Third observation.—The fourteenth of June, a new furuncle appeared on the neck of the same person. The same examination, the same result, that is to say the development of the microscopic organism previously described and complete sterility of the blood of the general circulation, taken this time at the base of the furuncle outside of the inflamed area.
At the time of making these observations I spoke of them to Dr. Maurice Reynaud, who was good enough to send me a patient who had had furuncles for more than three months. On June thirteenth I made cultures of the pus from a furuncle of this man. The next day there was a general cloudiness of the culture fluids, consisting entirely of the preceding parasite, and of this alone.
Fourth observation.—June fourteenth, the same individual showed me a newly forming furuncle in the left axilla: there was wide- spread thickening and redness of the skin, but no pus was yet apparent. An incision at the center of the thickening showed a small quantity of pus mixed with blood. Sowing, rapid growth for twenty-four hours and the appearance of the same organism. Blood from the arm at a distance from the furuncle remained completely sterile.
June 17, the examination of a fresh furuncle on the same individual gave the same result, the development of a pure culture of the same organism.
Fifth observation.—July twenty-first, Dr. Maurice Reynaud informed me that there was a woman at the Lariboisiere hospital with multiple furuncles. As a matter of fact her back was covered with them, some in active suppuration, others in the ulcerating stage. I took pus from all of these furuncles that had not opened. After a few hours, this pus gave an abundant growth in cultures. The same organism, without admixture, was found. Blood from the inflamed base of the furuncle remained sterile.
In brief, it appears certain that every furuncle contains an aerobic microscopic parasite, to which is due the local inflammation and the pus formation that follows.
Culture fluids containing the minute organism inoculated under the skin of rabbits and guinea-pigs produce abscesses generally small in size and that promptly heal. As long as healing is not complete the pus of the abscesses contains the microscopic organism which produced them. It is therefore living and developing, but its propagation at a distance does not occur. These cultures of which I speak, when injected in small quantities in the jugular vein of guinea pigs show that the minute organism does not grow in the blood. The day after the injection they cannot be recovered even in cultures. I seem to have observed as a general principle, that, provided the blood corpuscles are in good physiological condition it is difficult for aerobic parasites to develop in the blood. I have always thought that this is to be explained by a kind of struggle between the affinity of the blood corpuscles for oxygen and that belonging to the parasite in cultures. Whilst the blood corpuscles carry off, that is, take possession of all the oxygen, the life and development of the parasite become extremely difficult or impossible. It is therefore easily eliminated, digested, if one may use the phrase. I have seen these facts many times in anthrax and chicken-cholera, diseases both of which are due to the presence of an aerobic parasite.
Blood cultures from the general circulation being always sterile in these experiments, it would seem that under the conditions of the furuncular diathesis, the minute parasite does not exist in the blood. That it cannot be cultivated for the reason given, and that it is not abundant is evident; but, from the sterility of the cultures reported (five only) it should not be definitely concluded that the little parasite may not, at some time, be taken up by the blood and transplanted from a furuncle when it is developing to another part of the body, where it may be accidentally lodged, may develop and produce a new furuncle. I am convinced that if, in cases of furuncular diathesis, not merely a few drops but several grams of blood from the general circulation could be placed under cultivation frequent successful growths would be obtained. [Footnote: This prediction is fully carried out in the present day successful use of considerable amounts of blood in cultures and the resultant frequent demonstrations of bacteria present in the circulation in many infections.— Translator.] In the many experiments I have made on the blood in chicken-cholera, I have frequently demonstrated that repeated cultures from droplets of blood do not show an even development even where taken from the same organ, the heart for example, and at the moment when the parasite begins its existence in the blood, which can easily be understood. Once even, it happened that only three out of ten chickens died after inoculation with infectious blood in which the parasite had just began to appear, the remaining seven showed no symptoms whatever. In fact, the microbe, at the moment of beginning its entrance into the blood may exist singly or in minute numbers in one droplet and not at all in its immediate neighbor. I believe therefore that it would be extremely instructive in furunculosis, to find a patient willing to submit to a number of punctures in different parts of the body away from formed or forming furuncles, and thus secure many cultures, simultaneous of otherwise, of the blood of the general circulation. I am convinced that among them would be found growths of the micro-organism of furuncles.
II. On Osteomyelitis. Single observation. I have but one observation relating to this severe disease, and in this Dr. Lannelongue took the initiative. The monograph on osteomyelitis published by this learned practitioner is well known, with his suggestion of the possibility of a cure by trephining the bone and the use of antiseptic washes and dressings. On the fourteenth of February, at the request of Dr. Lannelongue I went to the Sainte-Eugenie hospital, where this skillful surgeon was to operate on a little girl of about twelve years of age. The right knee was much swollen, as well as the whole leg below the calf and a part of the thigh above the knee. There was no external opening. Under chloroform, Dr. Lannelongue made a long incision below the knee which let out a large amount of pus; the tibia was found denuded for a long distance. Three places in the bone were trephined. From each of these, quantities of pus flowed. Pus from inside and outside the bone was collected with all possible precautions and was carefully examined and cultivated later. The direct microscopic study of the pus, both internal and external, was of extreme interest. It was seen that both contained large numbers of the organism similar to that of furuncles, arranged in pairs, in fours and in packets, some with sharp clear contour, others only faintly visible and with very pale outlines. The external pus contained many pus corpuscles, the internal had none at all. It was like a fatty paste of the furuncular organism. Also, it may be noted, that growth of the small organism had begun in less than six hours after the cultures were started. Thus I saw, that it corresponded exactly with the organism of furuncles. The diameter of the individuals was found to be one one-thousandth of a millimeter. If I ventured to express myself so I might say that in this case at least the osteomyelitis was really a furuncle of the bone marrow. [Footnote: This has been demonstrated, as is well known.—Translator.] It is undoubtedly easy to induce osteomyelitis artificially in living animals.
