« AnteriorContinuar »
suffocation, putrefaction, and divers diseases, which be long to the history of medicine ; but only for that death which proceeds from bodily decay and the atrophy of old
age. To inquire however concerning the last step of death and the final extinction of life, which may happen so many ways both external and internal (yet all which meet as it were in a common porch before they come to the point of death), is in my judgment pertinent to this inquiry ; but I will reserve it till the end.
Whatever can be repaired gradually without destroying the original whole is, like the vestal fire, potentially eternal. When therefore physicians and philosophers observed that animals were nourished and their bodies repaired and refreshed, but that this was only for a time, as old age soon came on and was speedily followed by dissolution ; they looked for death in something that could not be properly repaired, imagining that there was some primitive and radical moisture which was not really repaired, but which even from childhood received a kind of spurious addition and no true repair ; and that with time this grew worse and worse, till at last it ended in none at all. But these opinions are very frivolous and ignorant. For in the time of growth and youth all the parts of animals are repaired entirely; nay, for a time they are increased in quantity and bettered in quality, so that the matter whereby they are repaired would be eternal, if the manner of repairing them did not fail. The real truth is this. In declining age repair takes place very unequally, some parts being repaired successfully enough, others with difficulty and for the worse ; so that from this time the human body begins to suffer that torture
of Mezentius, whereby the living die in the embraces of the dead, and the parts that are easily repaired, by reason of their connection with the parts hardly reparable, begin to decay. For even after the decline of age the spirit, blood, flesh, and fat are still easily repaired, when the drier or more porous parts, as the membranes, tunicles, nerves, arteries, veins, bones, cartilages, most of the bowels, and nearly all the organic parts are repaired with difficulty and loss. Now these parts when they ought to perform their office of repairing the other reparable parts, being impaired in their powers and activity, are no longer equal to their proper functions; and hence it results that very soon the whole tends to dissolution, and those very parts, which in their own nature are most capable of repair, are yet through the failure of the organs of repair no longer able to be similarly repaired, but decay, and in the end totally fail. The cause of the termination is this ; the spirit which like a gentle flame is ever preying on the body, and the external air which likewise sucks and dries bodies, conspiring with the spirit, do in the end destroy the workshop of the body with its machines and organs, and make them incapable of performing the work of repair. Such then are the true ways of natural death, which deserve to be well and carefully considered. For how can a man, who knows not the ways of nature, meet and turn her ?
There are therefore two subjects of inquiry; the one, the consumption or depredation of the human body; the other, the repair or refreshment thereof; with a view to the restraining of the one (as far as may be), and the strengthening and comforting the other. The first of these pertains principally to the spirits and external air, which cause the depredation ; the second to
1 the whole process of alimentation, which supplies the renovation. With regard to the first part of the inquiry, touching consumption, it has many things in common with bodies inanimate. For whatever the native spirit (which exists in all tangible bodies whether with or without life) and the ambient or external air do to bodies inanimate, the same they try to do to bodies animate, though the presence of the vital spirit in part disturbs and restrains these operations, and in part intensifies and increases them exceedingly. For it is very evident that
inanimate bodies can last a very long time without repair, but animate bodies without aliment and repair at once collapse and die out like fire. The inquiry therefore should be twofold;. regarding first the body of man as a thing inanimate and unrepaired by nourishment; and secondly as a thing animate and nourished. And with these prefatory remarks I now pass on to the Topics of Inquiry.
Articles of Inquiry concerning Life and Death.
1. Inquire into the Nature of Durable and Non
Durable inanimate bodies, and likewise in Vegetables ; not in a full and regular inquiry, but briefly, summarily, and as it were only by the
way. 2. Inquire more carefully touching the desiccation,
arefaction, and consumption of bodies inanimate and vegetable ; of the ways and processes whereby they are effected, and withal the methods whereby they are prevented and retarded, and bodies are preserved in their own state. Also inquire touching the inteneration, softening, and renewal of bodies, after they have once commenced to become dry.
Neither however need this inquiry be perfect or exact, as these things should be drawn from the proper title of Nature Durable ; and as they are not the principal questions in the present inquiry, but only shed a light on the prolongation and restoration of life in animals; wherein, as has been observed before, the same things generally happen, though in their own
From the inquiry concerning inanimate and vegetable bodies pass on to the inquiry of animals, not including man.
3. Inquire into the length and shortness of life in
animals, with the proper circumstances which
seem to contribute to either of them. 4. Since the duration of bodies is of two kinds, the
one in their simple identity, the other by repair; whereof the former takes place only in bodies inanimate, the latter in vegetables and living creatures, and is performed by alimentation ; inquire likewise touching alimentation, with its ways and process ; yet this not accurately (for it belongs to the titles of Assimilation and Alimentation) but as before, in passing only.
From the inquiry concerning animals and things supported by nourishment pass on to that concerning man. And having now come to the principal subject of inquiry, that inquiry should be more accurate and complete on all points.
5. Inquire into the length and shortness of men's
lives, according to the times, countries, climates,
and places in which they were born and lived. .6. Inquire into the length and shortness of men's
lives, according to their parentage and family (as if it were a thing hereditary); and likewise according to their complexion, constitution, habit of body, stature, manners and time of growth,
and the make and structure of their limbs. 7. Inquire into the length and shortness of men's
lives according to the times of their nativity ; but so as to omit for the present all astrological and horoscopical observations. Admit only the common and manifest observations (if there be