Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

ties, such as shipwreck and the like, therefore the primary, but not the know anything of the later stages. proximate, cause of Hunger. I am We all know what it is to be hungry, using the word Hunger in its popular even very hungry; but the terrible sense here, as indicating that specific approaches of protracted hunger are sensation which impels us to eat ; exceptional experiences. From ma- when the subject has been more fully terials furnished by sad experiences, unfolded, the reader will see how far both familiar and exceptional, I will this popular sense of the word is apendeavour to state the capital pheno- plicable to all the phenomena. mena and their causes.

We can now understand why HunIn every living organism there is ger should recur periodically, and an incessant and reciprocal activity with a frequency in proportion to the of waste and repair. The living fabric demands of nutrition. Young animals in the very actions which constitute demand food more frequently than its life, is momently yielding up its the adult ; birds and mammalia more particles to destruction, like the coal frequently than reptiles and fishes. which is burned in the furnace : so A lethargic boa-constrictor will only much coal to so much heat, so much feed about once a-month, a lively rabwaste of tissue to so much vital ac- bit twenty times a day. Temperativity. You cannot wink your eye, ture has also its influence on the fremove your finger, or think a thought, quency of the recurrence : cold excites but some minute particle of your sub- the appetite of warm-blooded anistance must be sacrificed in doing so. mals, but diminishes that of the coldUnless the coal which is burning be blooded, the majority of which cease from time to time replaced, the fire to take any food at the temperature soon smoulders, and finally goes out; of freezing. Those warm-blooded unless the substance of your body animals which present the curious which is wasting be from time to phenomenon of winter sleep,” retime furnished with fresh food, life semble the cold blooded animals in flickers, and at length becomes ex- this respect; during hybernation they tinct. Hunger is the instinct which need no food, because almost all the teaches us to replenish the empty vital actions are suspended. It is furnace. But although the want of found that, at this temperature of food, necessary to repair the waste of freezing, even digestion is suspended. life, is the primary cause of Hunger, Hunter fed lizards at the commenceit does not, as is often erroneously ment of winter, and from time to time stated, in itself constitute Hunger. opened them, without perceiving any The absence of necessary food causes indications of digestion having gone the sensation, but it is not itself the on; and when spring returned, those sensation. Food may be absent with- lizards which were still living, vomitout any sensation, such as we expressed the food which they had retained by the word Hunger, being felt; as undigested in their stomachs during in the case of insane people, who fre- the whole winter. * quently subject themselves to pro- Besides the usual conditions of longed abstinence from food, without recurring appetite, there are some any hungry cravings; and, in a lesser unusual conditions, depending on degree, it is familiar to us all how peculiarities in the individual, or on any violent emotion of grief or joy certain states of the organism. Thus will completely destroy, not only the during convalescence after some malasense of Hunger, but our possibility dies, especially fevers, the appetite is

, of even swallowing the food which almost incessant; and Admiral Byron an hour before was cravingly desired. relates that, after suffering from a Further, it is known that the feeling month's starvation during a shipof Hunger may be allayed by opium, wreck, he and his companions, when tobacco, or even by inorganic sub- on shore, were not content with stances introduced into the stomach, gorging themselves while at table, although none of these can supply the but filled their pockets that they deficiency of food. Want of food is might eat during the intervals of

* HUNTER: Observations on Certain Parts of the Animal Economy.

meals. In certain diseases there is a composition will be greatly altered ; craving for food which no supplies the globules—which may be denomiallay ; but of this we need not speak nated the nutritive solids of the here.