III. On puerperal fever.—First observation. On the twelfth of March, 1878, Dr. Hervieux was good enough to admit me to his service in the Maternity to visit a woman delivered some days before and seriously ill with puerperal fever. The lochia were extremely fetid. I found them full of micro-organisms of many kinds. A small amount of blood was obtained from a puncture on the index finger of the left hand, (the finger being first properly washed and dried with a STERILE towel,) and then sowed in chicken bouillon. The culture remained sterile during the following days.
The thirteenth, more blood was taken from a puncture in the finger and this time growth occurred. As death took place on the sixteenth of March at six in the morning, it seems that the blood contained a microscopic parasite at least three days before.
The fifteenth of March, eighteen hours before death, blood from a needle-prick in the left foot was used. This culture also was fertile.
The first culture, of March thirteenth, contained only the organism of furuncles; the next one, that of the fifteenth, contained an organism resembling that of furunculosis, but which always differed enough to make it easy usually to distinguish it. In this way; whilst the parasite of furuncles is arranged in pairs, very rarely in chains of three or four elements, the new one, that of the culture of the fifteenth, occurs in long chains, the number of cells in each being indefinite. The chains are flexible and often appear as little tangled packets like tangled strings of pearls.
The autopsy was performed on the seventeenth at two o'clock. There was a large amount of pus in the peritoneum. It was sowed with all possible precautions. Blood from the basilic and femoral veins was also sowed. So also was pus from the mucous surface of the uterus, from the tubes, and finally that from a lymphatic in the uterine wall. These are the results of these cultures: in all there were the long chains of cells just spoken of above, and nowhere any mixture of other organisms, except in the culture from the peritoneal pus, which, in addition to the long chains, also contained the small pyogenic vibrio which I describe under the name ORGANISM OF PUS in the Note I published with Messrs. Joubert and Chamberland on the thirtieth of April, 1878. [Footnote: See preceding paper.]
Interpretation of the disease and of the death.—After confinement, the pus that always naturally forms in the injured parts of the uterus instead of remaining pure becomes contaminated with microscopic organisms from outside, notably the organism in long chains and the pyogenic vibrio. These organisms pass into the peritoneal cavity through the tubes or by other channels, and some of them into the blood, probably by the lymphatics. The resorption of the pus, always extremely easy and prompt when it is pure, becomes impossible through the presence of the parasites, whose entrance must be prevented by all possible means from the moment of confinement.
Second observation.—The fourteenth of March, a woman died of puerperal fever at the Lariboisiere hospital; the abdomen was distended before death.
Pus was found in abundance by a peritoneal puncture and was sowed; so also was blood from a vein in the arm. The culture of pus yielded the long chains noted in the preceding observation and also the small pyogenic vibrio. The culture from the blood contained only the long chains.
Third observation.—The seventeenth of May, 1879, a woman, three days past confinement, was ill, as well as the child she was nursing. The lochia were full of the pyogenic vibrio and of the organism of furuncles, although there was but a small proportion of the latter. The milk and the lochia were sowed. The milk gave the organism in long chains of granules, and the lochia only the pus organism. The mother died, and there was no autopsy.
On May twenty-eighth, a rabbit was inoculated under the skin of the abdomen with five drops of the preceding culture of the pyogenic vibrio. The days following an enormous abscess formed which opened spontaneously on the fourth of June. An abundantly cheesy pus came from it. About the abscess there was extensive induration. On the eighth of June, the opening of the abscess was larger, the suppuration active. Near its border was another abscess, evidently joined with the first, for upon pressing it with the finger, pus flowed freely from the opening in the first abscess. During the whole of the month of June, the rabbit was sick and the abscesses suppurated, but less and less. In July they closed; the animal was well. There could only be felt some nodules under the skin of the abdomen.
What disturbances might not such an organism carry into the body of a parturient woman, after passing into the peritoneum, the lymphatics or the blood through the maternal placenta! Its presence is much more dangerous than that of the parasite arranged in chains. Furthermore, its development is always threatening, because, as said in the work already quoted (April, 1878) this organism can be easily recovered from many ordinary waters.
I may add that the organism in long chains, and that arranged in pairs are also extremely widespread, and that one of their habitats is the mucous surfaces of the genital tract. [Footnote: When, by the procedure I elsewhere described, urine is removed in a pure condition by the urethra from the bladder, if any chance growth occurs through some error of technic, it is the two organisms of which I have been speaking that are almost exclusively present.]
Apparently there is no puerperal parasite, properly speaking. I have not encountered true septicemia in my experiments; but it ought to be among the puerperal affections.
Fourth observation.—On June fourteenth, at the Lariboisiere, a woman was very ill following a recent confinement; she was at the point of death; in fact she did die on the fourteenth at midnight. Some hours before death pus was taken from an abscess on the arm, and blood from a puncture in a finger. Both were sowed. On the next day (the fifteenth) the flask containing the pus from the abscess was filled with long chains of granules. The flask containing the blood was sterile. The autopsy was at ten o'clock on the morning of the sixteenth. Blood from a vein of the arm, pus from the uterine walls and that from a collection in the synovial sac of the knee were all placed in culture media. All showed growth, even the blood, and they all contained the long strings of granules. The peritoneum contained no pus.
Interpretation of the disease and of the death.—The injury of the uterus during confinement as usual furnished pus, which gave a lodging place for the germs of the long chains of granules. These, probably through the lymphatics, passed to the joints and to some other places, thus being the origin of the metastic abscesses which produced death.
