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laws and limitations being laid down, it is as though one Being should have fixed certain rules; and, if we may so speak, provided certain materials; and, afterward, have committed to another Being, out of these materials, and in subordination to these rules, the task of drawing forth a creation: a supposition which evidently leaves room, and induces indeed a necessity, for contrivance. Nay, there may be many such agents, and many ranks of these. We do not advance this as a doctrine either of philosophy or of religion ; but we say that the subject may safely be represented under this view, because the Deity, acting himself by general laws, will have the same consequences upon our rea. soning, as if he had prescribed these laws to another. It has been said, that the problem of creation was, " attraction and matter being given, to make a world out of them :" and, as above explained, this statement perhaps does not convey a false idea.
We have made choice of the eye as an instanoe upon which to rest the argument of this chapter. Some single example was to be proposed ; and the eye offered itself under the advantage of admitting of a strict comparison with optical instruments. The ear, it is probable, is no less artificially and mechanically adapted to its office, than the eye. But we know less about it: we do not so well understand the action, the use, or the mutual dependency, of its internal parts. Its general form, however, both external and internal, is suffi. cient to shew that it is an instrument adapted to the reception of sound; that is to say, already knowing that sound consists in pulses of the air, we perceive, in the structure of the ear, a suitableness to receive impressions from this species of action, and to propagate these impressions to the brain. For of what does this structure consist ? An external ear (the concha), calculated, like an ear-trumpet, to catch and collect the pulses of which we have spoken ; in large quadrupeds, turning to the sound, and possessing a configuration, as well as motion, evidently fitted for the office : of a tube which leads into the head, lying at the root of this outward ear, the folds and sinuses thereof tend
ing and conducting the air towards it: of a thin membrane, like the pelt of a drum, stretched across this passage upon a bony rim : of a chain of moveable, and infinitely curious, bones, forming a communication, and the only communication that can be observed, between the membrane last mentioned and the interior channels and recesses of the skull : of cavities, similar in shape and form to wind instruments of music, being spiral or portions of circles: of the eustachian tube, like the hole in a drum, to let the air pass freely into and out of the barrel of the ear, as the covering membrane vibrates, or as the temperature may be altered : the whole labyrinth hewn out of a rock ; that is, wrought into the substance of the hardest bone of the body. This assemblage of connected parts constitutes together an apparatus, plainly enough relative to the transmission of sound, or of the impulses received from sound, and only to be lamented in not being better understood..
The communication within, formed by the small bones of the ear, is, to look upon, more like what we are accustomed to call machinery, than any thing I am acquainted with in animal bodies. It seems evidently designed to continue towards the sensorium the tremulous motions which are excited in the membrane of the tympanum, or what is better known by the name of the “drum of the ear.” The compages of bones consists of four, which are so disposed, and so hinge upon one another, as that if the membrane, the drum of the ear, vibrate, all the four are put in motion together; and, by the result of their action, work the base of that which is the last in the series, upon an aperture which it closes, and upon which it plays, and which aperture opens into the tortuous canals that lead to the brain. This last bone of the four is called the stapes, The office of the drum of the ear is to spread out an extended surface, capable of receiving the impressions of sound, and of being put by them into a state of vibration. The office of the stapes is to repeat these vibrations. It is a re. peating frigate, stationed more within the line. From which account of its action may be understood, how the sensation of sound will be excited by any thing which
communicates a vibratory motion to the stapes, though not, as in all ordinary cases, through the intervention of the membrana tympani. This is done by solid bodies applied to the bones of the skull, as by a metal bar holden at one end between the teeth, and touching at the other end a tremulous body. It likewise appears to be done, in a considerable degree, by the air itself, even when this membrane, the drum of the ear, is greatly damaged. Either in the natural or preternatural state of the organ, the use of the chain of bones is to propagate the impulse in a direction towards the brain, and to propagate it with the advantage of a lever; which advantage consists in increasing the force and strength of the vibration, and at the same time diminishing the space through which it oscillates; both of which changes may augment or facilitate the still deeper action of the auditory nerves.