blood—are much diminished in quanThe animal body is often compared tity, the inorganic constituents, which with a steam-engine, of which the are the products of destroyed tissues, food is the fuel in the furnace, fur- much increased. In fact, these inornishing the motor power. As an ganic products, like the pawn-tickets illustration, this may be acceptable found in the spendthrift's desk, are enough, but, like many other illustra- significant of the extravagance and tions, it is often accepted as if it the poverty which point to ruin. were a real analogy, a true expres- We cannot say how long such a sion of the facts. As an analogy, spendthrift life may continue, because its failure is conspicuous. No engine Time has no definite relation to the burns its own substance as fuel : its phenomena of starvation ; these demotor power is all derived from the pend on certain specific changes going coke which is burning in the furnace, on in the body, which may occur with and is in direct constant proportion indefinite rapidity. Within the same to the amount of coke consumed; period of time the whole cycle of when the coke is exhausted, the change necessary for destruction may engine stops. But every organism have completed itself, or only a few consumes its own body: it does of the stages in this cycle may have not burn food, but tissue. The been gone through ; a man under cerfervid wheels of life were made out tain conditions will not survive six of food, and in their action motor days' fasting, and under other conpower is evolved. The difference be- ditions he will survive six weeks. tween the organism and the me- But if we cannot with any precision chanism is this : the production of say how long starvation will be in efheat in the organism is not the cause fecting its fatal end, we can say how of its activity, but the result of it; much waste is fatal. From the celewhereas in the mechanism the activity brated experiments of Chossat on originates in and is sustained by the Inanition,* it appears that death heat. Remove the coals which gener- arrives whenever the waste reaches ate the steam, and you immediately an average proportion of 0.4. That arrest the action of the mechanism; is to say, supposing an animal to but long after all the food has dis- weigh 100 lb., it will succumb when appeared, and become transformed its weight is reduced to 60 lb. Death into the solids and liquids of the may of course ensue before that living fabric, the organism continues point is reached, but not be proto manifest all the powers which it longed after it. The average loss manifested before. There is of course which can be sustained is 40 per cent ; a limit to this continuance, inasmuch sometimes the loss is greater, espeas vital activity is dependent on the cially if the animal be very fat : thus destruction of tissue. The man who in the Transactions of the Linnæan takes no food lives like a spendthrift Society, a case is reported of a fat pig on bis capital, and cannot survive his which was buried under thirty feet capital. He is observed to get thin, of chalk for one hundred and sixty pale, and feeble, because he is spend days; his weight fell in that period ing without replenishing his coffers ; no less than 75 per cent. Curiously he is gradually impoverishing him- enough, as an illustration of what self, because Life is waste ; for Life was just said respecting Time not moves along the stepping-stones of being an index, fishes and reptiles were change, and change is death. found by Chossat to perish at precisely

If we examine the blood of a starv- the same limit of weight as warming man, we shall find its elementary blooded animals, but they required a composition to be precisely similar to period three-and-twenty times as long that of the same man in his healthy to do it in : thus if the experiment be state, but the proportions of that performed of starving a bird and a

* CHOSSAT: Recherches Expérimentales sur l’Inanition. 1843.

frog during the warm weather, al- always eating, because an enormous though both will perish when their amount of vegetable food is needed loss of weight reaches 40 per cent, to furnish him with sustenance. The the one will not survive a week, the lion, or the cat, becomes inured to other will. survive three-and-twenty long abstinence; the rabbit or the weeks.

cow scarcely knows the feeling. It Having clearly fixed these prin- is clear, therefore, that the one will ciples, we may proceed to consider better endure long fasting than the the many remarkable cases of pro- other. Chossat's experiments on longed fasting which appeal to the eight-and-forty birds and animals credulity of the public, and which show that the average duration of life find a place even in very grave trea- exceeded nine days and a half-the tises, as well as in the less critical maximum being twenty days and a columns of newspapers. Are we to half, the minimum a little more than believe these marvels, or reject them? two days. The young always die and on what grounds are we justified first, the adult before the aged: this in rejecting them ? Such questions is true of men as of animals. Some the reader will frequently be called of the simpler animalsexhibit remarkupon to answer; and as a contribu- able powers of endurance. Latreille tion towards the formation of a defi- pinned a spider to a cork, and after nite and philosophical judgment, I four months found it still alive. will state some of the most striking Baker kept a stag-beetle three years cases on record, and the physiological in a box without food, and at the end principles implied in them.