Fifth observation.—On June seventeenth, M. Doleris, a well-known hospital interne, brought to me some blood, removed with the necessary precautions, from a child dead immediately after birth, whose mother, before confinement had had febrile symptoms with chills. This blood, upon cultivation, gave an abundance of the pyogenic vibrio. On the other hand, blood taken from the mother on the morning of the eighteenth (she had died at one o'clock that morning) showed no development whatever, on the nineteenth nor on following days. The autopsy on the mother took place on the nineteenth. It is certainly worthy of note that the uterus, peritoneum and intestines showed nothing special, but the liver was full of metastatic abscesses. At the exit of the hepatic vein from the liver there was pus, and its walls were ulcerated at this place. The pus from the liver abscesses was filled with the pyogenic vibrio. Even the liver tissues, at a distance from the visible abscesses, gave abundant cultures of the same organism.
Interpretation of the disease and of the death.—The pyogenic vibrio, found in the uterus, or which was perhaps already in the body of the mother, since she suffered from chills before confinement, produced metastatic abscesses in the liver and, carried to the blood of the child, there induced one of the forms of infection called purulent, which caused its death.
Sixth observation.—The eighteenth of June, 1879, M. Doleris informed me that a woman confined some days before at the Cochin Hospital, was very ill. On the twentieth of June, blood from a needle-prick in the finger was sowed; the culture was sterile. On July fifteenth, that is to say twenty-five days later, the blood was tried again. Still no growth. There was no organism distinctly recognizable in the lochia: the woman was nevertheless, they told me, dangerously ill and at the point of death. As a matter of fact, she did die on the eighteenth of July at nine in the morning: as may be seen, after a very long illness, for the first observations were made over a month before: the illness was also very painful, for the patient could make no movement without intense suffering.
An autopsy was made on the nineteenth at ten in the morning, and was of great interest. There was purulent pleurisy with a considerable pocket of pus, and purulent false membranes on the walls of the pleura. The liver was bleached, fatty, but of firm consistency, and with no apparent metastatic abscesses. The uterus, of small size, appeared healthy; but on the external surface whitish nodules filled with pus were found. THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE PERITONEUM, WHICH WAS NOT INFLAMED; but there was much pus in the shoulder joints and the symphysis pubis.
The pus from the abscesses, upon cultivation, gave the long chains of granules—not only that of the pleura, but that from the shoulders and a lymphatic of the uterus as well. An interesting thing, but easily understood, was that the blood from a vein in the arm and taken three-quarters of an hour after death was entirely sterile. Nothing grew from the Fallopian tubes nor the broad ligaments.
Interpretation of the disease and of the death.—The pus found in the uterus after confinement became infected with germs of microscopic organisms which grew there, then passed into the uterine lymphatics, and from there went on to produce pus in the pleura and in the articulations.
Seventh observation.—On June eighteenth, M. Doleris informed me that a woman had been confined at the Cochin Hospital five days before and that fears were entertained as to the results of an operation that had been performed, it having been necessary to do an embryotomy. The lochia were sowed on the 18th; there was not the slightest trace of growth the next day nor the day after. Without the least knowledge of this woman since the eighteenth, on the twentieth I ventured to assert that she would get well. I sent to inquire about her. This is the text of the report: "THE WOMAN IS DOING EXTREMELY WELL; SHE GOES OUT TOMORROW"
Interpretation of the facts.—The pus naturally formed on the surface of the injured parts did not become contaminated with organisms brought from without. Natura medicatrix carried it off, that is to say the vitality of the mucous surfaces prevented the development of foreign germs. The pus was easily resorbed, and recovery took place.
I beg the Academy to permit me, in closing, to submit certain definite views, which I am strongly inclined to consider as legitimate conclusions from the facts I have had the honor to communicate to it.
Under the expression PUERPERAL FEVER are grouped very different diseases, [Footnote: Interesting as the starting point of the conception of diseases according to the etiological factor, not by groups of symptoms.—Translator.] but all appearing to be the result of the growth of common organisms which by their presence infect the pus naturally formed on injured surfaces, which spread by one means or another, by the blood or the lymphatics, to one or another part of the body, and there induce morbid changes varying with the condition of the parts, the nature of the parasite, and the general constitution of the subject.
Whatever this constitution, does it not seem that by taking measures opposing the production of these common parasitic organisms recovery would usually occur, except perhaps when the body contains, before confinement, microscopic organisms, in contaminated internal or external abscesses, as was seen in one striking example (fifth observation). The antiseptic method I believe likely to be sovereign in the vast majority of cases. It seems to me that IMMEDIATELY AFTER CONFINEMENT the application of antiseptics should be begun. Carbolic acid can render great service, but there is another antiseptic, the use of which I am strongly inclined to advise, this is boric acid in concentrated solution, that is, four per cent. at the ordinary temperature. This acid, whose singular influence on cell life has been shown by M. Dumas, is so slightly acid that it is alkaline to certain test papers, as was long ago shown by M. Chevreul, besides this it has no odor like carbolic acid, which odor often disturbs the sick. Lastly, its lack of hurtful effects on mucous membranes, notably of the bladder, has been and is daily demonstrated in the hospitals of Paris. The following is the occasion upon which it was first used. The Academy may remember that I stated before it, and the fact has never been denied, that ammoniacal urine is always produced by a microscopic organism, entirely similar in many respects to the organism of furuncles. Later, in a joint investigation with M. Joubert, we found that a solution of boric acid was easily fatal to these organisms. After that, in 1877, I induced Dr. Guyon, in charge of the genito-urinary clinic at the Necker hospital, to try injections of a solution of boric acid in affections of the bladder. I am informed by this skilful practitioner that he has done so, and daily observes good results from it. He also tells me that he performs no operation of lithotrity without the use of similar injections. I recall these facts to show that a solution of boric acid is entirely harmless to an extremely delicate mucous membrane, that of the bladder, and that it is possible to fill the bladder with a warm solution of boric acid without even inconvenience.
