these diffusion gratings, some with very fine
lines, giving a very extended spectrum, and others with coarser striations
which give a large number of small spectra.

This study of periodic precipitates is of the highest interest when we come
to investigate the production of colour in natural objects, such as the
wings of insects or the plumage of {74} birds. Many tissues have this lined
or striated structure and exhibit interference colours like those of the
periodic precipitates, their structure showing alternate transparent and
opaque lines, whose width is of the order of a micron. This is the
structure of muscle, and to this striated surface is also attributable many
of the most beautiful colours of nature, the gleam of tendon and
aponeurosis, the fire of scarab and beetle, the colours of the peacock, and
the iridescence of the mollusc and the pearl. The study of liquid diffusion
has given us an idea of the physical mechanism by which these striated
tissues are produced, a mechanism which up to the present time has not been
even suspected. Our experiments show how readily such striped or ruled
structures may be produced in a colloidal solution by the simple diffusion
of salts such as are found in every living organism.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--Photomicrograph of striated structure of a
periodic precipitate of carbonate and phosphate of lime (magnified 500

To make a spectroscopic grating by diffusion we proceed as follows. We take
5 c.c. of a 10 per cent. solution of gelatine, and add to it one drop of a
concentrated solution {75} of calcium nitrate. We spread the gelatine
evenly over a plain glass lantern slide and allow it to set. After it is
set, but before it dries, we place in the centre of the slide a drop of
concentrated solution containing two parts of sodium carbonate (Na_2CO_3)
to one of dibasic sodium phosphate (Na_2HPO_4). Tribasic sodium phosphate
alone without the addition of the carbonate will also give good results. If
the phosphate solution is placed on the gelatine in the form of a drop, we
obtain circular periodic precipitates. If it is desired to make a
rectilineal grating, we deposit the phosphate solution on the gelatine in a
straight line by means of two parallel glass plates. In this way we may
obtain lines of periodic precipitation to the number of 500 to 1000 per
millimetre, forming gratings which produce most beautiful spectra.

Pearls and mother-of-pearl both owe their iridescence to a similar ruled
structure, which is developed in the living tissue of a mollusc. They are,
in fact, periodic precipitates of phosphate and carbonate of lime deposited
in the colloidal organic substance of the mollusc. They have the same
structure and the same chemical composition; they have the same physical
properties, the glow, the fire, and the brilliancy of our spectroscopic
gratings. In these experiments, indeed, we have realized the synthesis of
the pearl, not only a chemical synthesis, but the synthesis of its
structure and organism.

We have been able to make these periodic precipitates by the reaction of a
great number of chemical substances, giving a bewildering variety of form
and structure. Some of these recall the form of various organisms, and
especially of insects, as may be seen in Fig. 18.

All the phenomena of life are periodic. The movement of heart and lungs,
sleep and waking, all nervous phenomena, have a regular periodicity. It is
possible that the study of these purely physical phenomena of periodic
precipitation may give us the key to the causation of rhythm and
periodicity in living beings.

Besides this periodic precipitation there appear to be other chemical
reactions which are periodic. Professor Bredig of Heidelberg has lately
described a curious phenomenon, the {76} periodic catalysis of peroxide of
hydrogen by mercury. He thus describes his experiment: "We place in a
perfectly clean test tube a few cubic centimetres of perfectly pure
mercury. Upon this we pour 10 c.c. of a 10 per cent. solution of hydrogen
peroxide. The mercury speedily becomes covered with a thin, brilliant
bronze-coloured pellicle which reflects light. Then little by little
catalysis of the hydrogen peroxide begins, with liberation of oxygen. After
some time, from five to twenty minutes, the liberation of gas at the
surface of the mercury ceases, the cloud formed by the gas bubbles
disappears, and the bronze mirror at the surface of the mercury lights up
with the glint of silver. There is a pause of one or more seconds, and then
the catalytic action begins afresh, commencing at the edges of the mirror.
The cloud is again formed and again disappears. This beautiful and
surprising rhythmic phenomenon may continue at regular intervals for an
hour or more."

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--Articulate form produced by periodic

A slight alkalinity of the liquid is necessary to start the phenomenon.
This explains the retardation at the beginning {77} of the experiment,
since the rhythmic catalysis cannot begin until the hydrogen peroxide has
dissolved a little of the glass so as to render it slightly alkaline. The
catalytic process may, however, be set going at once by adding a trace of
potassium acetate to the solution.

We may even obtain a curve giving an automatic record of the periodicity of
this catalytic action. For this purpose the oxygen given off is led to a
manometer, which registers on a revolving drum the periodic variation in
pressure. The curve thus obtained presents a remarkable resemblance to a
tracing of the pulse. The frequency and character of the undulatory curve
is modified by physical and chemical influences. Like circulation or
respiration, periodic catalysis has its poisons, and exhibits signs of
fatigue, and of paralysis by cold.

The rhythmic catalysis of Bredig produces an electrical current of action
between the mercury and the water just like that produced by the rhythmic
contraction of the heart, and this current may be registered in a similar
way by means of the Einthoven galvanometer. Thus the heart-beat may be but
an instance of rhythmic catalysis, since both produce the same phenomena,
movement, chemical action, and periodic currents. In the chapter on
physiogenesis we shall return to the study of this question and consider
another rhythmic phenomenon which is the result of osmotic growth.

       *       *       *       *       *




Chemical affinity is the force which holds together the different atoms in
a molecule. Cohesion is the force which holds together molecules which are
chemically similar. Although physical science distinguishes three states of
matter, solid, liquid, and gaseous, yet here as elsewhere there are no
sharp dividing lines, but rather an absolute continuity. We have in fact
many intermediate states; between liquids and gases there are the various
conditions of vapour, and between liquids and solids we get viscous,
gelatinous, and paste-like conditions. The only real difference between
solids, liquids, and gases is the intensity of the force of cohesion, which
is considerable in solids, feeble in liquids, and absent in gases.

A living organism is the arena in which are brought into play the opposing
forces of cohesion and disintegration. The study of cohesion is therefore a
vital one for the biologist, and especially cohesion under the conditions
which obtain in living beings, viz. in liquids of heterogeneous
constitution. The forces of cohesion brought into play under these
conditions may be beautifully illustrated by a simple experiment. We take a
plate of glass, well cleaned and absolutely horizontal. On it we pour a
layer of salt water, and in the middle we carefully drop a spot of Indian
ink. The drop at once begins to diffuse, and we obtain a circular figure,
like the monopolar field of diffusion already described, the rays of
diffusion radiating from the centre in all directions.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--Muriform cohesion figure formed by a drop of
Indian ink in a solution of salt.]

If we keep the plate carefully protected from all disturbing influences,
after some ten to twenty minutes we shall see the coloured particles
returning on their path, and the centre of {79} the drop becoming more and
more black. Each line of force becomes segmented into granules, which
gradually increase in size, and approach nearer to one another and to the
centre of the drop, until it assumes the mulberry appearance shown in the
photograph (Fig. 19).

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--Seven similar drops of Indian ink diffusing in a
salt solution. Two minutes after introducing the drops.]

If we sow a number of drops of Indian ink in regular order on the surface
of a salt solution, we obtain most beautiful patterns formed by the mutual
repulsion of the drops. Figs. 20, 21, and 22 represent the successive
aspects of seven drops of Indian ink thus sown on a layer of salt solution,
and kept undisturbed long enough to allow of their evolution. Fig. 20 shows
the aspect after two minutes, when the diffusion is almost complete. In
Fig. 21, photographed after fifteen {80} minutes, the colouring matter has
almost entirely reunited to form separate granulations; whilst in Fig. 22,
taken after thirty minutes, these granulations are rearranged to form an
agglomeration around the centre of each drop.

[Illustration: FIG. 21.--The same drops 15 minutes later, showing the
granulation appearance.]

The following experiment, which is more difficult, will show the cohesive
attraction of one drop for another. A plate of glass is adjusted absolutely
horizontal, and covered as before with a layer of salt solution. On this we
sow a number of drops of the same salt solution coloured with Indian ink.
The drops must be of exactly the same concentration as the salt medium, so
as to avoid any difference of osmotic pressure between the drops and the
medium, otherwise the drops would not remain intact but would diffuse into
the solution. Since under these conditions the liquid of the medium around
the drops is perfectly symmetrical and homogeneous, it cannot exercise any
influence on the liquid of the drops.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--The same drops after 30 minutes. The granulations
have agglomerated at the centre of the drops.]

It is otherwise, however, with the colouring matter of the {81} drops. The
particles of Indian ink may be seen passing from one drop to another, the
coloured circles become elongated towards one another, touch, and finally
unite. If, as in Fig. 23, the drops are of different size, the larger one
will have a preponderating attractive action and eat up the smaller drops.
In the figure, six small drops are placed around a large one, and the
smaller drops have begun to be deformed and to move towards the larger
drop. This central drop is also deformed, and has assumed a more or less
hexagonal form, under the influence of the attraction of the six smaller
ones. It may be noticed that the least prominent angle of the hexagon is
opposite the small drop which is farthest away from it, whilst one of the
smaller drops has already begun to be swallowed up by the large one. This
cohesion phenomenon is very slow in its action, but after an hour or two
the central drop will be found to have {82} completely absorbed the six
smaller ones, and only one large drop will remain.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.--Attraction between coloured drops in an isotonic

_Incubation._--In the living organism we frequently find conditions similar
to those realized in this experiment, viz. very slow movements of diffusion
in liquids containing particles in suspension. In such cases the
consequences must be the same, viz. granulation and segmentation. Consider
for a moment the incubation of an egg. The heat of incubation determines a
certain amount of evaporation through the shell, with a concentration of
the liquid near the surface. As a consequence of this superficial
concentration we get segmentation of the vitellus, with the production of a

_Artificial Parthenogenesis._--The experimental parthenogenesis of Loeb and
Delage consists in plunging the egg into a liquid other than sea water, and
returning it again to its original medium. This operation will necessarily
determine slow movements of diffusion in the egg, which will give rise to
segmentation. It may be objected that segmentation is also produced by a
solution which is isotonic with sea water. Such a solution would not indeed
produce an exchange of water with the egg, but it would set up an exchange
of electrolytes, since there would be a difference of their osmotic
pressure in the egg and in the new isotonic medium. The extremely slow
movements of diffusion thus produced would be very favourable to the action
of the cohesive force on the particles in suspension, and hence to the
segmentation of the egg.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--A circle of eight drops of Indian ink 30 minutes
after they have been sown in a salt solution. The drops have undergone
diffusion and subsequent cohesion, resulting in a reticulate structure.]

Few physical phenomena give us a deeper insight into the phenomena of life
than those which we here contemplate. There is still another experiment
which is even more convincing. On the surface of our horizontal salt
solution we sow a number of drops of a more concentrated salt solution at
equal distances around the circumference of a circle. Movements of
diffusion are thus set up in the interior of the circle, and after a time,
when this diffusion has become so slow as to be almost imperceptible, a
furrow begins to appear in the coloured mass. Then a second and third
appear, and others crossing the former break up the mass {83} into
segments. Finally the segmentation becomes complete, and the preparation
presents a muriform appearance, looking in fact something like a mulberry
(Fig. 24). If the preparation is preserved for several hours longer, we may
see the cells formed by segmentation unite around the circumference so as
to form a hollow bag corresponding to a gastrula, as shown in Fig. 25.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.--The same preparation several hours later, showing
a cellular gastrula-like structure.]

These preparations are extremely sensitive to external influences, which
renders the demonstration of cohesion phenomena difficult. I have
nevertheless on several occasions been able to project the experiment on
the screen during a lecture. The segmentation is influenced by very slight
currents of diffusion, and I have many preparations showing the
segmentation regularly distributed in various ways along radial diffusion
lines. We may in this way produce many varieties of structure lamellar,
vacuolate, or cellular, in fact {84} all the tissue structures which are
met with in living organisms. All these structures are retractile, the
retraction going on very slowly for a long time, as if the force of
cohesion continued to act in the web of the structure even after its
formation was complete. The phenomenon is a purely physical synthetic
reproduction of the phenomenon of coagulation, the cohesion figure being in
fact a retractile clot.

[Illustration: FIG. 26.--Field of crystallization of sodium chloride
(magnified 60 diameters).]

_Crystallization._--When we evaporate a solution of a crystalloid it
becomes more concentrated, slow movements of diffusion are set up, and at a
given moment agglomeration occurs, the agglomerates taking the form of
crystals. Thus crystallization may be regarded as a particular case of
conglomeration by cohesion, differing only in the regularity of the
arrangement of the molecules, which gives the geometrical form of the
crystal. Hence we can easily understand how the presence of a crystalline
fragment may facilitate the process of crystallization. Consider a liquid
in which extremely slow movements of diffusion are taking place. If the
liquid is perfectly homogeneous there will be no centre of attraction to
which the molecules may become attached. {85}

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--Field of crystallization around a crystal of
sodium chloride in process of formation.]

If, however, a crystal or other heterogeneous structure is present, it
forms a centre of cohesion which will attach any molecules that are brought
by diffusion into its sphere of attraction. We have succeeded in
photographing the arrangement of the molecules of a liquid around a crystal
in the act of formation (Fig. 26). For this purpose we add to the solution
traces of some colloidal substance, such as gelatine or gum, so as to delay
the crystallization. It may thus be shown that the molecules of the
surrounding liquid are already arranged in crystalline order for some
distance from the crystal, forming a sort of field of crystallization. The
arrangement of this regular field varies in different cases, and is more or
less complicated according to circumstances. One of the most frequent forms
is that shown in Fig. 27, which is the field around a crystal of sodium
chloride. In the centre {86} of the crystal is a square with well-marked
outline. At each corner of this square there is a straight line at right
angles to the diagonal, which will form the sides of the crystal in process
of formation. From the middle of each side arise yet other perpendiculars,
which in their turn bear other cross lines, each new line being set at
right angles to its predecessor. A later stage of crystallization is shown
in Fig. 27, where the two squares one inside the other at an angle of 45°
are clearly indicated.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.--Three crystals of sodium chloride in process of
formation, each in the centre of a field of crystallization.]

Every crystallizable substance gives a different characteristic field of
crystallization. In 1903, at the Congress of Angers, I terminated my
address by these words: "The field of crystallization may serve to
determine the character of a substance in solution." I have subsequently
received from Carbonell y Solès of Barcelona an interesting work on this
subject, which he contributed to the International Congress of Medicine at
Madrid in 1903, entitled _Applicacion de la crystalogenia experimental à la
investigacion toxicologica de cas alcaloïdes_. {87}

Six years ago I received from Australia an exceedingly beautiful photograph
of a thin pellicle found in a rain gauge. My correspondent supposed that
this strange figure might have been produced under the influence of an
electric or magnetic field. I was able to assure him by return of post that
the figure was the result of the crystallization of copper sulphate in a
colloidal medium. In return I received a letter verifying this fact, and
saying that there were copper works in the neighbourhood, and the air was
filled with the dust of copper sulphate.

Living beings are but solutions of colloids and crystalloids, and their
tissues are built up by the aggregation of these solutes. We have already
seen how the forces of crystallization are modified in colloid solutions.
This force of crystallization must play an important rôle in the
metamorphoses of the living organism, and influence their morphology. It
may therefore be of interest to investigate some of the numberless forms of
crystallization in colloidal solutions.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.--Crystallization of sodium chloride in a colloidal
solution, giving a plant-like form.]

[Illustration: FIG. 30.--Form produced by the crystallization of chloride
of ammonium in a colloidal solution.]

Figs. 29 and 30 represent the forms produced by chloride of sodium and
chloride of ammonium respectively, in solutions of gelatine of different
degrees of concentration. Their resemblance to vegetable growth is so
remarkable that several observers on first seeing them have called them

I should like here to recall to your notice the work of an English
observer, Dr. E. Montgomery of St. Thomas's {88} Hospital, which was
published as long ago as 1865. This work was recently brought to my notice
by the kindness of Professor Baumler of Freiburg. He says: "Crystals are
not strangers in the organic world. Many organic compounds are able to
assume crystalline forms under certain conditions. Rainey has shown that
many shells consist of globular crystals _i.e._ of mineral substances made
to crystallize by the influence of viscid material." In this connection I
may also mention the interesting work of Otto Lehmann of Karlsruhe on
liquid crystals.

