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ed under this view, because the Deity, acting himself by general laws, will have the same consequences upon our reasoning, 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 instance 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 sufficient to show 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 thee 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 outwardear, the folds and sinuses thereof tending 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 repeating 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 tym
panum. 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 membrane, 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