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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 membrane 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 inta 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 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 impressions 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 any thing 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.
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 connexion, 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 of specific propagation; and that whatever was true of the watch, under the hypothesis above-mentioned, is true of plants and animals.
I. To begin with the fructification of plants. Can it be doubted but that the seed contains a particular organization? Whether a latent plantule with the means of temporary nutrition, or whatever else it be, it encloses an organization suited to the germination of a new plant. Has the plant which produced the seed
any thing more to do with that organization, than the watch would have had to do with the structure of the watch which was produced in the course of its mechanical movement? I mean, Has it any thing at all to do with the contrivance? The maker and
All the pro
contriver of one watch, when he inserted within it a mechanism. suited to the production of another watch, was, in truth, the maker and contriver of that other watch. All the perties of the new watch were to be referred to his agency: the design manifested in it, to his intention: the art, to him as the artist: the collocation of each part to his placing: the action, effect, and use, to his counsel, intelligence, and workmanship. In producing it by the intervention of a former watch, he was only working by one set of tools instead of another. So it is with the plant, and the seed produced by it. Can any distinction be assigned between the two cases; between the producing watch, and the producing plant; both passive, unconscious substances; both by the organization which was given to them, producing their like, without understanding or design; both, that is, instruments ?
II. From plants we may proceed to oviparous animals ; from seeds to eggs. Now I say, that the bird has the same concern in the formation of the egg which she lays, as the plant has in that of the seed which it drops; and no other, nor greater. The internal constitution of the egg is as much a secret to the hen, as if the hen were inani