In conclusion, we may recall the words of Schwann himself, the originator
of the cell theory: "The formation of the elementary shapes of an organism
is but a crystallization of substances capable of imbibition. The organism
is but an aggregate of such imbibing crystals."

       *       *       *       *       *




In 1873, Hermann Fol, writing of the eggs of Geryonia, thus describes the
phenomenon of karyokinesis: "On either side of the residue of the nucleus
there appears a concentration of plasma, thus forming two perfectly regular
star-like figures, whose rays are straight lines of granulations. There are
other curved rays which pass from one star or centre of attraction to the
other. The whole figure is extraordinarily distinct, recalling in a
striking manner the arrangement of iron filings surrounding the poles of a
magnet. Sachs' theory is that the division of the nucleus is caused by
centres of attraction, and I agree with him, not on theoretical grounds,
but because I have actually seen these centres of attraction."

Since the discovery of Hermann Fol, a great number of explanations have
been given, all of them theoretical, to account for the figures and
phenomena of karyokinesis. Many of these so-called explanations are
mechanical, while others invoke the aid of magnetism or electricity to
account for the resemblance of the figures of karyokinesis to the magnetic
or electric phantom or spectre. Among the authors who have dealt with this
question we may mention Hartog of Cork, Gallardo of Buenos Ayres, and
Rhumbler of Göttingen.

In 1904 I presented to the Grenoble Congress, and in 1906 to the Lyons
Congress, a series of photographs and preparations of experimental
karyokinesis. I showed how, in a solution analogous to that found in the
natural cell, the simple processes of liquid diffusion, without the
intervention of magnetism or electricity, may reproduce with perfect
accuracy and in their normal sequence the whole of the movements and {90}
figures which characterize the phenomenon of karyokinesis. This experiment
consists not merely in the production of a certain figure, such as is
obtained in the magnetic spectre, but in the reproduction of the movement
itself, and of all the successive forms which are seen in the natural
phenomenon. These are evolved before the eyes of the spectator in their
regular order and sequence.

I may here reproduce the text of my communication at Grenoble: "Until I
introduced the conception of a field of diffusion, there was no proper
means of studying the phenomena of diffusion, which obey the laws of a
field of force as expounded by Faraday. Moreover, no one suspected the
possibility of reproducing by liquid diffusion a spectre analogous to the
electro-magnetic phantom. Guided by this theory of a diffusion field of
force, I have been able to reproduce experimentally the figures of
karyokinesis by simple diffusion. With regard to the achromatin spindle,
Professor Hartog has shown that the two poles of the spindle are of the
same sign, and not of opposite signs as was at first supposed. In the
process of karyokinesis the two centrosomes, _i.e._ the two poles of the
achromatin spindle, repel one another. They must therefore be poles of the
same sign. An electric or magnetic spectre showing a spindle between two
poles of the same sign is unknown; such a thing would appear to be an
absolute impossibility. What is impossible in electricity and magnetism,
however, is quite possible in the artificial diffusion field; we can here
have a spindle between two poles which repel one another--that is, between
poles of the same sign. Fig. 31 is a photograph of such a spindle produced
by diffusion. On either side are two poles of concentration, which
represent the centrosomes, each pole being surrounded by a star-like
radiation. These poles being alike, repel one another. In the preparation
one may see the distance between the two poles slowly increase, the poles
gradually separating from one another just as do the centrosomes of an ovum
during karyokinesis. This preparation, then, which is produced entirely by
diffusion, presents a perfect resemblance to the achromatin spindle in
karyokinesis. {91}

[Illustration: FIG. 31.--Diffusion figure representing karyokinesis.
Achromatin spindle between two similar poles of concentration.]

"The spindle of which we give a photograph in Fig. 31 was made by placing
in salt water a drop of the same solution pigmented with blood or Indian
ink, and placing on either side of this central drop a hypertonic drop of
salt solution more lightly coloured. After diffusion had gone on for some
minutes, we obtained the figure which we have photographed. I would draw
your attention to the equatorial plane, which shows that the spindle is not
formed by lines of force passing from one pole to the other, as would be
the case between two poles of contrary sign, but by two forces acting in
opposite directions. On either side the pigment of the central drop has
been drawn towards the hypertonic centre nearest to it. In the median line,
however, the pigment is attracted in opposite directions by equal forces,
and therefore remains undisturbed, marking the position of the equatorial
plane. This observation applies equally to the equatorial plane in natural
karyokinesis, whose existence is thus readily explained.

"It is hardly necessary to insist on the fact that liquid preparations like
these are of extreme delicacy and sensitiveness, and require for their
production, and still more for their photography, the greatest care and
skill, which can only be acquired by long practice. {92}

"We are able to produce by diffusion not only the achromatin spindle, but
also the segmentation of the chromatin, and the division of the nucleus. If
in the saline solution we place a coloured isotonic drop between two
coloured hypertonic drops, all the figures and movements of karyokinesis
appear successively in their due order. The central drop, representing the
nucleus between the two lateral drops or centrosomes, first becomes
granular. Next we see what appears to be a rolled-up ribbon analogous to
the chromatin band, which soon breaks into fragments analogous to the
chromosomes. These arrange themselves around, and are gradually attracted
towards the centrosomes, where they accumulate to form two pigmented
nuclear masses. A partition then makes its appearance in the median line,
and this partition becomes continuous with the boundary of the spheres
around the centrosomes. Finally we have two cells in juxtaposition, each
with its nucleus, its protoplasm, and its enveloping membrane. I have been
able to photograph these successive stages of the segmentation of the
chromatin just as I have those of the achromatin spindle" (Fig. 32).

[Illustration: FIG. 32.--Four successive stages in the production of
artificial karyokinesis by diffusion.]

This memoir, written in 1904, clearly asserts the homopolarity of the
centrosomes, and shows that the nuclear division is the result of a bipolar
action, two poles of the same sign exerting their influence on opposite
sides of the nucleus. It also emphasizes the important fact that diffusion,
{93} and as far as we know diffusion alone, is able to produce a spindle
between homologous poles.

A glance at the photograph is enough to show that the spindle is formed
between poles of the same sign. The lines of diffusion radiate from one
centre and converge towards the other centre in curves, giving the double
convergence characteristic of a spindle. The central drop merely supplies
the necessary material, and should have a concentration but slightly less
than that of the plasma, so as not to set up its own lines of diffusion.
The photograph shows clearly that the rays of the spindle traverse the
equator without any break. It has been objected that these lines form not
so much a spindle as two hemi-spindles, but it is clear that these two
hemi-spindles are continuous and form a single sheaf of rays uniting the
two poles of concentration. This is a phenomenon entirely unknown in the
magnetic or electric fields, where two poles of the same sign, one on
either side of a pole of the contrary sign, give two separate spindles. In
a magnetic field it is impossible to make the lines emanating from one pole
converge, except to a pole of opposite sign. Hence if we admit the
homopolarity of the centrosomes, we must also admit that diffusion is the
_vera causa_ of karyokinesis, since, as I showed at the Grenoble Congress
in 1904, diffusion and diffusion alone is capable of producing a spindle
between two poles of the same sign.

_Nuclear Division._--In order to reproduce artificially the phenomena
attending the division of the nucleus, we may proceed as follows. We cover
a perfectly horizontal glass plate with a semi-saturated solution of
potassium nitrate to represent the cytoplasm of the cell. The nucleus in
the centre is reproduced by a drop of the same solution coloured by a trace
of Indian ink, the solid particles of which will represent the chromatin
granules of the nucleus. The addition of the Indian ink will have slightly
lowered the concentration of the central drop, and this is in accordance
with nature, since the osmotic pressure of the nucleus is somewhat less
than that of the plasma. We next place on either side of the drop which
represents the {94} nucleus a coloured drop of solution more concentrated
than the cytoplasm solution. The particles of Indian ink in the central
drop arrange themselves in a long coloured ribbon, apparently rolled up in
a coil, the edges of the ribbon having a beaded appearance. After a short
time the ribbon loses its beaded appearance and becomes smooth, with a
double outline, as is shown in A, Fig. 32. This coil or skein of ribbon
subsequently divides, forming a nuclear spindle, while the chromatin
substance collects together in the equatorial plane as in B, Fig. 32.

A more advanced stage of the nuclear division is shown at C, Fig. 32, where
the chromatin bands of artificial chromosomes are grouped in two conical
sheafs converging towards the two centrosomes. For some considerable time
these conical bundles remain united by fine filaments, the last vestiges of
the nuclear spindle. The final stage is that of two artificial cells in
juxtaposition, whose nuclei are formed by the original centrosomes
augmented by the chromatin bands or chromosomes (Fig. 32, D).

[Illustration: FIG. 33.--Equatorial crown produced by diffusion.]

The resemblance of these successive phenomena to those of natural
karyokinesis is of the closest. The experiment shows that diffusion is
quite sufficient to produce organic karyokinesis, and that the only
physical force required is that of osmotic pressure. If in the cytoplasm of
a cell there are two points of molecular concentration greater than that of
the general mass, the nucleus must necessarily divide with all the
phenomena which accompany karyokinesis. In nature these two centres of
positive concentration are introduced into the protoplasm of the cell by
fecundation--that is, by the entrance of the centrosomes of the sperm cell.
In certain abnormal cases the concentration may be produced in the cell
itself by the formation of two centres of catabolism or molecular
disintegration, since, as we have seen, molecular disintegration raises the
osmotic pressure. This phenomenon, namely the production of karyokinesis
from centres of catabolism, may account for the abnormal karyokinesis of
cancer cells and the like. The subject is one which would well repay
further investigation. {95}

[Illustration: FIG. 34.--A triaster produced by diffusion.]

It has been found in our experiments that in order to obtain the regular
division of the artificial nucleus represented by the intermediary drop,
the latter must have an osmotic pressure slightly below that of the plasma.
This leads to the supposition that a similar condition must obtain in the
natural cell. It may be noticed, moreover, that the grains of pigment
follow the direction of the flow of water, being carried along by the
stream. This would appear to show that the nucleus of a natural cell has
also a molecular concentration less than that of the plasma--a result
either of dehydration of the plasma, or of some diminution in the molecular
concentration of the nucleus.

Other phenomena of karyokinesis may also be closely imitated by diffusion.
For instance, in the diffusion preparation we notice at each extremity of
the equator a V-shaped figure with its apex towards the centre,
corresponding exactly to what in natural karyokinesis is called the
equatorial crown.

We may also produce diffusion figures of abnormal karyokinesis. Fig. 34
represents such a form, a triaster produced by diffusion.

Artificial karyokinesis may also be produced by hypotonic poles of
concentration--that is to say, when the central drop representing the ovum
is positive and the lateral drops representing the centrosomes are negative
with respect to the plasma. In this case, however, the resemblance to
natural karyokinesis is less perfect. {96}

Without attaching to it an importance which is not warranted by
experimental results, it is interesting to note that we have here two
methods of fertilization, hypertonic and hypotonic, _i.e._ by centrosomes
of greater concentration and by centrosomes of less concentration than that
of the plasma of the ovum, and that we have in nature two corresponding
results, viz. two different sexes. It is possible that we have in these two
methods of producing nuclear division the secret of the difference of sex.

       *       *       *       *       *




Movement is everywhere; there is no such thing as immobility; the very idea
of rest is itself an illusion. Immobility is only apparent and relative,
and disappears under closer examination. All terrestrial objects are driven
with prodigious velocity around the sun, and the dwellers on the earth's
equator travel each day around the 40,000 kilometres of its circumference.
All objects on the globe are in motion, the inanimate as well as the
living. The waters rise in vapour from the sea, float over mountain and
valley, and return down the rivers to the sea again. Still more marvellous
is the current of water which flows eternally from dew and rain, through
the sap of plants and the blood of animals to the mineral world again. The
very mountains crumble and their substance is washed down into the plains;
the winds move the air and raise the waves of the sea, whilst the strong
ocean currents are produced by variations of temperature in different
parts. This agitation, this incessant and universal motion, has been a
favourite subject of poetic contemplation. Heraclitus writes: "There is a
perpetual flow, all is one universal current; nothing remains as it was,
change alone is eternal." Ovid writes in his _Metamorphoses_: "Believe me,
nothing perishes in this vast universe, but all varies, and changes its
figure. I think that nothing endures long under the same appearance. What
was solid earth has become sea, and solid ground has issued from the bosom
of the waters."

The French poetess Mme. Ackermann has expressed the same idea in beautiful

 "Ainsi, jamais d'arrêt. L'immortelle matière,
  Un seul instant encore n'a pu se reposer.
  La Nature ne fait, patiente ouvrière,
  Que défaire et recomposer.
  Tout se métamorphose entre ses mains actives;
  Partout le mouvement incessant et divers,
  Dans le cercle éternel des formes fugitives,
  Agitant l'immense univers."

It was only towards the middle of last century that mankind in the long
search after unity in nature began to realize that all the movements of the
universe are the manifestations of a single agent, which we call energy. In
reality all the phenomena of nature may be conceived as diverse forms of
motion, and the word "energy" is the common expression applied to all the
various modes of motion in the universe. It was by the study of heat, and
more especially of thermodynamics, that we obtained our conceptions of the
science of energetics.

It was in Munich in 1798 that the English engineer Count Rumford first
observed that in the operation of boring a cannon the copper was heated to
such a degree that the shavings became red-hot. This suggested his famous
experiment, in which a heavy iron pestle was turned by horse power in a
metal mortar filled with water. The water boiled, and when more water was
added this also became heated to ebullition, and so on indefinitely.
Rumford argued that the heat thus obtained in an indefinite quantity could
not be a material substance; that motion was the only thing added to the
water without limit, and that therefore heat must be motion.

While Rumford's experiment showed the transformation of motion into heat,
the steam engine was soon afterwards to demonstrate the opposite
transformation, viz. that of heat into motion.

The actual state of our knowledge with regard to the science of energy
rests on two principles, that of Mayer and that of Carnot.

The first principle was defined by J. R. Mayer, a medical practitioner of
Heilbronn, whose work, _Bemerkungen ueber die Kräfte der unbelebten Natur_,
was published in 1842. "All physical phenomena," says Mayer, "whether vital
or chemical, are forms of motion. All these forms of motion are susceptible
of change into one another, and in all the transformations the {99}
quantity of mechanical work represented by different modes of motion
remains invariable."

The energy of a given body is the amount of transferable motion stored up
in that body, and is measured by its capacity of producing mechanical work.

Ostwald thus defines energy: "Energy is work, all that can be obtained from
work, and all that can be changed into work." Different forms of energy may
be measured in different ways, but all forms of energy can be measured
either in units of mechanical work or in units of heat, in
kilogramme-metres or foot-pounds or in calories, according as the energy in
question is transformed into mechanical work or into heat. The first
principle of energetics, the conservation of energy, may be thus expressed:
"Energy is eternal; none is ever created, and none is ever lost. The
quantity of energy in the universe is invariable, and is conserved for ever
in its integrity."

The unit by which we measure quantities of heat is the calory, the amount
of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogramme of water one
degree Centigrade.

The practical unit of mechanical work is the kilogramme-metre, the work
required to raise the weight of one kilogramme to the height of one metre.
The theoretical unit of work is one erg, the work required to move a mass
of one gramme through one centimetre against a force of one dyne.

Joule of Manchester was the first to verify Mayer's law quantitatively. By
an experiment analogous to that of Rumford, he transformed work into heat,
arranging his apparatus so that he might measure the amount of heat
produced and the work expended. On dividing the quantity of work that had
disappeared by the quantity of heat which had been disengaged, he found
that 424 kilogramme-metres of work had been expended for each calory of
heat produced.

Hirn of Colmar measured the ratio of work to heat in the steam engine. He
found that for each calory of heat which had disappeared there were
produced 425 kilogramme-metres of work. {100}

This number 425 has therefore been accepted as representing in calories and
kilogramme-metres the transformation of work into heat, and of heat into

Further measurements on the transformations of other forms of energy,
chemical energy and electrical energy, have shown that Joule's law of
equivalents is general, and that the quantity of mechanical work
represented by any form of energy remains undiminished after
transformation, whatever the nature of that transformation.

