Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

port, but which, having met with very little encouragement, was not repeated by himself or imitated by any of the other savans. In the Anatomical Section, Sir Charles Bell gave an account of his discoveries in the nervous system, of which we find the following report in the Scotsman of 13th September.

“ On Thursday and Friday, there was a numerous attendance in the Anatomical Section, when Sir Charles Bell gave an interesting exposition of his views of the nervous system. He was the first to demonstrate what other physiologists had previously conjectured to be probable, viz. the existence of separate nerves of motion and of sensation. His statement was a recapitulation of his publications, and we did not observe that he added any new facts. In several particulars we were gratified by his exposition, as marking the certain, although slow, progress of truth. Dr Spurzheim, when he visited Edinburgh in 1816, maintained that the uses of the brain could not be philosophically ascertained by mutilations of the brains of animals; but he was ridiculed for saying so, and it was asserted that this was one of his numerous back-doors for escaping from adverse evidence, Flourens and Magendie in France, Sir William Hamilton here, and various other individuals, have, in the interval, performed numerous experiments on the brains of the lower creatures, and published results which have been extensively cited as evidence against Phrenology. Yesterday, Sir Charles Bell explicitly stated, that he also had made such experiments, and had obtained no satisfactory results; and he then shewed why he had failed, and why all other experimenters must fail who pursue this method of inquiry. These experiments always, and necessarily, involve a great shock to the nervous system in general, and cannot be confined in their effects to the part cut out. add,--If we do not know what office the part performs in health, how can we know whether the function has ceased in conscquence of the ablation or not? It may be very true, that if we were to cut out the

organ

of Tune from the brain of a canary, the bird would never sing again; but if, in ignorance of what part is that organ, we were to cut out any other portion of the brain, with a view to discover it, we should be disappointed ; because, whatever part we injured, the effect on its singing would always be the same; it would cease to sing, for the obvious reason that singing and a mangled brain are not compatible in nature. We rejoiced to hear this method of investigation renounced and condemned by so great an authority.

“ In the 49th Number of the Edinburgh Review, the late Dr John Gordon wrote a severe attack on Dr Spurzheim, for asserting that the brain exhibited fibres extending from the corpora pyramidalia, olivaria, and restiformia, to its surface. In his Observations on the Structure of the Brain,' published in

We may

[ocr errors]

1817, in support of the Review, he declared Dr Spurzheim's description of this particular structure to be objectionable in all its points, and full of error and hypothesis.' He also condemned, in strong terms, Dr Spurzheim's plate of a section of the brain, shewing the alleged fibres. It is due to the great cause of truth to state, that Sir Charles Bell, according to our understanding of his statement, admitted the existence of these disputed fibres to the full extent asserted by Dr Spurzheim, and that the plate of a section of the brain exhibiting the fibres, which he produced in illustration of his views, presented to our eyes precisely the same appearance as the drawing given by Dr Spurzheim, which was so loudly condemned.

“ Sir Charles Bell is no phrenologist. He did not allude to the subject, and made no pretensions to knowledge of the functions of the particular portions of the brain. This was a sound and philosophical proceeding, and we admire the candour and justice which dictated it, as much as the talents which led him to his own discoveries of the functions of the nerves.”

At the meeting of the Natural History Section, held on 12th September, Mr Pentland, in continuation of the observations which he had offered at a previous meeting, on the physical configuration of the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, and on the distribution of organic life, at different elevations on the declivity of these gigantic chains, entered into details on the reasons which have led him to conclude that there existed, at a comparatively recent period, and between the 14° and 19° of S. Lat., a race of men very different from any of those now inhabiting our globe, characterised principally by the anomalous form of the cranium, in which two-thirds of the entire weight of the cerebral mass is placed behind the occipital foramen, and in which the bones of the face are very much elongated, so as to give to these crania more the appearance of certain species of the ape family, than that of human beings. Mr Pentland entered into details to prove that this extraordinary form cannot be attributed to pressure, or any external force, similar to that still employed by many American tribes; and adduced, in confirmation of this view, the opinions of Cuvier, of Gall, and of many other celebrated naturalists and anatomists.

“The remains of this extraordinary race are found in ancient tombs of the mountainous districts of Peru and Bolivia, and principally in the great interalpine valley of Titicaca, and on the borders of the lake of the same name. These tombs present very remarkable architectural beauty, and appear not to date beyond seven or eight centuries before the present period.

“ The race of men to which these extraordinary remains belong, appears to Mr Pentland to have constituted the inbabitants of the elevated regions, situated between the 14 and 19° of South Lat., before the arrival of the present Indian population, which, in its physical characters, its customs, &c. offers many analogies with the Asiatic races of the old world *.”

The Phrenological Society possesses a skull from the neighbourhood of Arica on the coast of Peru, to which Mr Pentland's description applies. Its form differs in a remarkable manner from that of the skulls brought from Lima, which are very broad in proportion to their length. We have a paper in progress respecting the skulls and character of the Peruvian Indians, and shall advert in it to Mr Pentland's observations, which are published in the Dublin Journal of Medical and Chemical Science for July 1834. We exhibited the Arica skull to Mr Pentland, and understood him to say that he regarded it, though found in a burial place on the coast, as having belonged to a native of the interior, one of the race now extinct. He was unluckily called away before we could inquire into the reasons on which this conclusion was founded.