The benefit of the eustachian tube to the organ, may be made out upon known pneumatic principles. Behind the drum of the ear is a second cavity, or barrel, called the tympanum. The eustachian tube is a slender pipe, but sufficient for the passage of air, leading from this cavity into the back part of the mouth. Now, it would not have done to have had a vacuum in this cavity ; for, in that case, the pressure of the atmosphere from without would have burst the membrane which covered it. Nor would it have done to have filled the cavity with lymph or any other secretion; which would necessarily have obstructed both the vibration of the mem. brane and the play of the small bones. Nor, lastly, would it have done to have occupied the space with confined air, because the expansion of that air by heat, or its contraction by cold, would have distended or relaxed the covering membrane, in a degree inconsistent with the purpose which it was assigned to execute. The only remaining expedient, and that for which the eustachian tube serves, is to open to this cavity a communication with the external air. In one word; it exactly answers the purpose of the hole in a drum.
The membrana tympani itself likewise, deserves all the examination which can be made of it. It is not found in the ears of fish; which furnishes an additional
proof of what indeed is indicated by every thing about it, that it is appropriated to the action of air, or of an elastic medium. It bears an obvious resemblance to the pelt or head of a drum, from which it takes its name. It resembles also a drum-head in this principal property, that its use depends upon its tension. Tension is the state essential to it. Now we know that, in a drum, the pelt is carried over a hoop, and braced as occasion requires, by the means of strings attached to its circumference. In the membrane of the ear, the same purpose is provided for, more simply, but not less mechanically, nor less successfully, by a different expedient, viz. by the end of a bone (the handle of the malleus) pressing upon its centre. It is only in very large animals that the texture of this membrane can be discerned. In the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1800, (vol. i.) Mr. Everard Home has given some curious observations upon the ear, and the drum of the ear of an elephant. He discovered in it, what he calls a radiated muscle. that is, straight muscular fibres, passing along the mombrane from the circumference to the centre; from the bony rim which surrounds it towards the handle of the malleus to which the central part is attached. This muscle he supposes to be designed to bring the membrane into unison with different sounds : but then he also discovered, that this muscle itself cannot act, unless the membrane be drawn to a stretch, and kept in a due state of tightness, by what may be called a foreign force, viz. the action of the muscles of the malleus. Supposing his explanation of the use of the parts to be just, our author is well founded in the reflection which he makes upon it, “ that this mode of adapting the ear to different sounds, is one of the most beautiful applications of muscles in the body: the mechanism is so simple, and the variety of effects so great."
In another volume of the Transactions above referred to, and of the same year, two most curious cases are related, of persons who retained the sense of hearing, not in a perfect, but in a very considerable degree, notwithstanding the almost total loss of the membrane we have been describing. In one of these cases, the use here assigned to that membrane, of modifying the im
pressions of sound by change of tension, was attempted to be supplied by straining the muscles of the outward ear. “The external ear," we are told, “had acquired a distinct motion upward and backward, which was observable whenever the patient listened to anything which he did not distinctly hear; when he was addressed in a whisper, the ear was seen immediately to move; when the tone of voice was louder, it then remained altogether motionless."
It appears probable, from both these cases, that a collateral, if not principal, use of the membrane, is to cover and protect the barrel of the ear which lies behind it. Both the patients suffered from cold: one, "a great increase of deafness from catching cold;" the other, “very considerable pain from exposure to a stream of cold air." Bad effects therefore followed from this cavity being left open to the external air ; yet, had the Author of nature shut it up by any other cover, than what was capable, by its texture, of receiving vibrations from sound, and, by its connexion with the interior parts, of transmitting those vibrations to the brain, the use of the organ, so far as we can judge, must have been entirely obstructed.
CHAP. IV. Of the succession of plants and animals. The generation of the animal no more accounts for the contrivance of the eye or ear, than, upon the supposition stated in a preceding chapter, the production of a watch by the motion and mechanism of a former watch, would account for the skill and intention evidenced in the watch so produced; than it would account for the disposition of the wheels, the catching of their teeth, the relation of the several parts of the works to one another, and to their common end; for the suitableness of their forms and places to their offices, for their connex. ion, their operation, and the useful result of that operation. I do insist most strenuously upon the correctness of this comparison; that it holds as to every mode