Energy presents itself to us under two forms, potential and actual.
Potential energy is slumbering energy, energy localized or locked up in the
body. In order to transform potential energy into actual energy, there is
required the intervention of an additional awakening, stimulating, or
exciting energy from without. This stimulating energy may be almost
infinitesimal in amount and bears no quantitative relation to the amount of
energy transformed. It is the small amount of work required to turn the key
which liberates an indeterminate quantity of potential energy.

Actual energy, on the other hand, is energy in movement, awake and alert,
ready to be transformed into any other form of energy without the
intervention of any such external stimulating force.

The passage of a given quantity of energy from the potential into the
actual state is effected gradually, and during the time of transformation
the sum of the actual and the potential energy remains constant.

A weight suspended by a cord possesses a quantity of potential energy equal
to the product of its weight into the height through which it can fall.
This energy is locked up in a certain space, it cannot be transformed
without the intervention of some external energy to cut the cord. During
the falling of the weight, at the middle of its path, half of this
slumbering energy has become kinetic, and is represented by the _vis viva_
of the weight, while the other half is still potential and is equivalent to
the work which the weight will accomplish during the second half of its
fall. At any moment the sum of these two energies, the sleeping and the
waking {101} energies, represents the total potential energy of the weight
before it began to fall.

So with the powder in a gun. The potential energy of the powder cannot
become actual without some stimulus, some exciting force from without to
set it free. It is the external work of pressing the trigger that liberates
the potential energy of the powder, transforming it into the actual energy
of combustion, and the kinetic energy of the projectile.

Since energy is work, and work is a function of motion, there is in reality
no such thing as energy in repose. Matter according to our modern
conception is a complex of molecules, atoms, and electrons; we conceive the
molecules of matter as always in movement, animated with cyclic or
vibratory motion, these oscillatory or rotatory movements representing the
potential energy of the body in question. Potential energy is thus the
expression of molecular motion without translation of the molecules as a
whole in space.

When this potential energy is transformed into actual energy by the
intervention of some external force, we get a current of energy, a
transference of the molecules in space. Thus, when an external force has
released the weight, the molecular orbits in the falling body change in
form, and the potential energy of the molecular motion becomes the kinetic
energy of the falling body. Similarly in the conduction of heat, the energy
of the hot body is transferred to a colder body by transmission of the
vibratory motion from molecule to molecule. So again with chemical energy,
the molecular motion of combustion may be transformed into the radiant
energy of the ethereal waves.

Actual energy may be regarded as a current of molecular motion. To make the
matter clearer, let a mass of matter be represented by a regiment of
soldiers. Then each soldier will represent an electron, a company will be
an atom, and a battalion will be a molecule. As long as the soldiers mark
time, turn, or otherwise exercise without advancing, we have simply an
accumulation of potential energy. The word of command, "March," is the
exciting force which suddenly transforms this potential into kinetic
energy. The marching {102} regiment is a representation of a body
possessing kinetic energy. Potential energy is energy confined to a certain
point in space, whereas actual energy is a current of energy, continually
changing its place or form. Energy is like water-power--potential in the
lake, actual in the waterfall or river.

Any mechanism capable of causing one form of energy to pass into another is
a transformer of energy. A steam engine is a transformer of energy,
changing caloric energy into mechanical work. An electrical machine is a
transformer of energy, converting mechanical motion into a current of
electricity, whilst an electro-motor changes the movement of electrons into
mechanical movement. Every living being, and even man himself, is but a
transformer of energy, changing the energy derived from the earth and air
and sun into mechanical motion, nervous energy, and heat.

The first law of energetics, that of the conservation of energy, is
analogous to Lavoisier's principle in chemistry, the conservation of
matter. The sign of equality which unites the terms of a chemical equation
expresses the fact that after every chemical reaction the same total mass
of matter is present as before the transformation. This is also true of
energy; after every transformation we find exactly the same total quantity
of energy as before it. This, however, tells us nothing as to the
conditions of the transformation, or the causes, _i.e._ the anterior
phenomena, which determined such transformation.

The second principle of energetics, that of Carnot, enunciated in 1824,
deals with the conditions under which a transformation of energy is
possible. A mass of water at a certain height represents a quantity of
potential energy equal to the product of its weight by its height; but this
energy cannot produce mechanical work unless the water is allowed to fall.
Consider two lakes at the same altitude and of the same capacity, one of
which is entirely landlocked, while the other has an open channel leading
to the sea. Each lake represents the same quantity of potential energy, but
the energy of the landlocked lake is useless, it cannot be {103}
transformed; whereas the other lake whose water can run into the sea
realizes the conditions necessary for utilization, viz. the
transformability of its energy. The same may be said of all forms of
energy; a heat engine can only act as a transformer, change heat into work,
if there is a difference of temperature between its source and its sink; an
electric motor can only work if there is a fall of potential between the
entrance and the exit of the electric current.

Energy presents itself to us as the product of two factors, weight and
height in the waterfall, quantity and temperature in the heat engine,
current intensity and potential in the electric motor.

In considering these two factors we may note that one factor is always a
quantity (Q) and the other an intensity (I). This latter expresses some
sort of difference of position or condition, the height of the weight, a
difference of temperature in the heat engine, of pressure in the gas
engine, or of electric potential in the dynamo or electric furnace. There
can be no current of energy without this difference of potential, and
therefore no transformation from one form of energy to another.

The second law of thermodynamics, Carnot's law, may therefore be enunciated
thus: "Energy cannot be transformed without a fall of potential."

We may also derive this principle from a consideration of the formula of
efficiency, the ratio of the work done by the transformer to the work done
on the transformer.

  Efficiency = energy transformed / total energy absorbed

The total energy is the product QI, _i.e._ the product of the total
quantity by the total intensity at our disposal. The transformed energy is
Q(I - I'), the product of the total quantity by the difference of intensity
at the inlet and at the outlet of the machine. The formula for efficiency
thus becomes

  Q(I - I') / QI = (I - I') / I.

 If I represents a temperature, then in order that the efficiency may be
positive I' must be less than I, {104} there must be a fall of temperature
in the machine. If I' were greater than I, _i.e._ if the temperature at the
outlet were greater than that at the inlet, the efficiency would be a
negative one, and the transformer would have to borrow heat from some
external source.

_Entropy._--In every transformation of energy a certain portion of the
energy is transformed into heat: a lamp gives out useless heat as well as
light, a machine gives out useless heat as well as mechanical work. This
loss of useful energy as heat occurs in every transference or
transformation of energy; it is only in the case of heat passing from a
hotter to a colder body that there is no such transformation. When equality
of temperature is established there has been no loss of energy, but the
whole of the energy has become unutilizable, i.e. untransformable. In the
formula of efficiency the fall of intensity I - I' is now zero, and
therefore the efficiency of the machine

  (I - I') / I

is also zero.

Since in all its transformations a certain fraction of the energy is
changed into heat, there is a tendency in nature for all differences of
temperature to become equalized. Hence the quantity of utilizable energy in
the universe tends to diminish. Clausius called this unutilizable energy
enmeshed in the substance of a body its entropy, and showed that in every
transformation the amount of this unutilizable energy tended to increase.
"The entropy of a system always tends towards a maximum value."

If this gradual incessant increase of entropy is universal in nature, and
if there is no compensatory mechanism, the universe must be tending towards
a definite end, when the whole of its energy shall have been transformed
into unutilizable heat with a uniform temperature. There is, however,
reason to suppose that some such compensatory mechanism does in fact exist.
Behind us stretches an infinite past, and in the future we believe that the
phenomena of nature will be unrolled in a cycle which has no end. But the
arguments derived from a study of entropy apply only to the facts and
phenomena actually under our notice, the supposed {105} impossibility,
without borrowing energy from without, of re-establishing the differences
of temperature by drawing heat from a colder in order to concentrate it in
a hotter body, and may not be absolutely identical with those obtaining in
other ages. Our ignorance of such a phenomenon and our powerlessness to
produce it in no way argue that it is impossible. It may exist for aught we
know in some other region of space, or in another time than ours. We may
perhaps some day obtain artificially the conditions which would render
possible such a phenomenon, since it may be possible to produce in the
experimental laboratory conditions which are not spontaneously realized in
nature under present conditions. The future may perchance reveal to us
absolutely new phenomena which have not hitherto been realized. In his work
on the evolution of matter and of energy Gustave le Bon gives expression to
some interesting and original ideas on this subject.

The laws of Mayer and Carnot alone are not sufficient to explain the
phenomena of life, without some consideration of the laws of stimulus.
Mayer's principle asserts the conservation of energy, and Carnot's the
conditions necessary for its transformation, but these alone cannot account
for the transformation of potential into actual energy. A weight suspended
by a cord does not fall merely because there is room for its descent. We
need the intervention of some outside force to cut the cord. In every
transformation of energy this external force is required to cut the cord,
or pull the trigger, some external force of excitation or liberation, an
energy which may be infinitesimal in amount, and which bears no proportion
to the quantity of potential energy it sets free. This intervention of an
excitatory, stimulating, or liberating energy is universal. Every
phenomenon of nature is but a transformation or a transference of energy,
determined by the intervention of a minimal quantity of energy from
without. This liberation of large quantities of potential energy by an
exceedingly small external stimulus has not hitherto received the
consideration it demands. Certain phenomena, such as those of chemical
catalysis or the action of soluble ferments, excite our astonishment
because such extremely small quantities of {106} certain substances will
determine the chemical transformations of large quantities of matter, there
being no proportion between the amount of the catalytic substance and of
the matter transformed. These phenomena are, however, only particular cases
of the general law of energetics that transformation requires a stimulus.
The catalyzer, or ferment, does not contribute matter to the reaction, but
only the minimal energy necessary to liberate the chemical potential energy
stored in the fermenting substance.

We must therefore add a third to the two laws of energetics, Mayer's law of
conservation, and Carnot's law of fall of potential. This third law is the
law of stimulus, the necessity of the intervention of an external
excitatory force capable of setting in motion the current of energy
required for a transformation. This stimulus is the primary phenomenon, the
determinant cause of such transformation.

Three conditions, then, are required for a transformation or displacement
of energy:--

1. _The cause_, the intervention of a stimulus which starts the
transformation or displacement.

2. _The possibility_, the necessary fall of potential.

3. _The condition_, the conservation of the energy concerned, since being
indestructible its total quantity cannot alter.

Every living being is a transformer of energy. The lower animals and man
himself receive from food and air the potential energy which becomes actual
under the process of oxydation. This chemical combustion is the source of
all vital energy; the ancients aptly compared life to a flame, and
Lavoisier has shown that life, like the flame, is maintained by a process
of oxydation. The energy derived from food and air is restored by the
organism to the external world in the form of heat and mechanical motion.
The celebrated experiments of Atwater show that there is an absolute
equality between the energy obtained from the oxydation of the various
aliments and the sum of the calorific and mechanical energy liberated by a
living being.

Man obtains his supply of energy either directly from the {107} vegetable
world, or indirectly from vegetables which have passed through the flesh of
animals. Vegetables in their turn obtain their substance from the mineral
world and their energy from the sun. The salts, the water, and the carbonic
acid absorbed by plants possess no store of potential energy. Whence then
can they obtain the potential energy which they transmit to animals and
man, if not from the sun? The energy of the solar radiations is absorbed by
the chlorophyll of the leaves, and stored up in the organic carbohydrates
formed by the synthesis of water and carbon. Chlorophyll has the peculiar
property of reducing carbonic acid, and uniting the carbon with water in
different proportions to form sugar and starch, whilst fats and vegetable
albumens are also formed by an analogous reaction. All these complex bodies
are stores of energy; the vital processes of oxydation do but liberate in
the human body the energy which the chlorophyll of plants has absorbed from
the solar rays.

We must look, then, to the sun as the direct source of all the energy which
animates the surface of the earth. The sun looses the winds, and raises the
waters of the sea to the mountain-tops, to form the rivers and torrents
which return again to the sea; the sun warms our hearths, drives our ships,
and works our steam engines. There is no sign of life or movement on our
planet which does not come directly or indirectly from the solar rays.

It may be asked by what path does the chemical energy of the living
organism pass into the mechanical energy of motion. It would appear that
the intermediary step cannot be heat, as in the steam engine, since the
necessary temperature would be quite incompatible with life.

The formula for the efficiency of a thermic transformer is

  (T - T') / T,

the ratio of the difference of the absolute temperatures at the source and
at the sink, to the absolute temperature at the source. Calorimetric
measurements have shown that the efficiency of the human machine is about
one-fifth, _i.e._ it can transform 20 per cent. of the energy absorbed. The
ordinary temperature of muscle is 38° C., or 311° absolute. We have {108}
therefore (T - 311) / T = .20, or T = 388.75° absolute, _i.e._ 115.75° C.
Thus, in order to obtain an efficiency of 20 per cent. with an ordinary
thermic transformer, having a temperature of 38° at the sink, we should
need a temperature of over 115° C. at the source. Such a temperature would
be quite incompatible with the integrity of living tissues, and we may
therefore conclude that the human organism is not a heat engine.

We are indeed completely ignorant of the mode of transformation of chemical
into kinetic energy in the living organism; we know only that muscular
contraction is accompanied by a change of form; at the moment of
transformation the combustion of the muscle is increased, and during
contraction the stretched muscular fibre tends to acquire a spherical
shape. It is this shortening of the muscular fibre which produces the
mechanical movement. The step which we do not as yet fully understand is
the physical phenomenon which intervenes between the disengagement of
chemical energy and the occurrence of muscular contraction. Professor
d'Arsonval supposes that this missing step is a variation in the surface
tension of the liquid in the muscular fibre. The surface tension of a
liquid is due to the unbalanced forces of cohesion acting on the surface
layer of molecules. Under the attraction of cohesion the molecules within
the liquid are in a state of equilibrium, being equally attracted in all
directions, but those at the surface of the liquid are drawn towards the
centre. The resultant of these attractive forces is a pressure normal to
the surface, which is mechanically equivalent to an elastic tension tending
to diminish the surface. In consequence of this surface tension the liquid
has a tendency to assume the form in which its surface area is a minimum,
_i.e._ the spherical form. If such a sphere is stretched into a cylinder or
fibre by mechanical tension, it will shorten itself when released; and if
by any means we increase the surface tension of such a liquid fibre it will
tend to assume a spherical form and contract just as a muscular fibre does.
The surface tension of a liquid varies with its chemical composition; the
slightest chemical modification of a liquid alters the force of {109} this
tension. We may therefore explain the mechanism of muscular contraction by
supposing that a nervous impulse alters in some way the rate of combustion
in a muscular fibre, that this alteration produces a momentary change in
the chemical composition of the muscular cell, and that this change of
chemical composition increases the surface tension of the cell sufficiently
to provoke its contraction into a more spherical form.

Ostwald has introduced a very useful conception for the study of this
question of surface energy. A liquid surface contains a quantity of energy
equal to its surface tension multiplied by its area, hence any variation
either of area or of tension corresponds to a variation of its energy. This
novel conception constitutes a valuable addition to the experimental study
of the physiology of muscular action, since it gives us some idea of the
mechanism by which chemical energy may be transformed into muscular

Whatever the mechanism of transformation in the animal machine, we have to
consider the same quantities as in other motor machines. These are: (1) the
efficiency; (2) the potential energy; (3) the power; (4) the energy given
up to the medium under the form of heat; (5) the temperature.

Muscles, then, are merely transformers which change chemical energy into
mechanical work, the diminution of stored-up energy in a muscle being
expressed by the sensation of fatigue. A muscle may be studied in four
different phases: (1) in repose; (2) in a state of tension; (3) when doing
positive work; (4) when work is being done on it.

When a muscle is in a state of tension, as when a weight is sustained by
the outstretched arm, the muscle is producing no external work. The entire
work done is converted into heat; just as it is in a dynamo or steam engine
which is prevented from turning by a brake. Muscular contraction produces
fatigue even when it does no external work. It is impossible for the muscle
to support even the weight of the outstretched arm itself for any
considerable time.