To return to the confinement cases. Would it not be of great service to place a warm concentrated solution of boric acid, and compresses, at the bedside of each patient; which she could renew frequently after saturating with the solution, and this also after confinement. It would also be acting the part of prudence to place the compresses, before using, in a hot air oven at 150 degrees C., more than enough to kill the germs of the common organisms. [Footnote: The adoption of precautions, similar to those here suggested, has resulted in the practically complete disappearance of puerperal fevor.—Translator.]
Was I justified in calling this communication "ON THE EXTENSION OF THE GERM THEORY TO THE ETIOLOGY OF CERTAIN COMMON DISEASES?" I have detailed the facts as they have appeared to me and I have mentioned interpretations of them: but I do not conceal from myself that, in medical territory, it is difficult to support one's self wholly on subjective foundations. I do not forget that Medicine and Veterinary practice are foreign to me. I desire judgment and criticism upon all my contributions. Little tolerant of frivolous or prejudiced contradiction, contemptuous of that ignorant criticism which doubts on principle, I welcome with open arms the militant attack which has a method in doubting and whose rule of conduct has the motto "More light."
It is a pleasure once more to acknowledge the helpfulness of the aid given me by Messrs. Chamberland and Roux during the studies I have just recorded. I wish also to acknowledge the great assistance of M. Doleris.
PREJUDICES WHICH HAVE RETARDED THE PROGRESS OF GEOLOGY UNIFORMITY IN THE SERIES OF PAST CHANGES IN THE ANIMATE AND INANIMATE WORLD BY SIR CHARLES LYELL
Sir Charles Lyell was born near Kirriemuir, Forfarshire, Scotland, on November 14, 1797. He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, in 1819, and proceeded to the study of law. Although he practised for a short time, he was much hampered in this profession, as in all his work, by weak eyesight; and after the age of thirty he devoted himself chiefly to science.
Lyell's father was a botanist of some distinction, and the son seems to have been interested in natural history from an early age. While still an undergraduate he made geological journeys in Scotland and on the Continent of Europe, and throughout his life he upheld by precept and example the importance of travel for the geologist.
The first edition of his "Principles of Geology" was published in 1830; and the phrase used in the sub-title, "an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth's surface, by reference to causes now in action" strikes the keynote of his whole work. All his life he continued to urge this method of explanation in opposition to the hypotheses, formerly much in vogue, which assumed frequent catastrophes to account for geologic changes. The chapters here printed give his own final statement of his views on this important issue.
Lyell's scientific work received wide recognition: he was more than once President of the Geological Society, in 1864 was President of the British Association, was knighted in 1848, and made a baronet in 1864. He possessed a broad general culture, and his home was a noted center of the intellectual life of London. He twice came to the United States to lecture, and created great interest. On his death, on February 22, 1875, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Persistent as were Lyell's efforts for the establishment of his main theory, he remained remarkably open-minded; and when the evolutionary hypothesis was put forward he became a warm supporter of it. Darwin in his autobiography thus sums up Lyell's achievement: "The science of geology is enormously indebted to Lyell—more so, as I believe, than to any other man who ewer lived."
THE PROGRESS OF GEOLOGY
[Footnote: The text of the two following papers is taken from the 11th edition of Lyell's Principles of Geology, the last edition revised by the author.]
PREPOSSESSIONS IN REGARD TO THE DURATION OF PAST TIME—PREJUDICES ARISING FROM OUR PECULIAR POSITION AS INHABITANTS OF THE LAND— OTHERS OCCASIONED BY OUR NOT SEEING SUBTERRANEAN CHANGES NOW IN PROGRESS—ALL THESE CAUSES COMBINE TO MAKE THE FORMER COURSE OF NATURE APPEAR DIFFERENT FROM THE PRESENT—OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE THAT CAUSES SIMILAR IN KIND AND ENERGY TO THOSE NOW ACTING, HAVE PRODUCED THE FORMER CHANGES OF THE EARTH'S SURFACE CONSIDERED
If we reflect on the history of the progress of geology we perceive that there have been great fluctuations of opinion respecting the nature of the causes to which all former changes of the earth's surface are referable. The first observers conceived the monuments which the geologist endeavours to decipher to relate to an original state of the earth, or to a period when there were causes in activity, distinct, in a kind and degree, from those now constituting the economy of nature. These views were gradually modified, and some of them entirely abandoned, in proportion as observations were multiplied, and the signs of former mutations were skilfully interpreted. Many appearances, which had for a long time been regarded as indicating mysterious and extraordinary agency, were finally recognised as the necessary result of the laws now governing the material world; and the discovery of this unlooked-for conformity has at length induced some philosophers to infer, that, during the ages contemplated in geology, there has never been any interruption to the agency of the same uniform laws of change. The same assemblage of general causes, they conceive, may have been sufficient to produce, by their various combinations, the endless diversity of effects, of which the shell of the earth has preserved the memorials; and, consistently with these principles, the recurrence of analogous changes is expected by them in time to come.
Whether we coincide or not in this doctrine we must admit that the gradual progress of opinion concerning the succession of phenomena in very remote eras, resembles, in a singular manner, that which has accompanied the growing intelligence of every people, in regard to the economy of nature in their own times. In an early state of advancement, when a greater number of natural appearances are unintelligible, an eclipse, an earthquake, a flood, or the approach of a comet, with many other occurrences afterwards found to belong to the regular course of events, are regarded as prodigies. The same delusion prevails as to moral phenomena, and many of these are ascribed to the intervention of demons, ghosts, witches, and other immaterial and supernatural agents. By degrees, many of the enigmas of the moral and physical world are explained, and, instead of being due to extrinsic and irregular causes, they are found to depend on fixed and invariable laws. The philosopher at last becomes convinced of the undeviating uniformity of secondary causes; and, guided by his faith in this principle, he determines the probability of accounts transmitted to him of former occurrences, and often rejects the fabulous tales of former times, on the ground of their being irreconcilable with the experience of more enlightened ages.
