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Art. II. --Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural
History of Mun, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons. By WILLIAM LAWRENCE, F. R. S. Professor of Anatomy and Surgery to the College, Assistant Surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Surgeon to Bridewell and Bethlem Hospitals, and to the London Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye. London:1819. Salem, (Mass.) Foote & Brown: 1828. pp. 495.
We have thought that a notice of the above work would not be unacceptable to our readers, considering the nature of the subjects of which it treats, and the high and well merited reputation of its author. The intimate connexion that necessarily exists, between the natural history of man, and almost every department of moral and natural science, furnishes a sufficient reason for its interest and importance. Manners, costume, and mode of living, nuptial and funeral ceremonies, laws, government and religion, language, style of thought and predominant passions, the influence of physical causes on the human form and character, the diversities and resemblances of different races, and in short, every moral and physical peculiarity, all come under the notice of the naturalist in this field of his researches, and cannot be more interesting to him, than to every general inquirer. Man himself, the most perfect and admirable of nature's works, is the subject of investigation, and certainly no new facts can be discovered, no new principles deduced, relative to his natural history, which will not carry additional light into all other inquiries which concern his character or his destiny. Though the importance of this branch of science be acknowledged in general terms, yet we believe it is but seldom that it has been rightly appreciated, or that its results have had that extensive application in which they might have been properly and advantageously employed. Few, we are constrained to say, are acquainted with the stores of curi. ous and novel facts which it embraces, the great and interesting questions it involves, and the certainty and originality of its conclusions. The knowledge afforded us by the natural history of our species, has been too often considered as enclosed within the narrow pale of professional science, into which none but the ini. tiated could enter, without being repulsed at the very threshold, by the chilling array of technical phraseology and unintelligible allusions. We confess, that the display of anatomical and other scientific detail, which so frequently meets the eye of the unpractised inquirer, has had its influence in deterring many from a more familiar acquaintance with a science attended with so many dry and repulsive accompaniments. This may be considered as a cause of the neglect of this branch of knowledge ; but
instead of furnishing an excuse for it, it rather proves the necessity of that preliminary information, requisite to the proper understanding of any subject.
Ignorance of a science so rich in new and interesting results, and with such numerous and intimate relations, is inexcusable in any one engaged in enlarged philosophical inquiries relating to the moral or physical nature of man. To the zoologist, every fact in the natural history of our species must be doubly valuable, for it concerns that creature who stands at the head of the countless multitudes of the animal world, and whom nature has distinguished from his grovelling companions by every good and perfect gift. Our knowledge of the scale of being, generally, must in some measure be modified by our views of that species which occupies its highest and noblest rank. In him more than in any other being, the vital functions have been observed, and their relative importance estimated ; the harmony and beauty of organization unfolded ; the workings of passion and those higher phenomena of the mind studied and reduced to system, and the relations of the species, with surrounding objects, traced and understood. Not to the zoologist alone, who spends his peaceful existence in stuffing the skins of beasts or chasing the painted butterfly, and who confines his reasonings to the immediate objects of his observations, would we recommend an acquaintance with this subject, but even to those engaged in speculations higher, more refined, and, if you please, more closely connected with the interests of their species. We can assure the politician, that if he feels any curiosity to investigate the history, and trace the progress, of his science, he may see it in its most simple rudiments, and in various stages of advancement, in the laws and systems of polity of savage tribes. He will there find, unobscured by an infinity of complicated and conflicting interests, the germs of those deeply rooted principles, which bind together in harmony the discordant elements of civil society. And if the metaphysician ever hopes to obtain any successful results from his investigations of the mental phenomena, let him go where the human mind exists in its simplest conditions, where the passions burst forth spontaneous and unchecked by artificial restraints, and where the character is developed by the impulse of its own native energies. Let him see the mind, as it was in the beginning, unchanged by improvement or degradation, presenting in its bold rough outlines, varying in different races, and under different circumstances, an analysis ready made of those phenomena the most difficult of all others to analyze. Where can a particular passion be better studied than where it forms the peculiar features of the moral man, and exists free and unperverted by the influence of civilized life? It is where the elements of society remain in one rude chaotic mass, before the spirit of improvement has breathed into it the breath of life, and reduced the shapeless materials to beauty and order, that the intellectual phenomena may be observed with the best chance of obtaining useful and interesting results. Thither, too, may the scholar go, and observe the first attempts of the mind, to embody its conceptions in speech or in permanent signs; and tracing its progress from the first rude effusions, he may follow it through various degrees of perfection, to the ultimate efforts of mighty and creative genius. In the wild and infantile condition of the race, the theologian may behold the absorbing belief in supernatural and presiding existences, originating in those feelings of terror and awe, produced by the wonderful phenomena of the natural world, and trace it through its innumerable ramifications, till it comes to manifest its influence over every effort of the mind, and is felt through the whole range of human exertion.