A muscle is doing positive work when it is raising a weight or moving a
body from one point to another. {110}

The fourth state of muscular contraction is when the muscle is doing
negative work, _i.e._ when work is being done on it, as for instance when
we go downstairs, or when a descending weight forces down the opposing arm
which attempts to support it. In this case the muscles receive a portion of
the energy lost by the descending weight, and this energy shows itself in
the muscle in the form of heat. This increase of heat in a muscle doing
negative work has been clearly demonstrated by the calorimetric experiments
of Hirn and the thermometric experiments of Béclard. Hirn's observations on
muscular calorimetry show a production of heat corresponding to 150
calories per hour when in repose, 248 calories per hour during positive
work, and 287 during negative work. Béclard's thermometric measurements
also show that the temperature of a muscle rises each time that it
contracts, and that the rise of temperature is greatest when the muscle is
doing negative work, least during positive work, and intermediate when in a
state of tension.

It is of the greatest importance in medical practice to distinguish between
these different forms of muscular activity. There is a vast physiological
difference between muscular contraction with the production of positive
work, and muscular contraction without the production of work, or with
negative work. To climb a flight of stairs is to contract the muscles with
the production of work equal to the weight of the body multiplied by the
height of the stairs. To descend the stairs is to contract the same
muscles, but with the production of negative work, and consequently a
maximum of heat. To walk on level ground is to contract the muscles with
the production of little or no external work; as in a machine turning
without friction in a vacuum.

We have seen that a fall of potential and a current of energy are the
necessary conditions for the production of any natural phenomenon. Hence we
may assume that the phenomenon of sensation is also accompanied by a fall
of potential and a current of energy. When we touch a hot body, there is a
flow of energy from the hot body to the hand. When we touch a cold body,
there is a current of energy in the opposite direction, {111} from the hand
to the body. It was formerly held, and is still held by some physiologists,
that the chief characteristic of life is the disproportion between an
excitation and the response which it invokes from the organism. Such a
doctrine can only be held by one who believes, at least implicitly, that
the phenomena of life are supernatural, or at all events different in their
nature from all other phenomena; for the disproportion between an
excitation and the response it evokes is by no means confined to living
things. This disproportion is universal in nature, and quite in conformity
with the physical laws which govern the transformation of energy. The
energy of living things is potential energy--a fact which has been too
little recognized. In the case of reflex actions it is self-evident,
because the response is immediate, and always the same for the same
stimulus. As in all other transformations, the stimulus consists in the
intervention of a minimal quantity of external energy.

Long before the discovery of the laws of energy, Lamarck had recognized and
formulated this fact. He writes: "What would vegetable life be without
excitations from without, what would be the life even of the lower animals
without this cause?" In another passage, seeking for a power capable of
exciting the action of the organism, he says: "The lower animal forms,
without nervous system, live only by the aid of excitations which they
receive from without. In the lowest forms of life this exciting force is
borrowed directly from the environment, while in the higher forms the
external exciting force is transferred to the interior of the living being
and placed at the disposal of the individual."

This remark, that the movements of living things are not communicated but
excited, that the external excitation only sets free latent or potential
energy in the organism, shows that Lamarck had penetrated more deeply than
many of the modern physiologists into the secrets of biological energy. We
seek in vain in the text-books of physiology for any conception of
potential energy in living beings, or the notion of an exciting force as
the cause of sensation. All action of a living organism is reflex action.
Every action has a cause, and {112} the cause of an organic action is an
exciting energy from without, either immediate, or stored up in the nervous
system from an external impression made at some previous epoch. Actions
which are not evidently reflex are merely delayed reflexes; we have
acquired the power of inhibiting, delaying, or modifying the response to an
external stimulus, so that the same excitation may determine responses of
very different kinds according to the mood produced by previous
impressions. When carefully investigated, no action of ours is automatic;
every movement is determined by impressions derived from without. An action
without a motive, that is without an external determining cause, would be
an action without reason.

In conclusion, we may formulate this general principle: The energy of a
living being is potential energy; sensations represent the intervention of
an external exciting energy which provokes the response, _i.e._ the
transformation of the potential energy already stored in the organism into
the actual energy of motion and vital activity.

       *       *       *       *       *




The course of development of every branch of natural science has been the
same. It begins by the observation and classification of the objects and
phenomena of nature. The next step is to decompose the more complex
phenomena in order to determine the physical mechanism underlying them--the
science has become analytical. Finally, when the mechanism of a phenomenon
is understood, it becomes possible to reproduce it, to repeat it by
directing the physical forces which are its cause--the science has now
become synthetical.

Modern biology admits that the phenomena of life are physico-chemical in
their nature. Although we have not as yet been able to define the exact
nature of the physical and chemical processes which underlie all vital
phenomena, yet every further discovery confirms our belief that the
physical laws of life are identical with those of the mineral world, and
modern research tends more and more to prove that life is produced by the
same forces and is subject to the same laws that regulate inanimate matter.

The evolution of biology has been the same as that of the other sciences;
it has been successively descriptive, analytical, and synthetic. Just as
synthetic chemistry began with the artificial formation of the simplest
organic products, so biological synthesis must content itself at first with
the fabrication of forms resembling those of the lowest organisms. Like
other sciences, synthetic biology must proceed from the simpler to the more
complex, beginning with the reproduction of the more elementary vital
phenomena. Later on we may hope to {114} unite and associate these, and to
observe their development under various external influences.

The synthesis of life, should it ever occur, will not be the sensational
discovery which we usually associate with the idea. If we accept the theory
of evolution, then the first dawn of the synthesis of life must consist in
the production of forms intermediate between the inorganic and the organic
world--forms which possess only some of the rudimentary attributes of life,
to which other attributes will be slowly added in the course of development
by the evolutionary action of the environment.

Long ago, the penetrating genius of Lamarck seized on the idea that a
knowledge of life could only be obtained by the comparison of organic with
inorganic phenomena. He writes: "If we would acquire a real knowledge of
what constitutes life, of what it consists, what are the causes and the
laws which give rise to this wonderful phenomenon of nature, and how life
can be the source of the multitude of forms presented to us by living
organisms, we must before all consider with great attention the differences
which exist between inorganic and living bodies; and for this purpose we
must compare side by side the essential characters of these two classes of

Synthetic biology includes morphogeny, physiogeny, and synthetic organic
chemistry, which is also a branch of synthetic biology, since it deals with
the composition of the constituents of living organisms. Synthetic organic
chemistry is already a well-organized science, important by reason of the
triumphs which it has already gained. The other two branches of biological
synthesis, morphogeny, the synthesis of living forms and structures, and
physiogeny, the synthesis of functions, can hardly as yet be said to exist
as sciences. They are, however, no less legitimate and no less important
than the sister science of synthetic chemistry.

Although morphogeny and physiogeny do not exist as well-organized and
recognized sciences, there are already a number of works on the subject by
enthusiastic pioneers--independent seekers, who have not feared to abandon
the paths of official science to wander in new and hitherto unexplored
domains. {115}

The first experiment in physiogeny was the discovery of osmosis by the Abbé
Nollet in 1748. He filled a pig's bladder with alcohol, and plunged it into
water. He noticed that the bladder gradually increased in volume and became
distended, the water penetrating into the interior of the bladder more
quickly than the alcohol could escape. This was the first recorded
experiment in the physics of nutrition and growth.

In 1866, Moritz Traube of Breslau discovered the osmotic properties of
certain chemical precipitates. As I pointed out in the _Revue Scientifique_
of March 1906, Traube made the first artificial cell, and studied the
osmotic properties of membranes and their mode of production. This
remarkable research should have been the starting-point of synthetic
biology. The only result, however, was to give rise to numberless
objections, and it soon fell into complete oblivion. "There are," says
Traube, "a number of persons quite blind to all progress, who in the
presence of a new discovery think only of the objections which may be
brought against it." The works of Traube have been collected and published
by his son (_Gesammelte Abhandlungen von Moritz Traube_, 1899).

In 1867 there appeared in England a paper by Dr. E. Montgomery, of St.
Thomas's Hospital, _On the Formation of so-called Cells in Animal Bodies_.
This paper, published by Churchill & Sons, is a most interesting
contribution and one of great originality. The author says: "There can be
no compromise between the tenets of the cell theory and the conclusions
arrived at in this paper; the distinction is thorough. Either the units of
which an organism is composed owe their origin to some kind or other of
procreation, a mysterious act of that mysterious entity life, by which, in
addition to their material properties, they become endowed with those
peculiar metaphysical powers constituting vitality. Or, on the other hand,
the organic units, like the crystalline units of inorganic bodies, form the
organism by dint of similar inherent qualities, form in fact a living being
possessed of all its inherent properties, as soon as certain chemical
compounds are placed under certain physical conditions. If the former
opinion be {116} true, then we must clearly understand that there exists
naturally a break in the sequence of evolution, a chasm between the organic
and the inorganic world never to be bridged over. If, on the contrary, the
latter view be correct, then it strongly argues for a continuity of
development, a gradual chemical elaboration, which culminates in those high
compounds which, under surrounding influences, manifest those complex
changes called vital.

"Surely it is not a matter of indifference or of mere words, if the extreme
aim of physiology avowedly be the detection of the different functions
dependent on the vital exertions of a variety of ultimate organisms, and
the discovery of the specific stimulants which naturally incite these
functions into play. Or, on the other hand, if it be understood to consist
rather in the careful investigation of the succession of chemical
differentiations and their accompanying physical changes, which give rise
to the formation of a variety of tissues that are found to possess certain
specific properties, to display certain definite actions due to a further
flow of chemical and physical modifications."

In 1871 there appeared a memoir by the Dutch savant Harting entitled
_Recherche de Morphologie synthetique sur la production artificielle de
quelques formations calcaires organiques_. This memoir, says Professor R.
Dubois, had cost Harting more than thirty years of work. "Synthetic
morphology is yet only in its infancy, let us hope that in a time equal to
that which has already expired since the first artificial production of
urea, it will have made a progress equal to that of its older sister,
synthetic chemistry."

In the _Comptes Rendues_ of 1882 is the following note by D. Monnier and
Karl Vogt:--

"1. Figured forms presenting all the characteristics of organic growth,
cells, porous canals, tubes with partition walls, and heterogeneous
granules, may be produced artificially in appropriate liquids by the mutual
action of two salts which form one or more insoluble salts by double
decomposition. One of the component salts should be in solution, while the
other salt must be introduced in the solid form. {117}

"2. Such forms of organic elements, cells, tubes, etc., may be produced
either in an organic liquid or a semi-organic liquid such as sucrate of
lime, or in an absolutely inorganic liquid such as silicate of soda. Thus
there can no longer be any question of distinctive forms as characterizing
organic bodies in contradistinction to inorganic bodies.

"3. The figured elements of these pseudo-organic forms depend on the
nature, the viscosity, and the concentration of the liquids in which they
are produced. Certain viscous liquids such as solutions of gum arabic or
chloride of zinc do not produce these forms.

"4. The form of these artificial pseudo-organic products is constant, as
constant as that of the crystalline forms of mineral salts. This form is so
characteristic that it may often serve for the recognition of a minimal
proportion of a substance in a mixture. The observation of these forms is a
means of analysis as sensitive as that of the spectrum. We may, for
example, differentiate in this way the alkaline bicarbonates from the
sesqui-carbonates or the carbonates.

"5. The form of these artificial pseudo-organic elements depends
principally on the nature of the acid radical of the solid salt. Thus the
sulphates and the phosphates generally produce tubes, while the carbonates
form cells.

"6. As a rule these pseudo-organic forms are engendered only by substances
which are found in the living organism. Thus sucrate of calcium will
engender organic forms, whereas sucrate of strontium or barium does not do
so. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, such as the sulphates
of copper, cadmium, zinc, and nickel.

"7. These artificial pseudo-organic elements are surrounded by veritable
membranes, dializing membranes which allow only liquids to pass through
them. These artificial cells have heterogeneous cell-contents, and produce
in their interior granulations which are disposed in a regular order. Thus
they are both in constitution and in form absolutely similar to the
cellular elements which constitute living organisms.

"8. It is probable that the inorganic elements which are present in the
natural protoplasm may play an important part {118} in determining the form
which is assumed by the figured elements of the organism."

In 1902, Professor Quinke of Heidelberg, who has consecrated his life with
such distinction to the physics of liquids, writes thus of the organogenic
power of liquids in a paper published in the _Annalen der Physik_ under the
title "Unsichtbare Flüssigkeitschichten": "In 1837, Gustav Rose obtained
organic forms by precipitation from inorganic solutions. By precipitating
chloride of calcium with the carbonates of ammonium and other alkaline
carbonates, he obtained small spheres which grew and were transformed into
calcic rhombohedra. He also obtained a flocculent precipitate which later
became granular and showed under the microscope forms like the starfish,
and discs with undulated borders. At Freiberg, in certain stalactites, Rose
also discovered forms consisting of six pyramidal cells around a spherical

"In 1839, Link obtained spherical granulations by the precipitation of
calcic or plumbic solutions by potash, soda, or carbonic acid. These
spherical granulations united after a time to form crystals. Sulphate of
iron, ammoniated sulphate of zinc, sulphate of copper precipitated by
sulphuretted hydrogen, and saline solutions precipitated by ferrocyanide of
potash, all give granular precipitates or discs, of which the granular
origin is quite perceptible.

"Runge in 1855 was the first to describe the formation of periodic chemical
precipitates. He used blotting paper as the medium in which various
chemical substances met by diffusion. In this way he studied the mutual
reactions of solutions of ferrocyanide of potash, chloride of iron, and the
sulphates of copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. The coloured precipitates
appeared at different positions in the paper, and disappeared periodically
at greater or longer intervals. The designs formed by these coloured
precipitates change with the concentration of the saline solutions, or on
the addition of oxalic acid, salts of potash or ammonia, and other
substances. These designs are shown in a number of beautiful illustrations
which accompany the work. In this {119} case the capillarity of the paper
necessarily exerts a certain influence on the formation of the figures, but
in addition to this, Runge admits the intervention of another force
hitherto unknown, which he calls 'Bildungstrieb,' the formative impulse,
which he considers to be the elementary vital force in the formation of
plants and animals.

"In 1867, R. Böttger obtained arborescent forms and ramifications of
metallic vegetation by sowing fragments the size of a pea of crystals of
the iron chlorides, chloride of cobalt, sulphate of manganese, nitrate and
chloride of copper, etc., in an aqueous solution of silicate of sodium of
specific gravity 1.18. These forms are due, as I shall show later on, to
the surface tension of the oily precipitate; Böttger gives no explanation
of the phenomenon.

"To this force, viz. that of surface tension, is also due the cellular
forms obtained by Traube in 1866. These were obtained from gelatine and
tannin, from acetate of copper or lead, and from nitrate of mercury in an
aqueous solution of ferrocyanide of potassium. These cells and precipitated
membranes have also been studied by Reinke, F. Cohn, H. de Vries, and
myself, who all observed the regression of these membranes, which although
colloidal at the beginning of the reaction speedily become friable. This
entirely refutes the opinion of Traube as to the constitution of the
precipitated membranes. He supposed them to consist of masses of solid
substance, with smaller orifices which do not permit the passage of the
membranogenous substance, whilst the larger orifices through which it can
pass are soon closed by the precipitate, the membrane itself thus growing
by a process of intussusception.

"Later on Traube himself considered the precipitated membrane to be a thin,
solid gelatinous layer in which the water was mechanically entangled.

"Tamman has also made a number of experiments with solutions of the
chlorides and sulphates of the heavy metals, and solutions of phosphates,
silicates, ferrocyanides, and other salts. He found that most of these
membranes were permeable to the membranogenous solution. According to
Tamman, all {120} precipitated membranes are hydrated substances, and some
of them, like the ferrocyanide of copper and the tannate of gelatine are,
when first formed, entirely comparable to liquid membranes in all their

"Graham had already obtained colourless jellies by the interaction of
concentrated solutions of ferrocyanide of potassium and sulphate of copper.
Bütschli also has recently described the microscopic appearance of
precipitated membranes produced by ferrocyanide of potassium and acetate or
chloride of iron.

"Like Linke and Gustav Rose, Famintzin has obtained spheroidal precipitates
by the reciprocal action of concentrated solutions of chloride of calcium
and carbonate of potassium. These grow rapidly and suddenly, with
concentric layers showing a spherical or flattened nucleus. He also
obtained forms resembling sphero-crystals and starch grains.