PREPOSSESSIONS IN REGARD TO THE DURATION OF PAST TIME.—As a belief in the want of conformity in the cause by which the earth's crust has been modified in ancient and modern periods was, for a long time, universally prevalent, and that, too, amongst men who were convinced that the order of nature had been uniform for the last several thousand years, every circumstance which could have influenced their minds and given an undue bias to their opinions deserves particular attention. Now the reader may easily satisfy himself, that, however undeviating the course of nature may have been from the earliest epochs, it was impossible for the first cultivators of geology to come to such a conclusion, so long as they were under a delusion as to the age of the world, and the date of the first creation of animate beings. However fantastical some theories of the sixteenth century may now appear to us,—however unworthy of men of great talent and sound judgment,—we may rest assured that, if the same misconception now prevailed in regard to the memorials of human transactions, it would give rise to a similar train of absurdities. Let us imagine, for example, that Champollion, and the French and Tuscan literati when engaged in exploring the antiquities of Egypt, had visited that country with a firm belief that the banks of the Nile were never peopled by the human race before the beginning of the nineteenth century, and that their faith in this dogma was as difficult to shake as the opinion of our ancestors, that the earth was never the abode of living beings until the creation of the present continents, and of the species now existing,—it is easy to perceive what extravagant systems they would frame, while under the influence of this delusion, to account for the monuments discovered in Egypt. The sight of the pyramids, obelisks, colossal statues, and ruined temples, would fill them with such astonishment, that for a time they would be as men spell-bound—wholly incapable of reasoning with sobriety. They might incline at first to refer the construction of such stupendous works to some superhuman powers of the primeval world. A system might be invented resembling that so gravely advanced by, Manetho, who relates that a dynasty of gods originally ruled in Egypt, of whom Vulcan, the first monarch, reigned nine thousand years; after whom came Hercules and other demigods, who were at last succeeded by human kings.
When some fanciful speculations of this kind had amused their imaginations for a time, some vast repository of mummies would be discovered, and would immediately undeceive those antiquaries who enjoyed an opportunity of personally examining them; but the prejudices of others at a distance, who were not eye-witnesses of the whole phenomena, would not be so easily overcome. The concurrent report of many travellers would, indeed, render it necessary for them to accommodate ancient theories to some of the new facts, and much wit and ingenuity would be required to modify and defend their old positions. Each new invention would violate a greater number of known analogies; for if a theory be required to embrace some false principle, it becomes more visionary in proportion as facts are multiplied, as would be the case if geometers were now required to form an astronomical system on the assumption of the immobility of the earth.
Amongst other fanciful conjectures concerning the history of Egypt, we may suppose some of the following to be started. 'As the banks of the Nile have been so recently colonized for the first time, the curious substances called mummies could never in reality have belonged to men. They may have been generated by some PLASTIC VIRTUE residing in the interior of the earth, or they may be abortions of Nature produced by her incipient efforts in the work of creation. For if deformed beings are sometimes born even now, when the scheme of the universe is fully developed, many more may have been "sent before their time scarce half made up," when the planet itself was in the embryo state. But if these notions appear to derogate from the perfection of the Divine attributes, and if these mummies be in all their parts true representations of the human form, may we not refer them to the future rather than the past? May we not be looking into the womb of Nature, and not her grave? May not these images be like the shades of the unborn in Virgil's Elysium—the archetypes of men not yet called into existence?'
These speculations, if advocated by eloquent writers, would not fail to attract many zealous votaries, for they would relieve men from the painful necessity of renouncing preconceived opinions. Incredible as such scepticism may appear, it has been rivalled by many systems of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and among others by that of the learned Falloppio, who, as we have seen (p. 33), regarded the tusks of fossil elephants as earthly concretions, and the pottery or fragments of vases in the Monte Testaceo, near Rome, as works of nature, and not of art. But when one generation had passed away, and another, not compromised to the support of antiquated dogmas, had succeeded, they would review the evidence afforded by mummies more impartially, and would no longer controvert the preliminary question, that human beings had lived in Egypt before the nineteenth century: so that when a hundred years perhaps had been lost, the industry and talents of the philosopher would be at last directed to the elucidation of points of real historical importance.
But the above arguments are aimed against one only of many prejudices with which the earlier geologists had to contend. Even when they conceded that the earth had been peopled with animate beings at an earlier period than was at first supposed, they had no conception that the quantity of time bore so great a proportion to the historical era as is now generally conceded. How fatal every error as to the quantity of time must prove to the introduction of rational views concerning the state of things in former ages, may be conceived by supposing the annals of the civil and military transactions of a great nation to be perused under the impression that they occurred in a period of one hundred instead of two thousand years. Such a portion of history would immediately assume the air of a romance; the events would seem devoid of credibility, and inconsistent with the present course of human affairs. A crowd of incidents would follow each other in thick succession. Armies and fleets would appear to be assembled only to be destroyed, and cities built merely to fall in ruins. There would be the most violent transitions from foreign or intestine war to periods of profound peace, and the works effected during the years of disorder or tranquillity would appear alike superhuman in magnitude.
He who should study the monuments of the natural world under the influence of a similar infatuation, must draw a no less exaggerated picture of the energy and violence of causes, and must experience the same insurmountable difficulty in reconciling the former and present state of nature, If we could behold in one view all the volcanic cones thrown up in Iceland, Italy, Sicily, and other parts of Europe, during the last five thousand years, and could see the lavas which have flowed during the same period; the dislocations, subsidences, and elevations caused during earthquakes; the lands added to various deltas, or devoured by the sea, together with the effects of devastation by floods, and imagine that all these events had happened in one year, we must form most exalted ideas of the activity of the agents, and the suddenness of the revolutions. If geologists, therefore, have misinterpreted the signs of a succession of events, so as to conclude that centuries were implied where the characters indicated thousands of years, and thousands of years where the language of Nature signified millions, they could not, if they reasoned logically from such false premises, come to any other conclusion than that the system of the natural world had undergone a complete revolution.