On 13th September, Dr Abercrombie concluded the business of the Medical Section by a very excellent address, in which, after expressing his confidence in the zeal of the members in following out the investigations which had been recommended to them, and impressing on them the necessity of cultivating pathology, he proceeded to make some observations on the interest and importance to the medical profession of the study of mental philosophy.“ In alluding to this subject, he said he was aware of the objections which had been brought against admitting the philosophy of mind as one of the regular Sections of the Association; and to a considerable extent he admitted their truth, as it might be difficult to preserve such discussions from those hypothetical speculations by which this important science had been so much obscured and retarded in its progress. But, by treating it as a branch of Physiology, he trusted this might be avoided, by rigidly restricting the investigation to a careful observation of facts, and the purposes of high practical utility to which they might be applied. Keeping in view the importance of these rules, he earnestly recommended the subject to medical inquirers, as capable of being cultivated on strict philosophical principles, as a science of observation, and as likely to yield laws, principles, or universal facts, which might be ascertained with the same precision as the laws of physical science. For this purpose, however, inquirers must abstain from all vain speculations respecting the nature and essence of mind, or the mode of its communication with external things, and must confine themselves to a simple and careful study of its operations. Some of these Dr Abercrombie alluded to under the following heads :the laws of the succession of thoughts, and the remarkable in.

* Edin. New Phil. Journ. October 1834, p. 433.

tor.

Aluence of association :the voluntary power which we possess over the succession of thought, the due culture of which lies at the foundation of all sound mental discipline :—the influence of habit upon mental processes, and the means of correcting injurious habits :—the important relation between voluntary intellectual processes and moral emotions, and between such intellectual processes and the result of evidence in producing conviction : the laws of reason or judgment—the means of cultivating itand the ruinous effects which result from the neglect of such culture. In concluding these observations, Dr Abercrombie alluded briefly to the moral phenomena of the human mind, and the impressions which we derive from them, with a feeling of absolute certainty, respecting the moral attributes of the Crea

“ Respecting the means of cultivating the Philosophy of Mind as a science of rigid observation, Dr Abercrombie alluded to the study of mental phenomena and mental habits in ourselves and in other men; and the whole phenomena of dreaming, insanity, and delirium, and the mental conditions which occur in connexion with diseases and injuries of the brain. The subjects of dreaming and insanity, which have hitherto been little cultivated with this view, he considered as capable of being prosecuted on sound philosophical principles, and as likely to yield curious and important results respecting the laws of association, and various other processes of the mind.

“ The practical purposes to which mental science may be ap

“ plied, Dr Abercrombie considered briefly under the following heads :-(1.) The education of the young, and the cultivation of a sound mental discipline at any period of life. In all other departments, we distinctly recognise the truth, that every art must be founded upon science, or on a correct knowledge of the uniform relations and sequences of the essences to which the art refers; and it cannot be supposed that the only exception to this rule should be the highest and most delicate of all human pursuits, the science and the art of the mind. (2.) The intellectual and moral treatment of insanity, presenting a subject of intellectual observation and experiment, in which little comparatively has been done, but which seems to promise results of the highest importance and interest. (3.) The prevention of insanity in individuals in whom there exists the hereditary predisposition to it. He gave his reasons for being convinced that in such cases, much might be done by a careful mental culture, and that irremediable injury might arise from the neglect of it. (4.) Dr Abercrombie alluded to the importance of mental science as the basis of a Philosophical Logic, but did not enlarge on this part of the subject. He concluded his address by some observations on the dignity and importance of medicine, as one of the highest pursuits to which the human mind can be directed ; as it combines with the culture of a liberal science the daily exercise of an extensive benevolence, and thus tends at once to cultivate the highest powers of the understanding and the best feelings of the heart.” *

In conclusion we remark, that although the British Association, under its present constitution, may perhaps be right in excluding discussions on the relations of intellectual beings, it must be humiliating to the philosophers of the nineteenth century to make the public acknowledgment which we have quoted, of the entire absence of any philosophy of mind which can be included among the sciences, and discussed with temper and judgment, and without “ imprudently and daringly passing the boundaries of the Association.” We must be permitted also to tell them, that they will make a sorry figure at the bar of posterity, when Phrenology shall be recognised as the very philosophy of which they stood in need, and when it will be universally acknowledged that their narrow-minded prejudices alone prevented them from investigating and adopting it.

[ocr errors]

ARTICLE V.

CASE OF IDIOCY.

At a meeting of the Manchester Phrenological Society in September last, Mr G. Wilson, the President, read a paper on a remarkable case of idiocy, illustrated by a cast of the individual's head. This paper we regard as a valuable contribution to phrenological literature. A copy of the cast having been presented by the society now mentioned, to the Phrenological Society in Edinburgh, we are enabled to give a sketch of it on page 128. For the sake of contrast, a view of the head of Rammohun Roy, on the same scale, is-likewise inserted.

This individual, as we learn from Mr Wilson's paper, is the son of a labourer in moderate circumstances, and was born near Prestwich, in October 1814; so that he is now twenty years of age. He is the third of five children, and is in perfect health. The integuments of the skull are very thick and loose, so that the brain is not so large as might be supposed by one who has not manipulated the head. The hair appears to have been of considerable length when the cast was made. The stature of the individual is about five feet six inches, and he weighs about nine stones.

His father states, that for a considerable time after birth he

* Edin. New Phil. Journ. Oct. 1834, p. 413.

« PredošláPokračovať »