"Harting, Vogelsang, Hansen, Bütschli, and others have studied the
structures which are formed by the reciprocal action of chloride of calcium
and the alkaline carbonates. Vogelsang has found small calcareous bodies in
the amorphous and globular precipitate formed by chloride of calcium and
carbonate of ammonium. He describes spheres attached to one another,
vesicles, and muriform structures. The number of these spheroids is
increased by the addition of gelatine. Hansen has also studied Harting's
method for the formation of sphero-crystals by the action of the alkaline
carbonates and phosphates on the salts of calcium in presence of albumen
and gelatine. He considers that the latter retard the crystallization and
assist the formation of the sphero-crystals.

"I shall show later on that gelatine and albumen essentially modify the
precipitate and do not merely act as catalytic substances. The researches
of Famintzin, repeated and extended by Bütschli, show that sphero-crystals
are produced by the reaction of chloride of calcium on carbonate of
potassium without the presence of gelatine or albumen. Bütschli studied the
spheroids of carbonate of lime by means of polarized light, and found that
the layers were alternately positively and negatively polarized." {121}

Such is the history of morphogenesis as described in 1902 by the authority
most qualified for the task, Professor Quinke of Heidelberg.

In 1904, Professor Moritz Benedikt of Vienna treated the whole question in
his book, _Crystallization and Morphogenesis_, of which a French
translation appeared in the Maloine Library. This book is full of original
and suggestive ideas; it describes the work of Harting, and more especially
that of Van Schroën, who considers that crystals like living beings begin
as a cell and grow by a process of intussusception. Professor Benedikt has
made a complete résumé of the question in an article, "The Origins of the
Forms of Life," which appeared in the _Revue Scientifique_ in 1905.

In 1904, Professor Dubois of Lyons presented a report to the Society of
Biology on his interesting experiments on mineral cytogenesis. The same
year he gave a discourse at the university of Lyons on "The Creation of
Living Beings," which has been published by A. Storck of Lyons.

One of the most active of the modern morphogenists is Professor Herrera of
Mexico, whose work is illustrated in the _Atlas de Plasmogenie_ by Dr.
Jules Félix of Brussels, one of the most enthusiastic disciples of the new
science. There is a résumé of Herrera's work in the _Memoirs of the Societé
Alzate, Mexico_.

A bibliography of the works which have appeared on this subject may be
found in the book of Professor Rhumbler of Göttingen, _Aus dem
Lückengebiete zwischen Organischer und Anorganischer Materie_, 1906.

In 1907, Dr. Luiz Razetti of Carracas published a magnificent study of the
subject under the title _Que es la vida_.

In 1907, Dr. Martin Kuckuck of St. Petersburg repeated and extended the
experiments of R. Dubois, and published his results under the title
_Archigonia, Generatio Spontanea_, Leipzig, Ambrosius Barth.

Butler Burke of Cambridge has also made a series of experiments with radium
and barium salts analogous to those of Dubois.

In 1909, Albert and Alexandre Mary of Beauvais published {122} an
interesting study of this question under the title _Études expérimentales
sur la génération primitive_, published by Jules Rousset.

I should mention also among the works of synthetic biology the publications
of Professor Otto Lehmann of Karlsruhe, and in particular _Flüssige
Krystalle und die Theorien des Lebens_, Leipzig, Ambrosius Barth.

Professor Ulenhuth of Berlin has published his study on the osmotic growth
of iron in alkaline hypochlorites under the title _Untersuchungen ueber
Antiformin_, Berlin, Julius Springer.

Professor Gariel has made a series of researches on osmotic growth which
are published in Abraham's _Recueil d'expériences de physique_.

A. Lecha Marzo of Valladolid published his researches on the growth of
aniline colours in the _Gaceta Medica Catalana_, 1909, under the title
_Otra nueva flora artificiale_.

Dr. Maurice d'Halluin of Lille has also published a volume on osmotic
growths under the title, _Stéphane Leduc a-t-il créé la vie?_

The subjects of the numerous memoirs that I have myself published during
the last ten years upon the question are treated anew in the pages of this
volume, and a résumé of my researches on osmotic growth has already
appeared in the _Documents du Progrès_, Sept. 1909.

We have thus shown that synthetic morphogenesis has already attracted the
attention of a certain number of ardent investigators. Morphogeny has now
its methods and its results, and physiogeny is also developing side by side
with it, since function is but the result of form. The field of research is
opened, and workers alone are needed in order to reap an abundant harvest.

       *       *       *       *       *




The phenomenon of osmotic growth has doubtless presented itself to the eyes
of every chemist; but to discover a phenomenon it is not enough merely to
have it under our eyes. Before Newton many a mathematician had seen a
spectrum, if only in the rainbow; many an observer before Franklin had
watched the lightning. To discover a phenomenon is to understand it, to
give it its due interpretation, and to comprehend the importance of the
rôle which it plays in the scheme of nature.

_Osmotic Membranes._--Certain substances in concentrated solution have the
property of forming osmotic membranes when they come in contact with other
chemical solutions. When a soluble substance in concentrated solution is
immersed in a liquid which forms with it a colloidal precipitate, its
surface becomes encased in a thin layer of precipitate which gradually
forms an osmotic membrane round it.

An osmotic membrane is not a semi-permeable membrane, as sometimes
described, _i.e._ a membrane permeable to water but impermeable to the
solute. It is a membrane which opposes different resistances to the passage
of water and of the various substances in solution, being very permeable to
water, but much less so to the different solutes.

A soluble substance thus surrounded by an osmotic membrane represents what
Traube has called an artificial cell. In such a cell the dissolved
substances have a very high osmotic pressure, an expansive force like that
of steam in a boiler; the molecules of the solute exerting pressure on the
walls of the extensible cell, and distending it like the {124} gas in a
balloon. This pressure increases the volume of the cell, and in consequence
water rushes in through the permeable membrane and still further distends
the cell. Most beautiful osmotic cells may be produced by dropping a
fragment of fused calcium chloride into a saturated solution of potassium
carbonate or tribasic potassium phosphate, the calcium chloride becoming
surrounded by an osmotic membrane of calcium carbonate or calcium
phosphate. This mineral membrane is beautifully transparent and perfectly
extensible. It is astonishing to contemplate the contrast between the hard
crystalline forms of ordinary chalk and these soft transparent elastic
membranes which have the same chemical constitution. These osmotic cells of
carbonate of lime or phosphate of lime consist of a transparent membrane
enclosing liquid contents and a solid nucleus of chloride of calcium. Their
form is that of an ovoid or flattened sphere, and they may attain a
diameter of seven centimetres or more.

More frequently the osmotic growth consists of a number of cells instead of
one large cell. The first cell gives birth to a second cell or vesicle, and
this to a third, and so on, so that we finally obtain an association of
microscopic cellular cavities, separated by osmotic walls--a structure
completely analogous to that which we meet with in a living organism.

We may easily picture to ourselves the mechanism by which an osmotic cell
gives birth to such a colony of microscopic vesicles. The membranogenous
substance, the chloride of calcium, diffuses uniformly on all sides from
the solid nucleus, and forms an osmotic membrane where it comes into
contact with the solution. This spherical membrane is extended by osmotic
pressure, and grows gradually larger. Since the area of the surface of a
sphere increases as the square of its radius, when the cell has grown to
twice its original diameter, each square centimetre of the membrane will
receive by diffusion but a quarter as much of the membranogenous substance.
Hence, after a time, the membrane will not be sufficiently nourished by the
membranogenous substance, it will break down, and an aperture will occur
through which the interior liquid oozes out, forming in its turn a new
{125} membranous covering for itself. This is the explanation of the fact
that all living organisms are formed by colonies of microscopical elements,
although we must not forget that Nature often produces similar results in
different ways.

[Illustration: FIG. 35. FIG. 36.

Osmotic growths of ferrocyanide of copper.]

Osmotic growths may be obtained from a great number of chemical substances.
The most easily grown are the soluble salts of calcium in solutions of
alkaline phosphates and carbonates, to which we have already alluded. We
may also reverse the phenomenon by growing phosphates and carbonates in
solutions of calcium salts, but in this case the osmotic growths are not so

The various silicates play an important part in the constitution of shells
and of the skeletons of marine animals. Most of the metallic salts, and
more especially the soluble salts of calcium, give rise to the phenomenon
of osmotic growth when sown in solutions of the alkaline silicates. In this
way, by using different silicates and varying the proportions and the
concentrations, we may obtain an immense variety of osmotic growths.

A good solution to commence with is the following:--

  Silicate of potash, sp. gr. 1.3 (33° Beaumé)     60 gr.
  Saturated solution of sodium carbonate           60 gr.
  Saturated solution of dibasic sodium phosphate   30 gr.
  Distilled water                     make up to 1 litre.


A fragment of fused calcium chloride dropped into this solution will
produce a rapid growth of slender osmotic forms which may attain a height
of 20 or 30 centimetres.

Small pellets may also be made of one part of sugar and two of copper
sulphate and sown in the following solution, which must be kept warm until
the growth is complete:--

  Ten per cent. solution of gelatine           10 to 20 c.c.
  Saturated solution of potassium ferrocyanide  5 to 10 c.c.
  Saturated solution of sodium chloride         5 to 10 c.c.
  Warm water (32° to 40° C.)                        100 c.c.

In this solution we can obtain osmotic growths which may attain to a height
of 40 centimetres or more, vegetable forms, roots, arborescent twigs,
leaves, and terminal organs. These growths are stable as soon as the
gelatine has cooled and set, and may be carried about without fear of
injury (Fig. 35).

Precipitated osmotic membranes are very widely distributed in nature.
Professor Ulenhuth has seen iron growths in alkaline sodium hypochlorite
(Javelle water), and Lecha-Marzo has demonstrated the osmotic growth of the
various {127} stains used for microscopy, in the liquids used for fixing

[Illustration: FIG. 37.--Osmotic vermiform growth.

(_a_) The sickle-shaped growth.

(_b_) The growth broken by the upward pressure of the solution.

(_c_) The wound having cicatrized, the stem continues to grow downwards. ]

We now know that the physical force which builds up these growths is that
of osmotic pressure, since the slightest consideration will show the
inadequacy of the usual explanation that the growth is due to mere
differences of density, or to amorphous precipitation around bubbles of
gas. These may indeed affect the phenomenon, but can in no way be regarded
as its cause.

One of our experiments throws considerable light on this question. In a
glass vessel we placed a concentrated solution of carbonate of potassium,
to which had been added 4 per cent. of a saturated solution of tribasic
potassium phosphate. Into this solution we dropped a fragment of fused
calcium chloride, and obtained a vermiform growth some 6 millimetres in
diameter. This growth was curved, at first growing upwards, then for a
short distance horizontally, and finally downwards. The upward pressure of
the solution, which was heavier than the growth, ultimately broke it at the
top of the curve, as shown at _b_, Fig. 37. The liquid contents of the
growth began to ooze out through the wound, but this after a time became
cicatrized, and the stem continued to grow obstinately downwards once more,
in opposition to the hydrostatic pressure. In consequence of this pressure
the growth is sinuous, tacking as it were from side to side like a boat
against the wind. We give three successive photographs of this growth,
which attained a length of over 10 inches. We have frequently obtained
these vermiform growths forming a series of such loops, growing upwards and
falling again many times in succession.

_Osmotic Growths in Air._--Certain of these artificial cells may be made to
grow out of the solution into the air. For this purpose we place a fragment
of CaCl_2 in a shallow flat-bottomed glass dish, just covering the fragment
with liquid. The best solution is as follows:--

  Potassium carbonate, saturated solution          76 parts.
  Sodium sulphate, saturated solution              20   "
  Tribasic potassium phosphate, saturated solution  4   "


The calcium chloride surrounds itself with an osmotic membrane; water
penetrates into the interior of the cell thus formed, and a beautiful
transparent spherical cell is the result, the summit of which soon emerges
from the shallow liquid. The cell continues to increase by absorption of
the liquid at its base, and may grow up out of the liquid into the air for
as much as one or two centimetres.

This is a most impressive spectacle, an osmotic production, half aquatic
and half aerial, absorbing water and salts by its base, and losing water
and volatile products by evaporation from its summit, while at the same
time it absorbs and dissolves the gases of the atmosphere.

The aerial portion of an osmotic growth will sometimes become specialized
in form. The summit of the growth develops a sort of crown or cup
surrounded by a circular wall. This cup contains liquid, and continues to
grow up into the air like the stem of a plant, carrying with it the liquid
which has been absorbed by the base of the growth.

The preceding experiments give us an explanation of the curious phenomena
exhibited by so-called creeping salts. A saline solution left at the bottom
of a vessel will sometimes be found after some months to have crept up to
the top of the vessel. Cellular partitions formed in this way will be found
extending from the bottom to the top of the vessel, and not only so, but
the whole of the remaining liquid will be imprisoned in the upper cells.

[Illustration: FIG. 38.--Osmotic growth produced by sowing a mixture of
CaCl_2 and MnCl_2 in a solution of alkaline carbonate, phosphate, and
silicate. The stem and terminal organs are of different colours. (One-third
of the natural size.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 39.--An osmotic growth photographed by transverse light
to show the construction of the terminal organs.]

_Assimilation and Excretion._--Like a living being, an osmotic growth
absorbs nutriment from the medium in which it grows, and this nutriment it
assimilates and organizes. If we compare the weight of an osmotic growth
with that of the mineral fragment which produced it, we shall find that the
mineral seed has increased many hundred times in weight. Similarly, if we
weigh the liquid before and after the experiment, we shall find that it has
lost an equivalent weight. The absorbed substance of an osmotic production
must also undergo chemical transformation before it can be
assimilated--that is, before it can form part of the growth. Calcium
chloride, for example, growing in a solution of potassium {130} carbonate,
is transformed into calcium carbonate. CaCl_2 + K_2CO_3 = CaCO_3 + 2KCl.
Thus an osmotic growth can make a choice between the substances offered to
it, rejecting the potassium of the nutrient liquid, and absorbing water and
the radical CO_3, while at the same time it eliminates and excretes {131}
chlorine, which may be found in the nutrient liquid after the reaction.

Of all the ordinary physical forces, osmotic pressure and osmosis alone
appear to possess this remarkable power of organization and morphogenesis.
It is a matter of surprise that this peculiar faculty has hitherto remained
almost unsuspected.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.--Osmotic growth in a solution of KNO_3, showing
spine-like organs.]

_Osmotic Growths._--If we sow fragments of calcium chloride in solutions of
the alkaline carbonates, phosphates, or silicates, we obtain a wonderful
variety of filiform and linear growths which may attain to a height of 30
or 40 centimetres. Some are so flexible that the stems bend, falling in
curves around the centre of growth, like leaves of grass. If we dilute this
same liquid, as it becomes less concentrated the growths are more curved,
ramified, dendritic, like those of trees or corals.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.--Terminal organs like catkins, developing in a
solution of ammonium chloride.]

In the culture of osmotic growths we may also by appropriate means produce
terminal organs resembling flowers and seed-capsules. To do this we wait
till the growth is considerably advanced, and then add a large quantity of
liquid to the nutrient solution so as to diminish the concentration a
hundredfold or more. Spherical {132} terminal organs will then grow out
from the ends of the stems, which may during their further growth become
conical or piriform in shape.

By superposing layers of liquid of different concentration and decreasing
density, one may obtain knots and swellings in the osmotic growths marking
the surfaces of separation of the liquid. When a young growth in the vigour
of its youth reaches the surface of the water, it spreads out horizontally
over the surface of the liquid in thin leaves or foliaceous expansions of
different forms.

[Illustration: FIG. 42.--An osmotic madrepore.]

The preponderating influence in morphogenesis is osmotic pressure, the
osmotic forms varying with its intensity, distribution, and mode of
application. Whatever the chemical composition of the liquid, similar
osmotic forces, modified in the same manner, give rise to forms which have
a family resemblance. The chemical nature of the liquid, however, is not
entirely without influence on the form. Thus the presence of a nitrate in
the mother liquor tends to produce points or thorns. Ammonium chloride in a
potassium ferrocyanide solution produces growths shaped like catkins, and
the alkaline chlorides tend to produce vermiform growths. {133}

Coralline growths may also be obtained by using appropriate chemical
solutions. For this purpose the solution of silicate, carbonate, and
dibasic phosphate should be diluted to half strength, with the addition of
2 to 4 per cent. of a concentrated solution of sodium sulphate or potassium

[Illustration: FIG. 43.--An osmotic mushroom form.]

