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organism might possess a greater store of vital force or life-power than another, without there being some material representative of that force.
Hence we must-whether taking force or matter as our textlook for some matter in the young which disappears in the old. Protoplasm, the physiological basis of life, which no doubt is the same thing as that which Dr. Beale terms 'germinal matter,' is a matter which by its increase or accumulation in an organism must increase its power—in fact, its amount of life; and, conversely, when diminished, the amount of life must be diminished. It is from the changes of this germinal matter that the formed tissues result, that repair is effected, force evolved, nutriment elaborated, secretion manufactured ; and it is a matter of observation that this germinal matter is more abundant in
young than it is in aged organisms. The numerous preparations of tissues, and their description by Dr. Beale, the result of his carmine process, clearly demonstrate this, and it is on all hands admitted. The quotation which follows from Mr. Paget is a fair description of that diminution of repairing power to which we shall have to refer, whilst Dr. Marshall Hall has largely detailed the decline of the vital powers in old age :
'Some people, as they grow old, seem only to wither and dry up: sharp-featured, shrivelled, and spinous old folk, yet withal wiry and tough, clinging to life, and letting death have them, as it were, by
small instalments slowly paid. Such are the “lean and slippered pantaloons,” and their “shrunk shanks” declare the pervading atrophy. Others, women more often than men, as old and as ill-nourished as these, yet make a far different appearance. With these the first sign of old age is that they grow fat; and this abides with them till, it may be, in a last illness, sharper than old age, they are robbed even of their fat. These too, when old age sets in, become pursy, short-winded, pot-bellied, pale and flabby; their skin hangs not in wrinkles but in rolls ; and their voice, instead of rising " towards childish treble," becomes gruff and husky.'—'Surgical Pathology,' p. 82.
The germinal matter which abounds more in youth than age, obviously embraces Mr. Spencer's physiological units, thus accounting for and correlating its power of general and special repair. It also must include Mr. Darwin's gemmules, and must be immensely called upon therefore in reproduction, far more largely, perhaps, than is represented by the mere bulk of the generative products. Mr. Spencer recognizes this, and alludes to the shrinking and diminution of the germinal matter in advancing life in the following passage : Protoplasm, which has become specialized tissue, cannot be again generalized and afterwards transformed into something else, and hence the progress of structure in an organism, by diminishing the unstructured part, diminishes the amount available for making offspring ;' or, we may add, for carrying on the work of life. This same store of living matter is called upon and reduced in cases of great expenditure of force, such as are greater than the contemporaneous power of assimilation can supply; and it seems not impossible that this germinal matter may be the store from which Professor Parkes supposed a muscle to draw a supply of nitrogenous aliment in the absence of nitrogenous food, and when only carbo-hydrates and hydro-carbons had been supplied. This is consistent with what is known of the great danger of excessive exertion, especially in the absence of abundant nutriment.
The ovum is composed, in its very earliest stages, of nothing but this protoplasm. As development and growth advance, it gives rise to the formed tissues, increasing itself also in bulk. But the germinal matter never increases at the same rate as the whole organism ; it is always diminishing relatively to the whole, though increasing absolutely as long as growth continues. This gives us some insight into the way in which the change in the vitality of youth and age
But there is a more important action than this. What is it that limits growth? what gives the limit to size? Mr. Herbert Spencer (Principles of Biology,' vol. i. p. 128) very fully enters into this matter, and clearly shews that expenditure (expenditure which uses the matter of life, and prevents its accumulation) increases more rapidly than growth; there is not a direct agreement between the increase of the one and of the other. This appears from the following considerations. It is demonstrable that the excess of absorbed over expended nutriment must, other things being equal, become less as the size of the animal becomes greater. In similarly shaped bodies the masses vary as the cubes of the dimensions, whereas the strengths vary as the squares of the dimensions.
1 There is not even a cell-wall, according to the recent very important researches of Dr. Edouard Van Beneden.
'Supposing a creature which a year ago was one foot high, has now become two feet high, what are the necessary concomitant changes that have taken place in it? It is eight times as heavy, but the muscles and bones have increased their power only in proportion to the areas of their cross sections ; hence they are severally but four times as strong as they were. Thus, while the creature has doubled in height, and while its ability to overcome forces has quadrupled, the forces it has to overcome have grown eight times as great. Hence, to raise its body through a given space, its muscles have to be contracted with twice the intensity, at a double cost of matter expended.' Mr. Spencer shews that the same relation is true for the absorbing surface, which has only increased fourfold, and for the circulation of nutriment, which has to be transmitted to an enlarged periphery. Thus, then, the period of growth must be limited ; thus a period must be reached when the germinal or living matter is no longer accumulated but is destroyed ; thus the inherent cause of death has a structural existence. The apparent absence of inherent decay in many trees, in fish, in some reptiles, is alluded to by Mr. Spencer. He attributes it, as we have done above, to their exceedingly small expenditure ; trees and plants generally exhibiting no personal expenditure at all, whilst fish and cold blooded inert reptiles shew very little indeed. Mr. Spencer also remarks that a strict inductive confirmation of the law of increase of expenditure and of growth must not be expected, since the bodies compared, e.g. fish and mammal, are not of the same density or chemical constitution entirely.
Another circumstance co-operates with the arrival of a period of balance between the expenditure and the accumulation (and depends on that period) to influence the natural termination of life. The condition of equilibrium between expenditure and nutrition, growth having ceased, might be maintained for an indefinite time, were it not that precisely at this period a new form of expenditure, involving a very severe tax, sets in—namely, reproduction. It is when a stationary condition has been reached that we may anticipate from general laws new adjustments of the whole aggregate; whilst the changes of the more adaptable state of growth were in course, whilst concrete shape was being built up, discrete shapes were less likely so to be; and hence it is,