« VorigeDoorgaan »
is exposed. At all events, we have a great particular benefit, though arising from a general constitution : but this last not being
my argument requires, lest I should seem by applying the instance to overrate its value, I have thought it fair to state the quèstion which attends it.
IV. In some joints, very particularly in the knees, there are loose cartilages or gristles between the bones, and within the joint, so that the ends of the bones, instead of working upon one another, work
the intermediate cartilages. Cheselden has observed*, that the contrivance of a loose ring is practised by mechanics, where the friction of the joints of any of their machines is great; as between the parts of crook-hinges of large gates, or under the head of the male screw of large vices. The cartilages of which we speak, have very much of the form of these rings. The comparison moreover shows the reason why we find them in the knees rather than in other joints. It is an expedient, we have seen, which a mechanic resorts to, only when some strong and heavy work is to be done. So here the thigh-bone has to achieve its motion at the knee, with the whole weight of the body pressing upon it, and often, as in rising
* Cheseld. Anat. p. 13. ed. 7th.
from our seat, with the whole weight of the body to lift. It should seem also, from Cheselden's account, that the slipping and sliding of the loose cartilages, though it be probably a small and obscure change, humoured the motion of the end of the thigh-bone, under the particular configuration which was necessary to be given to it for the commodious action of the tendons; (and which configuration requires what he calls a variable socket, that is, a concavity, the lines of which assume a different curvature in different inclinations of the bones).
V. We have now done with the configuration : but there is also in the joints, and that common to them all, another exquisite provision, manifestly adapted to their use, and concerning which there can, I think, be no dispute, namely, the regular supply of a mucilage, more emollient and slippery than oil itself, which is constantly softening and lubricating the parts that rub upon each other, and thereby diminishing the effect of attrition in the highest possible degree. For the continual secretion of this important liniment and for the feeding of the cavities of the joint with it, glands are fixed near each joint; the excretory ducts of which glands, dripping with their balsamic contents, hang loose like
fringes within the cavity of the joints. A late improvement in what are called frictionwheels, which consist of a mechanism so ordered, as to be regularly dropping oil into a box, which encloses the axis, the nave, and certain balls upon which the nave revolves, may be said, in some sort, to represent the contrivance in the animal joint; with this superiority, however, on the part of the joint, viz. that here, the oil is not only dropped, but made.
In considering the joints, there is nothing, perhaps, which ought to move our gratitude more than the reflection, how well they wear. A limb shall swing upon its hinge, or play in its socket, many hundred times in an hour, for sixty years together, without diminution of its agility: which is a long time for any thing to last ; for any thing so much worked and exercised as the joints are. This durability, I should attribute, in part, to the provision which is made for the preventing of wear and tear, first, by the polish of the cartilaginous surfaces ; secondly, by the healing lubrication of the mucilage; and, in part, to that astonishing property of animal constitutions, assimilation, by which, in every portion of the body, let it consist of what it will, substance is restored, and waste repaired.
Moveable joints, I think, compose the curiosity of bones; but their union, even where no motion is intended or wanted, carries marks of mechanism and of mechanical wisdom. The teeth, especially the front teeth, are one bone fixed in another, like a peg driven into a board. The sutures of the skull are like the edges of two saws clapped together, in such a manner as that the teeth of one enter the intervals of the other. We have sometimes one bone lapping over another, and planed down at the edges ; sometimes also the thin lamella of one bone receive ed into a narrow furrow of another. In all which varieties, we seem to discover the same design, viz. firmness of juncture, without clumsiness in the seam.
OF THE MUSCLES.
MUSCLES, with their tendons, are the instruments by which animal motion is performed. It will be our business to point out instances in which, and properties with respect to which, the disposition of these muscles is as strictly mechanical, as that of the wires and strings of a puppet.
I. We may observe, what I believe is universal, an exact relation between the joint and the muscles which move it. Whatever motion the joint, by its mechanical construction, is 'capable of performing, that motion, the annexed muscles, by their position, are capable of producing. For example; if there be, as at the knee and elbow, a hinge-joint, capable of motion only in the same plane, the leaders, as they are called, i.e. the muscular tendons, are placed in directions parallel to the bone, so as, by the contraction or relaxation of the muscles to which they belong, to produce that motion and no other. If these joints were capable of a freer motion, there are no muscles to produce it. Whereas at the shoulder and the hip, where the ball and socket joint allows by its construction of a rotatory or sweeping motion, tendons are placed in such a position, and pull in such a direction, as to produce the motion of which the joint admits. For instance, the sartorius or tailor's muscle, rising from the spine, running diagonally across the thigh, and taking hold of the inside of the main bone of the leg, a little below the knee, enables us, by its contraction, to throw one leg and thigh over the other; giving effect, at the same time, to the