[Illustration: FIG. 44.--Osmotic fungi.]

Coral-like forms may also be grown from a semi-saturated solution of
silicate, carbonate, and dibasic phosphate, to which has been added 4 per
cent. of a concentrated solution of sodium sulphate or potassium nitrate.
In this we may obtain beautiful growths like madrepores or corals, formed
by a central nucleus from which radiate large leaves like the petals of a
flower. The presence of nitrate of potassium produces pointed leaves with
thorn-like processes recalling the forms of the aloe and the agave.

Most remarkable fungus-like forms may be obtained by commencing the growth
in a concentrated solution, and then {134} carefully pouring a layer of
distilled water over the surface of the liquid. The resemblance is so
perfect that some of our productions have been taken for fungi even by
experts. The {135} stem of these osmotic fungi is formed of bundles of fine
hollow fibres, while the upper surface of the cap is sometimes smooth, and
sometimes covered with small scales. The lower surface of the cap shows
traces of radiating lamellæ, which are sometimes intersected by concentric
layers parallel to the outer {136} surface of the cap. In this case the
lower surface of the cap shows a number of orifices or canals similar to
those seen in many varieties of fungus.

[Illustration: FIG. 45.--A shell-like calcareous osmotic growth.]

[Illustration: FIG. 46.--Osmotic growths in the form of shells.]

[Illustration: FIG. 47.--Capsular osmotic growth. The capsule has been
broken to show the interior structure.]

Shell-like osmotic productions may be grown by sowing the mineral in a very
shallow layer of concentrated solution, a centimetre or less in depth, and
pouring over this a less concentrated layer of solution. By varying the
solution or concentration we may thus grow an infinite variety of shell
forms. {137}

Capsules or closed shells may be produced in the same way by superimposing
a layer of somewhat greater concentration. These capsules consist of two
valves joined together at their circumference. The lower valve is thick and
strong, while the upper valve may be transparent, translucent, or opaque,
but is always thinner and more fragile than the lower one.

Ferrous sulphate sown in a silicate solution gives rise to growths which
are green in colour, climbing, or herbaceous, twining in spirals round the
larger and more solid calcareous growths.

[Illustration: FIG. 48.--An osmotic growth in which the terminal organs are
differently coloured from the stems, showing that the chemical evolution is

With salts of manganese, the chloride, citrate or sulphate, the stages of
evolution of the growth are distinguished not only by diversities of form,
but also by modifications of colour. We may thus obtain terminal organs
black or golden yellow in colour on a white stalk. In a similar way we may
obtain fungi with a white stalk and a yellow cap, of which the lower
surface is black.

[Illustration: FIG. 49.--Osmotic capsular growth with figured belt.]

Very beautiful growths may be obtained by sowing calcium chloride in a
solution of potassium carbonate, with the addition of 2 per cent. of a
saturated solution of tribasic potassium phosphate. This will give capsules
with figured belts, vertical lines at regular intervals, or transverse
stripes composed of projecting dots such as may be seen in many
sea-urchins. These capsules are closed at the summit by a cap, forming an
operculum, so that they sometimes appear as if formed of two valves. Now
and again we may see the upper valve raised by {138} the internal osmotic
pressure, showing the gelatinous contents through the opening.

[Illustration: FIG. 50.--Amoeboid osmotic growth, floating free in the
mother liquor.]

The calcareous capsules grown in a saturated solution of potassium
carbonate or phosphate often take a regular ovoid form. If these are
allowed to thicken, they may be taken out of the water without breaking,
and then present the aspect of veritable ooliths.

[Illustration: FIG. 51.--Transparent osmotic cell, in which may be seen the
white calcareous nucleus. The summit of the cell bears osmotic

[Illustration: FIG. 52.--Amoeboid osmotic growth with long crystalline
cilia swimming about in the mother liquor.]

[Illustration: FIG. 53.--Osmotic growth swimming in mother liquor. The
fin-like prolongation grew out between two liquid layers of different

Osmotic productions may be divided into two groups. Some like the silicate
growths are fixed. Like vegetables, they develop, become organized, grow,
decline, die, and are disintegrated at the spot where they are sown.
Others, especially those which are grown in alkaline carbonates and
phosphates, have two periods of evolution, the first a fixed period, and
the second a wandering {139} one. During the first period their specific
gravity is greater than that of the surrounding medium, and they rest
immobile at the bottom of the vessel in which they are sown. As they grow,
they absorb water and their specific gravity diminishes. Little by little
they rise up in the liquid, and finally acquire a considerable amount of
mobility, being readily displaced by every current. Hence it is very
difficult to photograph these {140} mobile osmotic growths, which swim
about in the mother liquor and are often provided with prolongations in the
forms of cilia, and sometimes with fins, which undulate as they move. Some
of these ciliary hairs are evidently osmotic in their origin, being
localized as a tuft at the summit of the growth. Others are apparently
crystalline in structure, and are spread over the whole surface of the
swimming vesicle. An osmotic growth increases by the absorption of water
from a concentrated solution. When the solution is originally saturated it
thus becomes supersaturated, and deposits these long ciliary crystals on
the surface of the growth.

When a capsule splits in two under the influence of the internal osmotic
pressure, it may happen that the operculum or upper valve floats away in
the liquid. We thus obtain a free swimming organism, a transparent
bell-like form with an undulating fringe, like a Medusa.

[Illustration: FIG. 54.--Capsular osmotic growth, the two valves separated
showing the colloidal contents.]

Frequently a single seed or stock will give rise to a whole series of
osmotic growths. A vesicle is first produced, and then a contraction
appears around the vesicle, and this contraction increases till a portion
of the vesicle is cut off and swims away free like an amoeba. The same
phenomenon may be observed with vermiform growths, a single seed often
giving {141} rise in this way to a whole series of amoebiform or vermiform

It must be remembered that in an osmotic growth the active growing portion
is the gelatinous contents in the interior, the external visible growth
being only a skeleton or shell. We may sometimes succeed in hooking up one
of these long vermiform growths, breaking the calcareous sheath, and
drawing out a long undulating translucid gelatinous cylinder. The outline
of this cylinder is so well defined as to make us doubt whether the fine
colloidal membrane which separates it clearly from the liquid can have been
formed so rapidly, or if it may not perhaps exist already formed in the
interior of its calcareous sheath.

[Illustration: FIG. 55.--Microphotograph showing the structure of various
osmotic stems. (Magnified 25 diameters.)

(_a_) Sodium sulphite.

(_b_) Potassium bichromate.

(_c_) Sodium sulphide.

(_d_) Sodium bisulphite. ]

When a large capsular shell such as we have described bursts, it expels a
part or the whole of its contents as a gelatinous mass which retains the
form of the cavity. Similarly, if we suddenly dilute the mother liquor
around an osmotic cell, it bursts by a process of dehiscence, and projects
into the liquid a part of its contents, which may thus become an
independent vesicle. In this way a single osmotic cell may produce a whole
series of independent vesicles.

It is even possible to rejuvenate an osmotic growth that has become
degenerate through age. An osmotic production grows old and dies when it
has expended the osmotic force contained in the interior of its capsule. A
calcium osmotic growth which has thus become exhausted may be rejuvenated
by transferring it to a concentrated solution of calcium chloride. It will
absorb this, and thus be enabled to renew its evolution and growth when put
back again into the original mother liquor. {142}

The structure of osmotic growths is no less varied than their form. Their
stems are formed of cells or vesicles juxtaposed, showing cavities
separated by osmotic walls. Sometimes the component vesicles have kept
their original form, so that the stem has the appearance of a row of beads.
Or the cells may be more or less flattened, the divisions being widely
separated. Or again, by the absorption of the divisions, a tube may be
formed, a veritable vessel or canal in which liquids can circulate. {143}

[Illustration: FIG. 56.--Microphotograph showing the structure of osmotic
stems. (Magnified 40 diameters.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 57.--Photograph of an osmotic leaf showing the veins.]

The foliaceous expansions, or osmotic leaves, also present great varieties
both of appearance and of structure. The veins may be longitudinal,
fan-shaped, or penniform. We have occasionally met with leaves having a
lined or ruled surface, giving most beautiful diffraction colours. The
usual structure, however, is vesicular or cellular, as in Fig. 58. In
photographs we often get the appearance of lacunæ, but all these lacunæ are
closed cavities, the appearance being due to the transparency of the cell

[Illustration: FIG. 58.--Photomicrograph of an osmotic leaf showing the
cellular structure.]

In conclusion we may say that osmotic growths are formed of an ensemble of
closed cavities of various forms, containing liquids and separated by
osmotic membranes, constituting veritable tissues. This structure offers
the closest {144} resemblance to that of living organisms. Is it possible
to doubt that the simple conditions which produce an osmotic growth have
frequently been realized during the past ages of the earth? What part has
osmotic growth played in the evolution of living forms, and what traces of
its action may we hope to find to-day? Osmotic growth gives us fibrous
silicates, phosphatic nodules, corals, and madrepores; it also gives us
formations which remind one of the "atolls," calcareous growths rising like
a crown out of the water. The geologist may well consider what rôle osmotic
growth may have played in the formation of the various rocks, siliceous,
calcareous, barytic, magnesian, the fibrous and nodular rocks and atolls.
The palæontologist relies on the different forms found in his rocks to
classify his specimens; from the existence of a shell, he concludes the
presence of life. Since, however, forms which are apparently organic may be
merely the product of osmotic growth, it is evident that he must reconsider
his conclusions. The same may be said of the various forms of coral or of
fungoid growths. In the {146} presence of a calcified or silicated fungus
we can no longer argue with certainty as to the existence of life, without
taking into consideration the possibility that the specimen in question may
be an osmotic production.

[Illustration: FIG. 59.--Osmotic growth with nucleated terminal organs.
(One-third of the natural size.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 60.--A group of osmotic plants.]

Whatever our opinion as to its signification, osmotic growth demands the
attention of every mind devoted to the study of nature. It is a marvellous
spectacle to see a formless fragment of calcium salt grow into a shell, a
madrepore, or a fungus, and this as the result of a simple physical force.
Why should the study of osmotic growth attract less attention than the
formation of crystals, on which so much time and labour has been bestowed
in the past?

       *       *       *       *       *




It is impossible to define life, not only because it is complex, but
because it varies in different living beings. The phenomena which
constitute the life of a man are far other than those which make up the
life of a polyp or a plant; and in the more simple forms life is so greatly
reduced that it is often a matter of difficulty to decide whether a given
form belongs to the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom. Considering the
impossibility of defining the exact line of demarcation between animate and
inanimate matter, it is astonishing to find so much stress laid on the
supposed fundamental difference between vital and non-vital phenomena.
There is in fact no sharp division, no precise limit where inanimate nature
ends and life begins; the transition is gradual and insensible, for just as
a living organism is made of the same substances as the mineral world, so
life is a composite of the same physical and chemical phenomena that we
find in the rest of nature. All the supposed attributes of life are found
also outside living organisms. Life is constituted by the association of
physico-chemical phenomena, their harmonious grouping and succession.
Harmony is a condition of life.

We are quite unable to separate living beings from the other productions of
nature by their composition, since they are formed of the same mineral
elements. All the aliments of plants--water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus,
sulphur--before their absorption and assimilation belonged to the mineral
kingdom. The carbon and the water are transformed into {148} sugar and fat,
the nitrogen and the sulphur into albumen, and the compounds so formed are
then said to belong to the organic world. These organic bodies are returned
once again to the mineral world by the action of animals and microbes,
which transform the carbon into carbonates, and the nitrogen, sulphur, and
phosphorus into nitrates, sulphates, and phosphates. Hence life is but a
phase in the animation of mineral matter; all matter may be said to have
within itself the essence of life, potential in the mineral, actual in the
animal and the vegetable. The flux and reflux of matter is alternate and
incessant, from the mineral world to the living, and back again from the
living to the mineral world.

At the same time there is a continuous flux of energy. Organic matter
contains potential energy, the energy of chemical combination; and during
its passage through the living being it is gradually stripped of this
energy and returned to the mineral world. The first step in synthetic
biology is the addition of potential energy to matter, the reduction of an
oxide, the separation of a salt into its radicals, the production of some
endothermic chemical combination. The energy stored up by such processes
can be again liberated as heat, that fire which the ancients with wonderful
prescience long ago recognized as the symbol of life.

Attempts have been made to differentiate a living being by the nature of
its chemical combinations, the so-called organic compounds. It was supposed
that life alone could realize these and cause the production of the various
substances which form the structure of living beings. Of late years,
however, a large number of these organic substances have been artificially
produced in the laboratory, and the synthetic problems which remain are of
the same order as those which have been already solved.

As one learns to know the mineral kingdom and the living world more
intimately the differences between them disappear. Thus a living being was
supposed to be characterized by its sensibility, _i.e._ its faculty of
reaction against external impressions. But this reaction is a general
phenomenon of nature; there is no action without reaction. Neither can the
{149} reaction to internal impressions, immediate or deferred, be
considered as the characteristic of life, since osmotic growths exhibit a
most exquisite sensibility in this direction. Since, then, the faculty of
reaction is a general property of matter, the characteristics of life in
the lower organisms are only three in number, viz. nutrition, growth, and
reproduction by fission or budding. But crystals are also nourished and
grow in the water of crystallization. They have moreover a specific form,
and every biologist who wishes to establish a parallel between the
phenomena of the living and the mineral world is wont to compare living
beings with crystals. Crystals, it is said, affect regular geometric forms,
salient angles, and rectilinear edges, while living beings have rounded
forms without any geometric regularity. Another supposed distinction is
that living beings are nourished by intussusception, whereas crystals
increase by apposition. Again, living beings are said to assimilate and
transform the aliment they absorb, whereas crystals do not transform the
matter which is added externally to their structure. Another supposed
difference is that living things eliminate and discharge their products of
combustion, while the evolution of a crystal is accompanied by no such
elimination. Finally, the phenomenon of reproduction is said to be the
exclusive characteristic of a living being; but crystals may also be
reproduced and multiplied by the introduction of fragments of crystalline
matter into a supersaturated solution.

The resemblance between an osmotic growth and a living organism is much
closer than that between a living being and a crystal, there being not only
an analogy of form, but also of structure and of function. In order to find
the physical parallel to life, we must turn to osmosis and osmotic growth
rather than to crystals and crystallization.

The first and most striking analogy between living beings and osmotic
growths is that of form. The morphogenic power of osmosis gives rise to an
infinite variety of forms. An osmotic growth, even at the first sight,
suggests the idea of a living thing. One need only glance at the
photographs of osmotic productions to recognize the forms of madrepore,
fungus, alga, and shell. It is wonderful that a force capable {150} of such
marvellous results should have hitherto been almost entirely neglected.

A second analogy between vital and osmotic growths is to be found in their
structure, both being formed by groups of cells or vesicles separated by
osmotic membranes. An osmotic stem, formed by a row of cellular cavities
separated by osmotic membranes, has a great structural resemblance to the
knotted stems of bamboos, reeds, and the like. The foliaceous expansions of
osmotic growths are formed by colonies of cells or vesicles disposed in
regular lines, which may present various patterns of innervation, parallel,
palmate, or pennate. Many of the lamellar osmotic growths are striped in
parallel lines alternately opaque and transparent. The terminal organs have
also their enveloping membranes, their pulp and nucleus, just like
vegetable forms.