It may indeed seem strange, that a science of such various and extensive bearings, should have received so little attention from general students; but the ignorance so often displayed on this subject, where better things were to be expected, is proof enough of the fact. How often is it that in discussions where a knowledge of the natural history of our species is involved, we find gross and ridiculous notions; in works, too, which have otherwise a very respectable character. How many, even at this day, among men of learning and general information, sincerely believe in the accounts of Robertson and Buffon, that the American aborigines are destitute of a beard, that the animals of the New World have degenerated from their primitive standard, or that the colour of the negro is produced by the action of a tropical sun. We would not have every one familiar with the form and dimensions of every cranium in Blumenbach's Decades, or acquainted with the physical peculiarities of every tribe on earth ; but there is here, as in all other departments of science, much knowledge, which ought to be common, and generally diffused. Enough should be known, to enable us to form correct views on the subject generally, and guard ourselves against gross errors and flimsy hypotheses. The most monstrous and ridiculous stories have ever been indebted for their currency to the imperfect knowledge existing among common minds, accompanied, as ignorance always is, by a proportionate share of credulity.
The progress of the natural history of man, it must be acknowledged, has not been commensurate with its importance ; and at this moment, it must be considered as far behind its kindred branches. One cause of this, no doubt, is the diversity and multiplicity of the inquiries which it involves, and the consequent incompetence, in a greater or less degree, of almost every individual observer. To give a perfect account of a newly discovered tribe, the observer must act in many capacities, and possess a variety of acquirements, rarely attained by a single individual. He must be an anatomist, in order that he may compare their external forms and proportions with those of other people already observed, and note their physical peculiarities,—a zoologist, to examine the inferior animals around them, and the relations that exist between them,-a physician, to study their diseases,-a botanist, to examine the plants used for their cure,-a physicien, (Gallicé) to ascertain the influence of the air, soil, water, temperature, &c. on their constitution,-a moralist, to investigate their moral peculiarities, and religious notions, and the influence of external circumstances in the formation of these,a philologist, to form vocabularies of their language and trace its affinities, -and last, not least, a draughtsman, to sketch their habitations, implements of war and of domestic use, and scenes characteristic of their customs and mode of living. This great diversity of requisite qualifications will explain, in some degree, why, though discoveries have been pushed to the remotest corners of the earth, and new tribes brought to light from time to time, and repeatedly visited, so little has been gained to the natural history of our species. Voyages of this kind have generally been projected more for the purpose of discovering new lands, and increasing commercial resources, than of making accessions to science; and in accordance with such views, we find that the only men of science who have accompanied the marine expeditions ordered by the British government, have been an astronomer, and perhaps a solitary naturalist, who attempted to act in so many capacities, that he accomplished but little in any.
The French nation have been usually actuated by more enlarged views, and have richly furnished their expeditions with distinguished scientific men. We believe we may assert without exaggeration, that in the single voyage of one geographer and naturalist, more extensive and perfect collections were formed, and more valuable scientific information obtained, than had been accumulated by all the English voyages of discovery together. Other nations, however, are beginning to see the importance of similar measures, and have latterly taken care to supply a proportion of suitable men. Much praise is due to our own government, for furnishing with naturalists, the land expeditions which it has ordered for examining the vast unexplored regions of the North American continent. When we compare our present knowledge of the animal, vegetable, and mineral productions of our soil, with that which we possessed thirty years ago, and contemplate the sources of wealth that have thus been opened to us, we want no better evidence of the valuable services of such men, and of the necessity of multiplying these expeditions. The gentlemen who have explored the African and Asiatic continents, can: not be considered, after the most liberal allowances, to have
made the best use of their opportunities for adding to the natural history of their species. With a few honourable exceptions, their chief object seems to have been the correction and enlargement of our geographical knowledge, or, sometimes, to gratify an ill-directed spirit of adventure, while higher and more important objects have been neglected. The scientific reader, who consults their pages in the hope of finding useful and interesting information, too often meets with descriptions of hairbreadth escapes and perilous and amusing adventures. It is to such travellers, incapable of making observations themselves, and with too little knowledge to profit by those which fall in their way, that we are indebted for those erroneous and whimsical accounts which disgrace the books of travels of the last century, and which more modern and better qualified observers have not yet succeeded in entirely discrediting. This class of worthies deals largely in the strange and the marvellous, in stories of Patagonian giants and anthropophagi, and “ men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." They are now hardly deserving of censure; their generation has gone by, and their fables would no longer be received with open ears and ready assent. But there is another class, entitled to the severest reprobation, not so numerous perhaps, but less harmless than the last, who, though not particularly interested in science themselves, are yet desirous that their labours should not be altogether useless to those who are. The observations of these men, are characteristically loose and indefi. nite ; the subjects on which they touch, are discussed with little of that spirit of philosophical investigation, without which such discussions are worthless ; and the hesitation and doubt with which we are obliged to receive their conclusions, render them almost nugatory. We rejoice, however, to see in modern travels a great improvement in this respect, and though we do not expect to find in every tourist a Peron or a Humboldt, we are more confident of meeting with a man of good judgment, who, if he makes no pretensions to natural science, at least has a due regard for truth and accuracy.
Professed naturalists themselves are, by no means, without their share of blame, as having contributed to bring about that neglect which the natural history of man has experienced. We ask any candid naturalist, whether we pass the limits of the strictest truth, when we assert, that there is not a class or order of beings in the whole animal or vegetable kingdom, which has not been the subject of closer observations, more enthusiastic study, deeper and more extensive research, than his own species. Infinitely more labour and expense have been bestowed, in illustrating even the insects of different countries, by elaborate treatises and costly engravings, than has ever been employed in representing the varieties of the human figure. We have splendid