of that period it flew away. Müller The human body is in many re- relates that a scorpion not only surspects so different from that of vived the voyage from Africa to animals, especially in its complexity, Holland, but continued without food that we can draw no very accurate for nine months afterwards. Rondeconclusion from their powers of en- let kept a fish three years without during abstinence; but after all, the food, and Rudolphi a Proteus anguidifferences will only be differences of neus five years ! Snakes, we know, degree, and the same physiological live for many months without eating; laws must regulate both, so that we and Redi found that a seal lived, out may be certain of the effect of absti- of water and without food, four weeks. nence on man not being essentially In these cases, except the fish kept dissimilar to that on all other warm- by Rondelet, the animals were quiesblooded animals. Let us therefore cent, and did not waste their subfirst see how the case stands with stance by the ordinary activities; animals. The experiments of Pom- and with regard to the fish, some mer establish that carnivorous ani- doubts may be entertained whether mals resist starvation longer than it did not find worms and larvæ in the herbivorous; birds of prey longer the water. than birds feeding on seeds and fruits. Passing from animals to man, we I think we might a priori have de- find that death arrives on the fifth or duced this conclusion from the known sixth day of total abstinence from differences in the intervals of recur- food and drink. But this is a general ring Hunger, and in the different statement to which various exceptions quantities of food eaten by the two may be named. Much depends on classes. The carnivorous animal eats the peculiar constitution of the indiyoraciously when food is within reach, vidual, his age, health, and other but having satisfied his appetite, he conditions. Some die on the second remains several hours before again and third days; others survive till feeling hungry; and in a state of the tenth, eleventh, and even sixnature the intervals between his teenth days. Again, considerable meals are necessarily variable, and differences will result from the differoften much prolonged, because his ent situations in which the men are food is neither abundant nor easy of placed-such as those of quiescence access.

The herbivorous animal, on or activity, of temperature, moisture, the other hand, has his food con- &c. stantly within reach, and is almost The examples of protracted fasting


[ocr errors]

recorded are, as usual, deficient for explain them. The possibility of the most part in that rigorous authen- deception and exaggeration is so ticity which is demanded by science; great, that we are tempted to reject inany of them are obviously fabu- almost every one of these cases rather lous exaggerations. M. Bérard has than reject all physiological teaching. borrowed the following from Haller, The following is one of the most adding some cases which came under extraordinary of the cases which his own knowledge. I give them as are repeated by modern writers with specimens, not as data.

confidence. Janet M‘Leod, after epi“A young girl, ashamed to confess her lepsy and fever, remained five years in poverty, went without food for seventy- bed, seldom speaking, and receiving eight days,

during which she only sucked food only by constraint. At length lemons.

she obstinately refused all susten" Another woman of the same place ance, her jaws became locked, and in remained four months without food, attempting to force them open two and another fasted a whole year.

of her teeth were broken. A small “Haller reports two other cases of quantity of liquid was introduced by fasting for three and four years. the aperture, none of which she

“Mackenzie reports in the Philosophi swallowed, and dough made of oatcal Transactions the story of a young meal was likewise rejected.

She girl who had lockjaw for eighteen years, slept much, and her head was bent and had taken food during four years. “A Scotchwoman is reported in the

down on her breast. In this deplorPhilosophical Transactions, vol. lxvii., to

able state she continued four years, have lived eight years without taking without her relatives being aware of anything except a little water on one or her receiving any aliment except a two occasions.

little water; but after a longer in"A case of fasting for ten years is terval she revived, and subsisted on celebrated in many works. Fabrice de crumbs of bread with milk, or water Hilden, who took precautions against sucked from her hand. deception, says that Eva Flegen neither

Attention is called to the two facts ate nor drank during six years. “But all these stories are surpassed

of Janet's seldom speaking and sleepby that of a woman who remained

fifty ing

much, because, supposing the case years without food ; it is added, how

to be true, they materially affect the ever, that she sometimes took skimmed question. In a state of such quiesmilk.”