The analogies of function are no less remarkable than those of form and
structure. Nutrition is perhaps the most elementary and essential vital
phenomenon, since without nutrition life cannot exist. Nutrition consists
in the absorption of alimentary substances from the surrounding medium, the
chemical transformation of such substances, their fixation by
intussusception in every part of the organism, and the ejection of the
products of combustion into the surrounding medium. Osmotic growths absorb
material from the medium in which they grow, submit it to chemical
metamorphosis, and eject the waste products of the reaction into the
surrounding medium. An osmotic growth moreover exercises choice in the
selection of the substances which are offered for its consumption,
absorbing some greedily and entirely rejecting others. Thus osmotic growths
present all the phenomena of nutrition, the fundamental characteristic of

In the living organism nutrition results in growth, development, and
evolution. Growth and development also follow the absorption and fixation
of aliment by an osmotic production. An osmotic production grows, its form
develops and becomes more complicated, and its weight increases. An osmotic
growth may weigh many hundred times as much as the mineral sown in the
solution, the mother liquor losing a {151} corresponding weight. Thus
growth, which has hitherto been considered an essential phenomenon of life,
is also a phenomenon common to all osmotic productions.

Osmotic growths like living things may be said to have an evolutionary
existence, the analogy holding good down to the smallest detail. In their
early youth, at the beginning of life, the phenomena of exchange, of
growth, and of organization are very intense. As they grow older, these
exchanges gradually slow down, and growth is arrested. With age the
exchanges still continue, but more slowly, and these then gradually fail
and are finally completely arrested. The osmotic growth is dead, and little
by little it decays, losing its structure and its form.

The membranes of an osmotic growth thicken with age, and thus oppose to the
osmotic exchanges a steadily increasing resistance. Young osmotic cells
appear swollen and turgescent, whereas old ones become flaccid, relaxed,
and wrinkled. Analogous phenomena are met with in living organisms, the
calcareous infiltration of the vessels representing the thickening and
hardening of the osmotic membranes. The plumpness of a child and the
turgescence of young cells are but the expression of high osmotic tension,
while relaxation and flaccidity of the tissues in old age betrays the fall
of osmotic pressure in the intracellular tissues.

Circulation of the nutrient fluid may also be observed in an osmotic growth
as in a living organism. If we take a calcareous growth with long ramified
stems and dilute the mother liquor considerably, we may see currents of
liquid issuing from the summit of the growth--currents which are made
visible by the cloudy precipitates which they cause. The same current is
also rendered visible in the stems themselves by the motion of the
granulations and gas bubbles in the interior of the osmotic cells. It is
plain that some such circulation must exist, for how could a membrane be
formed 30 centimetres from the seed if the membranogenous substance did not
circulate through the stem? A moment's consideration will show that the
propulsion is due to osmotic pressure and not to mere differences of
density, for the liquid {152} which rises in the stem is a concentrated
solution of calcium salt much denser than the mother liquor, and the
current of liquid after rising in the stem may be seen to fall back again
through the liquid.

[Illustration: FIG. 61.--A group of osmotic forms.]

Organization has long been considered as one of the principal
characteristics of life, _i.e._ the arrangement of matter so as to produce
an animated and evolutionary form accompanied by transformation of energy.
But osmotic growths are also organizations endowed with the same faculties,
and the physical mechanism which is at the basis of their formation is the
same as that which determines the organization of living matter.

The phenomena of osmotic growth show how ordinary mineral matter,
carbonates, phosphates, silicates, nitrates, and chlorides, may imitate the
forms of animated nature without {153} the intervention of any living
organism. Ordinary physical forces are quite sufficient to produce forms
like those of living beings, closed cavities containing liquids separated
by osmotic membranes, with tissues similar to those of the vital organs in
form, colour, evolution, and function.

It is only necessary to glance at the photographs of these osmotic growths
to appreciate the wonderful variety of form. The variety of function is not
less evident, and in many instances, especially with manganese salts, the
difference of function of various regions is marked by differences of
colour. When a large osmotic cell projects beyond the mother liquor and
grows up into the air, it is evident that the function of liquid absorption
must be localized in the submerged part. In other cases we have a local
evolution of gas, which may be demonstrated by growing a fragment of
calcium chloride in a mother liquor composed of the following saturated

  Potassium carbonate            76 parts.
  Potassium sulphate             16   "
  Tribasic potassium phosphate   46   "

During the whole period of growth there is an abundant liberation of
bubbles of gas, which is accurately limited to a belt around the base of
the growth, and sometimes also to a cap at the summit.

Since morphological differentiations of different parts is but the result
of differences of evolution, _i.e._ of functional differences of the
various parts, we may consider that osmotic growths possess the faculty of
organization like living beings.

An osmotic growth may be wounded, and a wound delays its growth and
development like a disease or an accident in a living being. A wound in an
osmotic production may also become cicatrized and covered with a membrane,
when the growth will recommence exactly as in a living being.

An osmotic growth is a transformer of energy. It increases in bulk, pushing
aside the mother liquor, and thus doing external work. An osmotic growth
has a temperature above its medium, since the chemical reaction of which it
is the seat is accompanied by the production of heat. We know {154} but
little of the transformation of energy which takes place in an osmotic
production, but we may say with certainty that it is capable of
transforming both chemical energy and osmotic energy into heat and
mechanical motion.

An osmotic production is the arena of complicated chemical phenomena which
produce a veritable metabolism. It has long been known that diffusion and
osmosis may determine various chemical transformations. H. St. Clair
Deville has demonstrated that certain unstable salts are partially
decomposed by diffusion. Thus during the diffusion of alum, the sulphate of
potash is separated from the sulphate of aluminium. Similarly, when the
chloride or acetate of aluminium is caused to diffuse, the acids become
separated from the aluminia. This decomposition is the result of the
different resistance which the medium offers to the diffusion of different
ions. This difference of resistance may even cause a difference of
potential between two media, similar to the differences of potential in
living organisms. Frequently also a difference of hydration in the chemical
substances on either side of an osmotic membrane will determine a chemical
reaction, which like all other chemical reactions is accompanied by a
corresponding transformation of energy. The study of these chemical
metamorphoses and the transformations of energy in osmotic growths has
opened up a new subject for experimental investigation in the field of
organic chemistry.

_Coagulation._--There is a most remarkable analogy between the phenomena of
coagulation as seen in living beings and the phenomena which occur when the
liquid in the interior of an osmotic growth comes into contact with the
mother liquor. When the sap of a plant or the blood of an animal escapes
into the air or water of the surrounding medium, it coagulates, _i.e._ it
changes from a liquid to a gelatinous consistency. In the same way, when
the liquid in the interior of an osmotic growth leaks out into the mother
liquor it forms a gelatinous precipitate. This gelatinous precipitation is
a physico-chemical phenomenon of the same nature as coagulation. It is by
the study of coagulation in liquids less complex than blood that we may
hope to elucidate the mechanism of the process, {155} which is simply a
physico-chemical phenomenon exactly analogous to gelatinous precipitation.
Calcium phosphate is always prone to coagulate; it has been called the
gelatinous phosphate of lime, and we have already seen how readily tribasic
calcium phosphate takes the form of beautiful transparent colloidal
membranes which are gelatinous in texture.

We may obtain colloidal precipitates exactly analogous to coagulated
albumin by mixing a weak solution of chloride of calcium with potassium
carbonate or tribasic phosphate. Like albumin this precipitate forms
flakes, and is deposited slowly as a gelatinous colloidal mass. Like
albumin also this calcic solution is coagulated by heat; a solution of a
calcic salt of a volatile acid on heating forms a precipitate which has all
the appearance of albumin coagulated by heat.

Finally, Arthus and Pagès have shown that blood does not coagulate when
deprived of its calcium salts by the addition of alkaline oxalates,
fluorides, or citrates, and that the blood thus treated recovers its
coagulability on the addition of a soluble salt of calcium. The coagulation
of milk is also a calcium salt precipitation. Coagulation therefore would
seem to be merely the colloidal precipitation of a salt of calcium.

Diffusion and osmosis are the elementary phenomena of life. All vital
phenomena result from the contact of two colloidal solutions, or of two
liquids separated by an osmotic membrane. Hence the study of the physics of
diffusion and osmosis is the very basis of synthetic biology.

A living being exhibits two sorts of movements, those which are the result
of stimulus from without, and those which are determined by an excitation
arising from within. In the higher animals the stimulus or exciting energy
coming from the entourage may be infinitely small when compared with the
amount of energy transformed. Moreover, the response to an identical
excitation may so vary as to give to these different responses an
appearance of spontaneity. There is in reality no spontaneity, since the
difference in response is governed by previous external impressions which
have left their record on the machinery. There is in fact no such thing as
a spontaneous action, since every action of a living {156} being has as its
ultimate cause a stimulus or excitation coming from without.

The movements of the second category are also conditioned by an excitation,
but the stimulus comes from within the organism. These movements consist
principally of changes of nutrition, or movements of the circulation and
respiration; they are rhythmic in character and are probably produced by
the same chemico-physical causes which determine rhythmic movements outside
the living body.

Just in the same way osmotic growths present two sorts of movements,
external movements and those which are connected with their nutrition. A
free osmotic growth swimming in the mother liquor will alter its position
and form under the influence of the slightest exterior excitation or
vibration. It responds to every variation of temperature, or to a slight
difference of concentration produced by adding a single drop of water, and
reacts to every exterior influence by displacement or deformation.

An osmotic growth also shows indications of movements which are connected
with its nutrition, and these movements are rhythmic, like those of
respiration or circulation in a living organism. The growth of an osmotic
production shows itself not as a continuous process but periodically. The
water traverses the membrane, raises the pressure, and distends the cell;
at first the cell wall resists by reason of its elasticity, it then
suddenly relaxes, yielding to the osmotic pressure and bulging out at a
thinner spot on the surface; the internal pressure falls suddenly, and
there is a pause in the growth.

This rhythmic growth may be best observed by sowing in a solution of a
tribasic alkaline phosphate, pellets composed of powdered calcium chloride
moistened with glycerine, to which has been added 1 per cent. of monobasic
calcium phosphate. The experiment is so arranged as to bend or incline the
growing stems which shoot out from these grains. This may be done by
carefully pouring above the mother liquor a layer of water, or a less
concentrated solution. As the internal osmotic pressure rises, the drooping
extremity of the twig will become turgescent and gradually lift itself
{157} up, and then suddenly fall again for several millimetres. We have
frequently watched this rhythmic movement for an hour or more--a slow
gradual elevation of the extremity of the twig and a rapid fall recurring
every four seconds or so.

It may be objected that the substance of an osmotic growth is continually
undergoing change, whereas a living organism transforms into its own
substance the extraneous matter which it borrows from its environment. The
distinction, however, is only an apparent one. The substance of a living
being is also continually undergoing chemical change; it does not remain
the same for a single instant. We see an evidence of this change in the
evolution of age; the substance of the adult is not that of the infant. In
some living organisms such as insects, especially the ephemeridæ who have
but a brief existence, this change of substance is even more rapid than
that in an osmotic growth.

It has been objected that osmotic productions cannot be compared with
living organisms since they contain no albuminoid matter. This is to
consider life as a substance, and to confound the synthesis of life with
that of albumin. If albumin is ever produced by synthesis in the laboratory
it will probably be dead albumin. All living organisms contain albumin;
this is probably due to the fact that albuminoid matter is particularly
adapted for the formation of osmotic membranes. Our osmotic productions are
composed of the same elements as those which constitute living beings; an
osmotic growth obtained by sowing calcium nitrate in a solution of
potassium carbonate with sodium phosphate and sulphate contains all the
principal elements of a living organism, viz. carbon, oxygen, hydrogen,
nitrogen, sulphur, and phosphorus.

The whole of the vegetable world is produced by the osmotic growth of
mineral substances, if we except the small amount of organic matter
contained in the seeds.

The most important problem of synthetic biology is not so much the
synthesis of the albuminoids as the reduction of carbonic acid. In nature
this reduction is accomplished by the radiant energy of the sun, by the
agency of the catalytic action of chlorophyll. {158}

The physico-chemical study of osmotic growth is as yet hardly begun; we
have but indicated the method, the way is open, and the problems awaiting
solution are legion. Only work and ever more work and workers are required.
Experiments should be made with substances which are chemically unstable
like the albuminoids, substances which readily combine and dissociate
again, alternately absorbing and giving up the potential energy which is
the essence of life. Experiments should also be made with substances which
readily unite or decompose under the influence of water, since hydration
and hydrolysis appear to be the dominant mechanism in all vital reaction,
as they undoubtedly are in osmotic growth, which consists of an increase of
hydration on one side of an osmotic membrane and a diminution on the other

Life is not a substance but a mechanical phenomenon; it is a dynamic and
kinetic transference of energy determined by physico-chemical reactions;
and the whole trend of modern research leads to the belief that these
reactions are of the same nature as those met with in the organic world. It
is the grouping of physical reactions and their mode of association and
succession, their harmony in fact, which constitutes life. The problem we
have to solve in the synthesis of life is the proper attuning and
harmonizing of these physical phenomena, as they exist in living beings,
and there should be no absolute impossibility in our some day realizing
this harmony in whole or in part.

Albert Gaudry says: "I cannot conceive why in determining the connecting
links of the animal world the fact that an organic body is formed of such
and such elements should be of greater importance than the manner in which
these elements are grouped. Descartes regarded extension as the essential
property of an organized being; he supposed it to be inert of itself, and
that it had the Deity for its motive force. To-day the hypothesis of
Descartes has given way to that of Leibnitz, who regards force as the
essential property of the living being, the visible and tangible matter
being only of secondary importance. If we regard the living being as a
force, this force is able to aggregate matter under such and such a form,
{159} with such or such a structure, and such or such a chemical essence.
It does not seem that the classification depending on differences of
substance are any more important than those which depend on differences of

The biological interest of osmotic productions is quite independent of the
chemical nature of the substances which enter into their growth. All
substances which produce osmotic membranes by the contact of their
solutions exhibit phenomena analogous to those of nutrition. Osmotic
morphogenesis is a physical phenomenon resulting from the contact of the
most diverse substances. It has given us our first glimpse of the manner in
which a living being may be supposed to have been formed according to the
ordinary physical laws of nature. We cannot at present produce osmotic
growths with all the combinations found in living beings, but that is only
because chemistry still lags far behind physics in the synthesis of organic

We are often told "not to force the analogy." But error is equally produced
by the exaggeration of unimportant differences. We have already seen that
nutrition, absorption, transformation, and excitation are not the
characteristics of living organisms alone; nor is reaction to external
impressions the appanage only of animate beings. To insist on the
resemblance between an osmotic production and a living being is not to
force an analogy but to demonstrate a fact.

Let us briefly recapitulate. An osmotic growth has an evolutionary
existence; it is nourished by osmosis and intussusception; it exercises a
selective choice on the substances offered to it; it changes the chemical
constitution of its nutriment before assimilating it. Like a living thing
it ejects into its environment the waste products of its function.
Moreover, it grows and develops structures like those of living organisms,
and it is sensitive to many exterior changes, which influence its form and
development. But these very phenomena--nutrition, assimilation,
sensibility, growth, and organization--are generally asserted to be the
sole characteristics of life.

       *       *       *       *       *




By many biologists, even at the present day, the origin and evolution of
living beings is considered to be outside the domain of natural phenomena,
and hence beyond the reach of experimental research. The change in our
views on this subject is due to a Frenchman, Jean Lamarck, who was the true
originator of the scientific doctrine of evolution. At a time when the
miraculous origin of every living being was regarded as an unchangeable
verity, and was defended like a sacred dogma, Lamarck boldly formulated his
theory of evolution, with all its attendent consequences, from spontaneous
generation to the genealogy of man.

In his _Philosophie Zoologique_, which appeared in 1809, Lamarck put forth
his claim to regard all the phenomena of life, of living beings, and of man
himself as pertaining to the domain of natural phenomena. According to him,
all bodies which are met with in nature, organic and inorganic alike, are
subject to the same laws. Life is a physical phenomenon, and all the
processes of life are due to mechanical causes, either physical or
chemical. He writes: "À leur source le physique et le moral ne sont sans
doute qu'une seule et même chose. Il faut rechercher dans la considération
de l'organisation les causes mêmes de la vie."

In the intellectual evolution of the human mind perhaps no advance has been
more important than that of Lamarck--the conquest of the domain of life by
human intelligence. In conformity with the true scientific method, he
founds his doctrine on the facts and phenomena of nature. "I confine
myself," he says, "within the bounds of a simple contemplation {161} of
nature." It was this observation of the gradual perfecting of living
organisms from the simplest to the most complicated that inspired Lamarck
with the idea of evolution and transformation. "How," he says, "can we help
searching for the cause of such wonderful results? Are we not compelled to
admit that nature has produced successively bodies endowed with life,
proceeding from the simplest to the most complex?"