We should be warranted in ascribing the erection of the great pyramid to superhuman power, if we were convinced that it was raised in one day; and if we imagine, in the same manner, a continent or mountain-chain to have been elevated during an equally small fraction of the time which was really occupied in upheaving it, we might then be justified in inferring, that the subterranean movements were once far more energetic than in our own times. We know that; during one earthquake the coast of Chili may be raised for a hundred miles to the average height of about three feet. A repetition of two thousand shocks, of equal violence, might produce a mountain-chain one hundred miles long, and six thousand feet high. Now, should one or two only of these convulsions happen in a century, it would be consistent with the order of events experienced by the Chilians from the earliest times: but if the whole of them were to occur in the next hundred years, the entire district must be depopulated, scarcely any animals or plants could survive, and the surface would be one confused heap of ruin and desolation.
One consequence of undervaluing greatly the quantity of past time, is the apparent coincidence which it occasions of events necessarily disconnected, or which are so unusual, that it would be inconsistent with all calculation of chances to suppose them to happen at one and the same time. When the unlooked-for association of such rare phenomena is witnessed in the present course of nature, it scarcely ever fails to excite a suspicion of the preternatural in those minds which are not firmly convinced of the uniform agency of secondary causes;—as if the death of some individual in whose fate they are interested happens to be accompanied by the appearance of a luminous meteor, or a comet, or the shock of an earthquake. It would be only necessary to multiply such coincidences indefinitely, and the mind of every philosopher would be disturbed. Now it would be difficult to exaggerate the number of physical events, many of them most rare and unconnected in their nature, which were imagined by the Woodwardian hypothesis to have happened in the course of a few months: and numerous other examples might be found of popular geological theories, which require us to imagine that a long succession of events happened in a brief and almost momentary period.
Another liability to error, very nearly allied to the former, arises from the frequent contact of geological monuments referring to very distant periods of time. We often behold, at one glance, the effects of causes which have acted at times incalculably remote, and yet there may be no striking circumstances to mark the occurrence of a great chasm in the chronological series of Nature's archives. In the vast interval of time which may really have elapsed between the results of operations thus compared, the physical condition of the earth may, by slow and insensible modifications, have become entirely altered; one or more races of organic beings may have passed away, and yet have left behind, in the particular region under contemplation, no trace of their existence.
To a mind unconscious of these intermediate events, the passage from one state of things to another must appear so violent, that the idea of revolutions in the system inevitably suggests itself. The imagination is as much perplexed by the deception, as it might be if two distant points in space were suddenly brought into immediate proximity. Let us suppose, for a moment, that a philosopher should lie down to sleep in some arctic wilderness, and then be transferred by a power, such as we read of in tales of enchantment, to a valley in a tropical country, where, on awaking, he might find himself surrounded by birds of brilliant plumage, and all the luxuriance of animal and vegetable forms of which Nature is so prodigal in those regions. The most reasonable supposition, perhaps, which he could make, if by the necromancer's art he were placed in such a situation, would be, that he was dreaming; and if a geologist form theories under a similar delusion, we cannot expect him to preserve more consistency in his speculations, than in the train of ideas in an ordinary dream.
It may afford, perhaps, a more lively illustration of the principle here insisted upon, if I recall to the reader's recollection the legend of the Seven Sleepers. The scene of that popular fable was placed in the two centuries which elapsed between the reign of the emperor Decius and the death of Theodosius the younger. In that interval of time (between the years 249 and 450 of our era) the union of the Roman empire had been dissolved, and some of its fairest provinces overrun by the barbarians of the north. The seat of government had passed from Rome to Constantinople, and the throne from a pagan persecutor to a succession of Christian and orthodox princes. The genius of the empire had been humbled in the dust, and the altars of Diana and Hercules were on the point of being transferred to Catholic saints and martyrs. The legend relates, 'that when Decius was still persecuting the Christians, seven noble youths of Ephesus concealed themselves in a spacious cavern in the side of an adjacent mountain, where they were doomed to perish by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance should be firmly secured with a pile of huge stones. They immediately fell into a deep slumber, which was miraculously prolonged, without injuring the powers of life, during a period of 187 years. At the end of that time the slaves of Adolius, to whom the inheritance of the mountain had descended, removed the stones to supply materials for some rustic edifice: the light of the sun darted into the cavern, and the seven sleepers were permitted to awake. After a slumber, as they thought, of a few hours, they were pressed by the calls of hunger, and resolved that Jamhlichus, one of their number, should secretly return to the city to purchase bread for the use of his companions. The youth could no longer recognise the once familiar aspect of his native country, and his surprise was increased by the appearance of a large cross triumphantly erected over the principal gate of Ephesus. His singular dress and obsolete language confounded the baker, to whom he offered an ancient medal of Decius as the current coin of the empire; and Jamblichus, on the suspicion of a secret treasure, was dragged before the judge. Their mutual enquiries produced the amazing discovery, that two centuries were almost elapsed since Jamblichus and his friends had escaped from the rage of a pagan tyrant.'
This legend was received as authentic throughout the Christian world before the end of the sixth century, and was afterwards introduced by Mahomet as a divine revelation into the Koran, and from hence was adopted and adorned by all the nations from Bengal to Africa who professed the Mahometan faith. Some vestiges even of a similar tradition have been discovered in Scandinavia. 'This easy and universal belief,' observes the philosophical historian of the Decline and Fall, 'so expressive of the sense of mankind, may be ascribed to the genuine merit of the fable itself. We imperceptibly advance from youth to age, without observing the gradual, but incessant, change of human affairs; and even, in our larger experience of history, the imagination is accustomed, by a perpetual series of causes and effects, to unite the most distant revolutions. But if the interval between two memorable eras could be instantly annihilated; if it were possible, after a momentary slumber of two hundred years, to display the new world to the eyes of a spectator who still retained a lively and recent impression of the old, his surprise and his reflections would furnish the pleasing subject of a philosophical romance.' [Footnote: Gibbon, Decline and Fall. chap, xxxiii.]