cence as is here implied, the waste of "Admitting,” says M. Bérard, “that the body would be reduced to a minithere has been deception in some of these mum, consequently the need of food cases, and that the love of the marvellous would be minimised. Nevertheless, has presided over the narration of others, in the present state of Physiology, I we cannot refuse to believe that some are think we are justified in asserting authentic. Every year such cases are regis- that some deception or exaggeration, tered. In 1836, M. Lavigne invited me to visit a woman of fifty-two, who, after hav

not now ascertainable, is at the

bottom of this as of all similar ing reduced herself to a glass of milk daily during eighteen montòs, had taken no

cases; and until a case free from thing in the shape of food or drink dur- all suspicion shall have been proing the last five months. In 1839, M. duced for the satisfaction of Science, Parizot communicated to me the fact of we are bound to deny the probability a girl at Marcilly who had taken no solid of such stories; since that which all nutriment for six years, and for the last our knowledge shows to be in itself five years no liquid or solid. In 1838, contradictory, and, as far as we can M. Plongeau wrote to me to say that he judge, not possible, must necessarily had seen a woman at Ayrens, aged eight have the highest improbability, and and - forty, who during the last eight

can only be accepted on the most years had received no nourishment whatever.

rigorous evidence. Either we must

give up our Physiology altogether, or It is rather startling to find so we must reject these stories. learned a physiologist as M. Bérard For observe, on the one hand, severecording such cases, and trying to ral of the reported cases of long fasting

* BÉRARD : Cours de Physiologie, 1848, vol. i. p.


have been subsequently proved to be degree of temperature maintained impostures, and this naturally throws during a period of four years, solely a suspicion over all similar cases. On by the combustion of the body itselt, the other hand, physiological laws, we shall see at once that it is utterly established by induction from thou- impossible any organism, during so sands of facts tested in every variety long a period, could sustain such of method, pronounce these cases to waste without repair. Here, then, be not possible; and we are called is the dilemma: either Janet M‘Leod upon to decide whether it is more did maintain the ordinary temperaprobable that these inductions should ture of the body during these four be wrong, or that some imposture or years, in which case she must have exaggeration should lie at the bottom destroyed more tissue to produce of the narrated marvels? There can- that heat than she could have had not be a moment's hesitation as to originally; or she did not maintain which alternative we must accept; the ordinary temperature, in which but the reader will naturally desire case she would have died from the a clear conception of the physiolo- very want of this animal heat, since all gical contradictions which I have organisms perish when their normal asserted to be implied in these mar- temperature is considerably lowered. vellous narratives—the more so as Let us now consider the second many professed physiologists do not source of waste. Janet breathed seem to be aware of them.

during these four years ; gently, we Supposing the waste of the body may suppose, and with no deep to be reduced to a minimum by the inspirations, yet constantly, day and perfect quiescence in which the night without interruption. Now, patients remained, we must still what does this breathing depend on i bear in mind that this diminution It depends on the constant interis not total arrest of waste. The change between carbonic acid in the patient scarcely moves, seldom speaks, blood, and oxygen in the air. Unand sleeps much. Very little destruc- less there were carbonic acid in the tion of tissue will take place, com- blood, no exchange could take place, pared with the amount destroyed by no breathing could be effected. Every the same person in ordinary activity, moment, therefore, some small portion and very little food will be needed to of carbonic acid must be separated repair such waste; but although from the blood, and replaced by oxycomparatively small, the amount of gen. Whence came this carbonic waste will be absolutely large; we acid ? From destruction of tissue. cannot say how large it will be, we Directly, or indirectly, carbonic acid can only say that it must be large. was produced in the act of waste. Let us fix our attention on only two Its presence implies waste, and the sources of this waste, and the proof act of breathing implies a continuous will be evident. The production of supply of such waste. That this is animal heat is only possible through no hypothesis, but the simple exa large amount of chemical change pression of the facts, every physiologoing on in the organism ; it is gist knows. It may be rendered produced by “ direct combustion” generally intelligible by referring to (according to the chemical school what is observed with the hyberof physiologists), by " the disengage- nating animals. The dormouse bement of heat in chemical compositions gins its winter sleep well clothed and decompositions" (according to with fat. It never moves for months; another school), and according to all its respiration is slow and feeble, but schools the high temperature of the it does breathe, and the waste of body depends on organic processes, its fat, which this breathing causes, which necessarily imply waste of is very noticeable at the close of tissue. The warmth of the bed in winter. Now, if we suppose Janet which the patient lies is not sufficient to have been in a state of to preserve her temperature at its pended vitality” analogous to that proper height; she must burn her of the dormouse, we shall still have own substance to keep up her animal to admit that her breathing alone heat ; and when we think of the high would gradually waste her substance;



« AnteriorContinuar »