The various products of nature have been divided into classes, genera, and
species, simply to facilitate their study. Modern research tends to show
that there is no definite line of demarcation even between the animal,
vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. All our classification is artificial, and
the passage from one division to another is gradual and insensible. Lamarck
expresses this idea very clearly: "We must remember that classes, orders,
and families, and all such nomenclature, are methods of our own invention.
In nature there are no such things as classes or orders or families, but
only individuals. As we become better acquainted with the productions of
nature, and as the number of specimens in our collections increases, we see
the intervals between the classes gradually fill up, and the lines of
separation become effaced."

Lamarck also raises his voice against the supposed immutability of species.
"Species have only a relative constancy, depending on the circumstances of
the individuals. The individuals of a given species perpetuate themselves
without variation only so long as there is no variation in the
circumstances which influence their existence. Numberless facts prove that
when an individual of a given species changes its locality, it is subjected
to a number of influences which little by little alter, not only the
consistency and proportions of its parts, but also its form, its faculty,
and even its organization; so that in time every part will participate in
the mutations which it has undergone."

Lamarck also clearly affirms the fact of spontaneous generation. "I hope to
prove," he says, "that nature possesses means and faculties for the
production of all the forms which we so much admire. Rudimentary animals
and plants have {162} been formed, and are still being formed to-day, by
spontaneous generation."

Lamarck himself gives a résumé of his doctrine in the following six

1. "All the organized bodies of our globe are veritable productions of
Nature, which she has successively formed during the lapse of ages.

2. "Nature began, and still recommences day by day, with the production of
the simplest organic forms. These so-called spontaneous generations are her
direct work, the first sketches as it were of organization.

3. "The first sketches of an animal or a vegetable growth being begun under
favourable conditions, the faculties of commencing life and of organic
movement thus established have gradually developed little by little the
various parts and organs, which in process of time have become diversified.

4. "The faculty of growth is inherent in every part of an organized body;
it is the primary effect of life. This faculty of growth has given rise to
the various modes of multiplication and regeneration of the individual, and
by its means any progress which may have been acquired in the composition
and forms of the organism has been preserved.

5. "All living things which exist at the present day have been successively
formed by this means, aided by a long lapse of time, by favourable
conditions, and by the changes on the surface of the globe--in a word, by
the power which new situations and new habits have of modifying the organs
of a body which is endowed with life.

6. "Since all living things have undergone more or less change in their
organization, the species which have been thus insensibly and successively
produced can have but a relative constancy, and can be of no very great

The admirable work of Lamarck was absolutely neglected in France, where it
was treated as unworthy even of consideration. This neglect profoundly
afflicted Lamarck, who gradually sank a victim to the opposition of his
contemporaries. He left, however, one disciple, Etienne Jeoffroy St. {163}
Hilaire, but he too was soon reduced to silence under the weight of
authority of his adversaries.

[Illustration: FIG. 62.--Osmotic vegetation.]

Before the doctrine of evolution could live and take its proper place, it
had to be reborn in England--the country of liberty. This resuscitation was
due to Darwin, who added to it his illuminating doctrine of natural
selection. But apart from this and a perfecting of its various details,
Lamarck had already formulated the doctrine of evolution with perfect
precision. Lamarck's work was still-born, whereas that of Darwin lived and
grew to its full development. This was due, not to any imperfection or
insufficiency in Lamarck's work, but {164} to the milieu into which it was
born. It was the environment that stifled the offspring of Lamarck.

In 1868, Ernest Haeckel speaks of the genius of Lamarck in these words:
"The chief of the natural philosophers of France is Jean Lamarck, who takes
his place beside Goethe and Darwin in the history of evolution. To him
belongs the imperishable glory of being the first to formulate the theory
of descent, and of founding the philosophy of nature on the solid basis of
biology," and adds, "There is no country in Europe where Darwin's doctrine
has had so little influence as in France." Haeckel has but done tardy
justice in his discovery of and testimony to the genius of Lamarck.

The spirit of opposition does not seem to have much changed in France since
Lamarck's time. In 1907 the Académie des Sciences de Paris excluded from
its _Comptes Rendus_ the report of my researches on diffusion and osmosis,
because it raised the question of spontaneous generation.

The majority of scientists seem to consider that the question of
spontaneous generation was definitely settled once for all when Pasteur's
experiments showed that a sterilized liquid, kept in a closed tube,
remained sterile.

Without the idea of spontaneous generation and a physical theory of life,
the doctrine of evolution is a mutilated hypothesis without unity or
cohesion. On this point Lamarck speaks most clearly: "Although it is
customary when one speaks of the members of the animal or vegetable kingdom
to call them products of nature, it appears that no definite conception is
attached to the expression. Our preconceived notions hinder us from
recognising the fact that Nature herself possesses all the faculties and
all the means of producing living beings in any variety. She is able to
vary, very slowly but without cessation, all the different races and all
the different forms of life, and to maintain the general order which we see
in all her works."

The doctrine of Lamarck is frequently misinterpreted. We often hear it
expressed as "Function makes the organ," or even "Function creates the
organ." This is equivalent to saying, "Life makes the living being," which
is incomprehensible, {165} making of function a sort of immaterial and
independent entity which constructs a material organ in order to lodge
within it. No such idea is to be found in all the works of Lamarck. He
formulates his law in the following terms: "In every animal which is still
undergoing development, the frequent and sustained use of any one organ
increases its size and power, whereas the constant neglect of the use of
such organ weakens and deteriorates it, so that it finally disappears."

In his expression of this law Lamarck insists on the fact that organization
precedes function. He affirms only that function, _i.e._ action and
reaction, modifies the organ; or, in other words, that organisms are
modelled by the action of exterior forces acting upon them. It is in this
sense only that function may be said to make an organ, but this mode of
expression should be avoided, as it is apt to be misunderstood.

Astronomy teaches us that our globe was detached from the sun in an
incandescent state, and geology asserts that this earth has passed through
a period of long ages when its temperature was incompatible with the
existence of life. It was only with the cooling of the earth crust that it
was possible for living beings to make their appearance. Hence they must of
necessity have been produced spontaneously from terrestrial material under
the influences of chemical and physical forces. This opinion imposes itself
on all who reflect and judge freely. In the same way the doctrine of
evolution necessitates as a corollary the doctrine of spontaneous
generation. The doctrine of evolution should reconstitute every link in the
chain of beings from the simplest to the most complicated; it cannot afford
to leave out the most important of all, viz. the missing link between the
inorganic and the organic kingdoms. If there is a chain, it must be
continuous in all its parts, there can be no solution of continuity.

Evolutionists like Lamarck and Haeckel admit spontaneous generation, not as
the most probable, but as the only possible explanation of the phenomenon
of life.

Lamarck shows us the apparition of living things at a certain epoch of the
earth's evolution, and the gradual {166} development of more complicated
forms as the conditions changed on the surface of the globe. Darwin shows
how heredity and natural selection tend to accentuate the variations which
are favourable to existence. Haeckel demonstrates the parallelism between
ontogenesis and philogenesis--between the successive forms in the evolution
of the embryo and the successive forms of the individual in the evolution
of a race. These are great and admirable conquests of the human
intelligence, they have demonstrated the first appearance and the
progressive evolution of living beings; it now only remains for us to
explain them.

[Illustration: FIG. 63.--Marine forms of osmotic growth.]

The doctrine of evolution, while enforcing the fact of spontaneous
generation and progressive evolution, gives us no hint as to the physical
mechanism of such generation. It does not tell us by what forces, or
according to what laws, the simpler forms of life have been produced, or in
what manner differences of environment have acted in order to modify them.
The doctrine asserts the simultaneous variations in organic forms and in
the physical influences which produce them, but says {167} nothing as to
their mode of action. The Darwinian theory shows how acquired variations
are transmitted and accentuated by natural selection, but it says nothing
as to how these variations may be acquired. In the same way we are in
entire ignorance as to the physical mechanism of ontogenetic development,
the evolution of the embryo.

The morphogenic action of diffusion produces osmotic growths of extreme
variety. Most of these forms recall those of living things--shells, fungi,
corals, and algæ. The analogy of function is quite as close as the
resemblance of form. The study of osmosis, however, is as yet in its
infancy, and osmotic productions vary with the physical conditions of
chemical constitution, temperature, concentration, and the like. The study
of the organizing action of osmosis on organic material has as yet been
hardly attempted.

Osmosis produces growths of great complexity, much more complicated indeed
than the more simple forms of living organisms. This marvellous complexity
of an osmotic growth may be compared with another fact, the ontogenetic
development of the ovum, a single cell which under favourable conditions of
environment may evolve into a most complicated organism. These
considerations lead to the belief that the beginning of life has not been
the production of a simple primitive form from which all others are
descended, but that a number of such primitive forms may have been
produced, forms which by a rapid physical development attained a high
degree of complexity. Osmotic morphogenesis shows us that the ordinary
physical forces have in fact a power of organization infinitely greater
than has been hitherto supposed by the boldest imagination.

When we consider the ignorance in which we still remain as to the phenomena
which pass before our very eyes, how can we expect to understand those
which occurred in past ages, when the physical and chemical conditions were
so immensely different from those which obtain in our own time? What do we
know even now of the physical and chemical phenomena which take place in
the unfathomed depths of the ocean, where for aught we know even at the
present time the same {168} process may be going on--the genesis of life,
and the emergence of living beings out of the inanimate mineral world?
"Even now," says Albert Gaudry, "polyps and oceanic animalculæ are building
up vast coral reefs and rocks. The oxygen and hydrogen which existed once
was water, the oxygen and nitrogen which once made air, the carbon, the
phosphorus, the silica and the lime which once were solid rock, now form
the substance of living beings. The silica is deposited in the skeleton of
a sponge or a radiolaria, the shell of a foraminifera or the carapace of a
crustacean, or unites with phosphorus to form the bones of a vertebrate. A
very tumult of life has succeeded to the primitive silence of inert matter.
Life has invaded the earth, and we see on all sides the inanimate mineral
kingdom being changed into a living world."

The admission that life may have appeared on the earth under the influence
of natural forces and according to physical laws and conditions different
from those of the present era throws a vivid light on the study of
biogenesis, spontaneous generation, and evolution. The means of research
are now indicated, and we have only to study the documents already in our
possession in order to know the conditions which obtained when life first
appeared on the globe. We must endeavour to reproduce these conditions and
to study their effects.

Since all living beings are formed of the same elements as those of the
mineral world, the term "organic" as applied to combinations can only be
used in order to emphasize the complexity of their constitution. It was
formerly believed that these organic combinations were the result of life,
and could not be reproduced except by living organisms. To-day many of
these organic substances are produced in the laboratory from inorganic
materials. In the past history of the globe it is easy to imagine
conditions which would facilitate the synthesis of organic substances
without the interposition of life. At the temperature of the electric
furnace, which was that of the earth at an early period of its evolution,
chemical combinations are possible quite other than those obtaining under
the present conditions of temperature and pressure. At the higher
temperature of the early {169} geological era, silicides, carbides,
phosphides, and nitrides were formed in stable combinations instead of the
oxides, silicates, carbonates, phosphates, and nitrates of the present
time. These combinations existed on the earth at a time when the conditions
of temperature precluded the existence of water in a liquid state. As the
temperature cooled, and the water vapour became condensed, it entered into
chemical combination with the various rocks, producing organic compounds
like acetylene, which results from the action of water on calcium carbide.
H. Lénicque has developed a theory as to the formation of various rocks
under these conditions, which he communicated in 1903 to the French Society
of Civil Engineers.

The chemical evolution of the globe has undergone great changes as the
temperature gradually fell and the constitution of its crust altered. As
long as the temperature was higher than that at which water can exist, all
chemical reactions must have taken place between anhydric substances,
elements and salts in a state of fusion. These conditions are very
different from those of the present-day chemistry, which is the chemistry
of aqueous solutions. We may hope to be able to reproduce the earlier
conditions by the experimental study of anhydric substances in a state of

At a later period, that of the primary and secondary rocks, there was a
uniform and constant temperature of about 40° C. The atmosphere was charged
with water vapour, and all the conditions were present for the production
of storms and tempests. The atmosphere during long ages must have been the
seat of formidable and incessant electric discharges; these discharges are
the most powerful of all physical agents of chemical synthesis, and will
cause nitrogen to combine directly to form various compounds--nitrates,
cyanides, and ammonia. Carbonic acid would also be present in abundance and
would enter into combination with these nitrogenous compounds. In this way
we may imagine that compounds were formed which by some process of physical
synthesis subsequently gave rise to vast quantities of albuminoid matter.
At that time the seas and oceans contained all those substances which have
{170} since been fixed by the metamorphism of the primitive rocks, or
deposited in the sedimentary strata. Most of the elements in our minerals
were formerly in a state of solution in these primeval seas, which
contained carbonates, silicates, and soluble phosphates in great abundance.
As the crust gradually cooled, the terrestrial atmosphere of necessity
altered in composition, and the slow evolution of the atmosphere no doubt
also exercised an influence on the development of living beings.

Palæontology teaches us that the earliest living organism appeared in the
sea. The most ancient of living things, those of the primary ages, which
were of greater duration than all other ages put together, were all
aquatic. We find moreover that every living organism consists of liquids,
solutions of crystalloids and colloids separated by osmotic membranes; and
it is significant that the ocean, that vast laboratory of life, is also a
solution of crystalloids and colloids. It is evident, then, that we must
look to the study of solutions if we would hope to discover the nature and
origin of life.

Life is an ensemble of functions and of energy-transformations, an ensemble
which is conditioned by the form, the structure, and the composition of the
living being. Life, therefore, may be said to be conditioned by form,
_i.e._ the external, internal, and molecular forms of the living being.

All living things consist of closed cavities, which are limited by osmotic
membranes, and filled with solutions of crystalloids and colloids. The
study of synthetic biology is therefore the study of the physical forces
and conditions which can produce cavities surrounded by osmotic membranes,
which can associate and group such cavities, and differentiate and
specialize their functions. Such forces are precisely those which produce
osmotic growths, having the forms and exhibiting many of the functions of
living beings. Of all the theories as to the origin of life, that which
attributes it to osmosis and looks on the earliest living beings as
products of osmotic growths is the most probable and the most satisfying to
the reason.

[Illustration: FIG. 64.--Osmotic shells and corals.]

We have already seen that the seas of the primary and {171} secondary ages
presented in a high degree the particular conditions favourable for the
production of osmotic growths. During these long ages an exuberant growth
of osmotic vegetation must have been produced in these primeval seas. All
the substances which were capable of producing osmotic membranes by mutual
contact sprang into growth,--the soluble salts of calcium, carbonates,
phosphates, silicates, albuminoid matter, became organized as osmotic
productions,--were born, developed, evolved, dissociated, and died.
Millions of ephemeral forms must have succeeded one another in the natural
evolution of that age, when the living world was represented by matter thus
organized by osmosis.

The experimental study of osmotic morphogeny adds its weight of evidence in
the same direction. When we see under our own eyes the cells of calcium
become organized, develop and grow in close imitation of the forms of life,
we cannot doubt that such a transformation has often occurred in the past
history of our planet, and the conviction becomes irresistible {172} that
osmosis has played a predominant rôle in the history of our earth and its
inhabitants. It is a matter of astonishment that the scientist has taken no
notice of the active part which osmosis has played in the evolution of our
earth. On the effects of this most important physical phenomenon science
has hitherto remained entirely mute.

_Printed by_ MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, _Edinburgh_

       *       *       *       *       *

Corrections made to printed original.

Page 47. "into one where its osmotic pressure is low": 'into on' in

Page 90. "the achromatin spindle in karyokinesis.": 'karineyoksis' in

Page 120. "The researches of Famintzin": 'Famitzin' in original,
inconsistent with spelling 2 paragraphs earlier.

Page 141. "Similarly, if we suddenly dilute": 'Simiarly' in original.

Page 153. "which is accurately limited": 'acurately' in original.

Page 158. "this force is able to aggregate matter": 'this orce' in

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