PREJUDICES ARISING FROM OUR PECULIAR POSITION AS INHABITANTS OF THE LAND.—The sources of prejudice hitherto considered may be deemed peculiar for the most part to the infancy of the science, but others are common to the first cultivators of geology and to ourselves, and are all singularly calculated to produce the same deception, and to strengthen our belief that the course of Nature in the earlier ages differed widely from that now established. Although these circumstances cannot be fully explained without assuming some things as proved, which it has been my object elsewhere to demonstrate, [Footnote: Elements of Geology, 6th edit., 1865; and Student's Elements, 1871.] it may be well to allude to them briefly in this place.
The first and greatest difficulty, then, consists in an habitual unconsciousness that our position as observers is essentially unfavourable, when we endeavour to estimate the nature and magnitude of the changes now in progress. In consequence of our inattention to this subject, we are liable to serious mistakes in contrasting the present with former states of the globe. As dwellers on the land, we inhabit about a fourth part of the surface; and that portion is almost exclusively a theatre of decay, and not of reproduction. We know, indeed, that new deposits are annually formed in seas and lakes, and that every year some new igneous rocks are produced in the bowels of the earth, but we cannot watch the progress of their formation, and as they are only present to our minds by the aid of reflection, it requires an effort both of the reason and the imagination to appreciate duly their importance. It is, therefore, not surprising that we estimate very imperfectly the result of operations thus unseen by us; and that, when analogous results of former epochs are presented to our inspection, we cannot immediately recognise the analogy. He who has observed the quarrying of stone from a rock, and has seen it shipped for some distant port, and then endeavours to conceive what kind of edifice will be raised by the materials, is in the same predicament as a geologist, who, while he is confined to the land, sees the decomposition of rocks, and the transportation of matter by rivers to the sea, and then endeavours to picture to himself the new strata which Nature is building beneath the waters.
PREJUDICES ARISING FROM OUR NOT SEEING SUBTERRANEAN CHANGES.—Nor is his position less unfavourable when, beholding a volcanic eruption, he tries to conceive what changes the column of lava has produced, in its passage upwards, on the intersected strata; or what form the melted matter may assume at great depths on cooling; or what may be the extent of the subterranean rivers and reservoirs of liquid matter far beneath the surface. It should, therefore, be remembered, that the task imposed on those who study the earth's history requires no ordinary share of discretion; for we are precluded from collating the corresponding parts of the system of things as it exists now, and as it existed at former periods. If we were inhabitants of another element—if the great ocean were our domain, instead of the narrow limits of the land, our difficulties would be considerably lessened; while, on the other hand, there can be little doubt, although the reader may, perhaps, smile at the bare suggestion of such an idea, that an amphibious being, who should possess our faculties, would still more easily arrive at sound theoretical opinions in geology, since he might behold, on the one hand, the decomposition of rocks in the atmosphere, or the transportation of matter by running water; and, on the other, examine the deposition of sediment in the sea, and the imbedding of animal and vegetable remains in new strata. He might ascertain, by direct observation, the action of a mountain torrent, as well as of a marine current; might compare the products of volcanos poured out upon the land with those ejected beneath the waters; and might mark, on the one hand, the growth of the forest, and, on the other, that of the coral reef. Yet, even with these advantages, he would be liable to fall into the greatest errors, when endeavouring to reason on rocks of subterranean origin. He would seek in vain, within the sphere of his observation, for any direct analogy to the process of their formation, and would therefore be in danger of attributing them, wherever they are upraised to view, to some 'primeval state of nature.'
But if we may be allowed so far to indulge the imagination, as to suppose a being entirely confined to the nether world—some 'dusky melancholy sprite,' like Umbriel, who could 'flit on sooty pinions to the central earth,' but who was never permitted to 'sully the fair face of light,' and emerge into the regions of water and of air; and if this being should busy himself in investigating the structure of the globe, he might frame theories the exact converse of those usually adopted by human philosophers. He might infer that the stratified rocks, containing shells and other organic remains, were the oldest of created things, belonging to some original and nascent state of the planet. 'Of these masses' he might say, 'whether they consist of loose incoherent sand, soft clay, or solid stone, none have been formed in modern times. Every year some of them are broken and shattered by earthquakes, or melted by volcanic fire; and when they cool down slowly from a state of fusion, they assume a new and more crystalline form, no longer exhibiting that stratified disposition and those curious impressions and fantastic markings, by which they were previously characterised. This process cannot have been carried on for an indefinite time, for in that case all the stratified rocks would long ere this have been fused and crystallised. It is therefore probable that the whole planet once consisted of these mysterious and curiously bedded formations at a time when the volcanic fire had not yet been brought into activity. Since that period there seems to have been a gradual development of heat; and this augmentation we may expect to continue till the whole globe shall be in a state of fluidity, or shall consist, in those parts which are not melted, of volcanic and crystalline rocks.'
Such might be the system of the Gnome at the very time that the followers of Leibnitz, reasoning on what they saw on the outer surface, might be teaching the opposite doctrine of gradual refrigeration, and averring that the earth had begun its career as a fiery comet, and might be destined hereafter to become a frozen mass. The tenets of the schools of the nether and of the upper world would be directly opposed to each other, for both would partake of the prejudices inevitably resulting from the continual contemplation of one class of phenomena to the exclusion of another. Man observes the annual decomposition of crystalline and igneous rocks, and may sometimes see their conversion into stratified deposits; but he cannot witness the reconversion of the sedimentary into the crystalline by subterranean heat. He is in the habit of regarding all the sedimentary rocks as more recent than the unstratified, for the same reason that we may suppose him to fall into the opposite error if he saw the origin of the igneous class only.
