Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

Page 62 of 79

1. Humoralia. Diseases attended with vitiated or extravasated fluids; as emphysema, œdema, inflammation, abscess, and gangrene.

2. Dialytica. Solutions of continuity; as fracture, dislocation, contusion, wound, laceration, burn, excoriation, chapped skin.

3. Exulcerationes. Purulent solutions of continuity; as ulcer, cancer, caries, fistula, whitlow.

4. Scabies. Cutaneous diseases; as lepra, itch, pimples, warts, pustule, eschar.

5. Tumores. Tumours or swellings; as aneurism, varix, scirrhus, anchylosis, ganglion, exostosis.[Pg 311]

6. Procidentiæ. Swellings arising from dislocation of soft parts; as rupture, prolapsus, phymosis.

7. Deformationes. Distortions; as rigidity of joints, humpback, curved bones, squinting, harelip, plica polonica.

8. Maculæ. Spots; as mole, scar, freckle, sunburn.

Now it is obvious that, in a pathological point of view, aneurism, anchylosis, and scirrhus, have no affinity to each other, nor to spina binda or scrofula, which are all genera of the same order. Nor have the different orders, deformationes, procidentiæ, humoralia, &c. any very perceptible bond of affinity. But the nosological, like the botanical system of Linnæus, without being natural, may be useful; and it were absurd to reject all attempts to classify diseases, because no scheme has been or can be invented, capable of giving each state of the body, or its various parts, its precise position in the mind. However, we have no reason to join the outcry of his biographers against the criticism of M. Vicq d'Azyr, who says, "he should have been the last to write on objects that were foreign to him, because he had recourse to that spirit of detail, and that aphoristic and figurative style, which have been considered as defects even in the works which established his reputation."

"The whole class of envious persons at Upsal," says Dr Stoever, "and in other parts of Sweden, found it strange and inconsistent at first to see the botanist Linnæus appear on the scene as a pathologist. They made very merry at his expense; but the goodness of his cause soon became triumphant." That his nosology was contemptible can hardly be admitted; but that it ever was triumphant, excepting[Pg 312] in his own university, no one who is desirous of adhering to truth can assert.

His theory of medicine is amusing, if not instructive. He supposes the human body to consist of a cerebroso-medullary part, of which the nerves are processes; and a cortical part, including the vascular system and its fluids. The nervous system, which is the animated part, derives its nourishment from the finer fluids of the vascular system, and its energy from an electrical principle inhaled by the lungs. The circulating fluids are capable of being vitiated by acescent or putrid ferments, the former acting on the serum, and causing critical fevers; the latter on the crassamentum, and exciting phlogistic diseases. Eruptive ailments are excited by external causes, which he supposes to be animalcula. The cortical or vascular system undergoing continual waste, requires continual reparation, which is effected by means of suitable diet. Its diseases arise from improper food, and are to be remedied by sapid medicines; while those of the medullary system are cured by olid substances.

Systems of nosology, theories of medicine, and classifications of natural objects and phenomena, agree in this one respect, that they are all eagerly embraced, strenuously defended, fall into disuse, and become subjects of ridicule. Such must be the fate of the Linnæan system of botany, as it has been of the other fancies of its author; and such must be the fate of every system not founded on organic structure and its modifications, or upon external form as connected with internal disposition.

In 1766, he published a small work extending to only twenty-nine pages, entitled Clavis Medicinæ[Pg 313] duplex, Exterior et Interior, which may be considered as a syllabus of his lectures. It contains a view of his theory of medicine, and an arrangement of drugs in thirty orders, according to their sensible qualities.

The last book which he produced was a continuation of his Mantissa, containing new species and genera, with a variety of emendations. Such of his writings as have not been already mentioned, will be noticed in a subsequent section; and in the mean time we resume our narrative, remarking, that few individuals had a longer scientific career than he; forty-four years having elapsed between the appearance of his first tract, the Hortus Uplandicus (in 1731) and the Mantissa (in 1771).

It would appear that Linnæus possessed a good constitution, although we have seen him suffering under attacks of rheumatism, nephritis, and gout. In 1764, as already mentioned, he had a violent attack of pleurisy; after which he passed the period of his convalescence at his villa of Hammarby, where, on the 9th July, he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his marriage. The same year he had the pleasure of marrying his eldest daughter to Lieutenant Bergencrantz.

It does not seem very easy to determine the precise nature of the disease under which he laboured, although it is probable that it was rheumatism and not gout. In the Latin diary of Dr Gieseke, as quoted by Stoever, is the following passage relative to this subject:—"In 1750, I (Linnæus) had such a violent attack of rheumatism (malum ischiadicum), that I had great difficulty in getting home. For a whole week the pain, which was insupportable,[Pg 314] prevented me from sleeping; for which reason I would have taken opium, but was prevented by a friend who came in on the seventh evening. My wife asked me if I would eat some strawberries. I will try, said I. It was about the beginning of the strawberry-season, and they were in good condition. Half an hour after, I fell asleep, and continued so till two in the morning. When I awoke, I wondered that the pain had abated, and asked whether I had been asleep, which the persons who were watching assured me had been the case. I asked if they had more of the strawberries, and ate up the remainder. I then slept till daylight, when the pain was about my ankles. Next day I ate as many strawberries as I could, and on the second morning was free of pain. I thought that mortification had taken place; but the part was entire, and I was able to get up, although I felt weak. Next year, about the same time, I had an attack, and another the following year, but milder, and it was always alleviated by the strawberries; and from that time I have been free of the disease." This conversation took place in 1771.

In the spring of 1772, he was visited by Dr Murray, professor of medicine and botany at Gottingen, who had been one of his pupils, and had long enjoyed his confidence and esteem. At this period he possessed good health, and was as ardent as ever in his endeavours for the improvement of science. He was appointed rector of the university for the third time, and, during the six months in which he discharged the duties of that office, the conduct of the young men was highly exemplary. When he retired, deputations from all the nations of the students came[Pg 315] to present their warmest thanks, and to beg his permission to print the address which he delivered on resigning.

In 1773, he had another attack of lumbago, and was moreover affected with an epidemic sore throat; but on the whole his health did not suffer materially. This year, a committee of six bishops, six doctors of divinity, and eight literary and scientific individuals, was appointed by the government to undertake a better translation of the Bible into the Swedish language. Linnæus was among the number, having been chosen on account of his knowledge of the animals and plants mentioned in the Scriptures; but it does not appear that he ever engaged seriously in the undertaking, although he made two journeys to Stockholm for the purpose.

Free Learning Resources