For more than two centuries the shelly strata of the Subapennine hills afforded matter of speculation to the early geologists of Italy, and few of them had any suspicion that similar deposits were then forming in the neighbouring sea. Some imagined that the strata, so rich in organic remains, instead of being due to secondary agents, had been so created in the beginning of things by the fiat of the Almighty. Others, as we have seen, ascribed the imbedded fossil bodies to some plastic power which resided in the earth in the early ages of the world. In what manner were these dogmas at length exploded? The fossil relics were carefully compared with their living analogues, and all doubts as to their organic origin were eventually dispelled. So, also, in regard to the nature of the containing beds of mud, sand, and limestone: those parts of the bottom of the sea were examined where shells are now becoming annually entombed in new deposits, Donati explored the bed of the Adriatic, and found the closest resemblance between the strata there forming, and those which constituted hills above a thousand feet high in various parts of the Italian peninsula. He ascertained by dredging that living testacea were there grouped together in precisely the same manner as were their fossil analogues in the inland strata; and while some of the recent shells of the Adriatic were becoming incrusted with calcareous rock, be observed that others had been newly buried in sand and clay, precisely as fossil shells occur in the Subapennine hills.
In like manner, the volcanic rocks of the Vicentin had been studied in the beginning of the last century; but no geologist suspected, before the time of Arduino, that these were composed of ancient submarine lavas. During many years of controversy, the popular opinion inclined to a belief that basalt and rocks of the same class had been precipitated from a chaotic fluid, or an ocean which rose at successive periods over the continents, charged with the component elements of the rocks in question. Few will now dispute that it would have been difficult to invent a theory more distant from the truth; yet we must cease to wonder that it gained so many proselytes, when we remember that its claims to probability arose partly from the very circumstance of its confirming the assumed want of analogy between geological causes and those now in action. By what train of investigations were geologists induced at length to reject these views, and to assent to the igneous origin of the trappean formations? By an examination of volcanos now active, and by comparing their structure and the composition of their lavas with the ancient trap rocks.
The establishment, from time to time, of numerous points of identification, drew at length from geologists a reluctant admission, that there was more correspondence between the condition of the globe at remote eras and now, and more uniformity in the laws which have regulated the changes of its surface, than they at first imagined. If, in this state of the science, they still despaired of reconciling every class of geological phenomena to the operations of ordinary causes, even by straining analogy to the utmost limits of credibility, we might have expected, at least, that the balance of probability would now have been presumed to incline towards the close analogy of the ancient and modern causes. But, after repeated experience of the failure of attempts to speculate on geological monuments, as belonging to a distinct order of things, new sects continued to persevere in the principles adopted by their predecessors. They still began, as each new problem presented itself, whether relating to the animate or inanimate world, to assume an original and dissimilar order of nature; and when at length they approximated, or entirely came round to an opposite opinion, it was always with the feeling, that they were conceding what they had been justified a priori in deeming improbable. In a word, the same men who, as natural philosophers, would have been most incredulous respecting any extraordinary deviations from the known course of nature, if reported to have happened IN THEIR OWN TIME, were equally disposed, as geologists, to expect the proofs of such deviations at every period of the past. * * * *
UNIFORMITY OF CHANGE
SUPPOSED ALTERNATE PERIODS OF REPOSE AND DISORDER—OBSERVED FACTS IN WHICH THIS DOCTRINE HAS ORIGINATED—THESE MAY BE EXPLAINED BY SUPPOSING A UNIFORM AND UNINTERRUPTED SERIES OF CHANGES—THREE- FOLD CONSIDERATION OF THIS SUBJECT: FIRST, IN REFERENCE TO THE LAWS WHICH GOVERN THE FORMATION OF FOSSILIFEROUS STRATA, AND THE SHIFTING OF THE AREAS OF SEDIMENTARY DEPOSITION; SECONDLY, IN REFERENCE TO THE LIVING CREATION, EXTINCTION OF SPECIES, AND ORIGIN OF NEW ANIMALS AND PLANTS; THIRDLY, IN REFERENCE TO THE CHANGES PRODUCED IN THE EARTH'S CRUST BY THE CONTINUANCE OF SUBTERRANEAN MOVEMENTS IN CERTAIN AREAS, AND THEIR TRANSFERENCE AFTER LONG PERIODS TO NEW AREAS—ON THE COMBINED INFLUENCE OF ALL THESE MODES AND CAUSES OF CHANGE IN PRODUCING BREAKS AND CHASMS IN THE CHAIN OF RECORDS—CONCLUDING REMARKS ON THE IDENTITY OF THE ANCIENT AND PRESENT SYSTEM OF TERRESTRIAL CHANGES.
ORIGIN OF THE DOCTRINE OF ALTERNATE PERIODS OF REPOSE AND DISORDER.—It has been truly observed, that when we arrange the fossiliferous formations in chronological order, they constitute a broken and defective series of monuments: we pass without any intermediate gradations from systems of strata which are horizontal, to other systems which are highly inclined—from rocks of peculiar mineral composition to others which have a character wholly distinct—from one assemblage of organic remains to another, in which frequently nearly all the species, and a large part of the genera, are different. These violations of continuity are so common as to constitute in most regions the rule rather than the exception, and they have been considered by many geologists as conclusive in favour of sudden revolutions in the inanimate and animate world. We have already seen that according to the speculations of some writers, there have been in the past history of the planet alternate periods of tranquillity and convulsion, the former enduring for ages, and resembling the state of things now experienced by man, the other brief, transient, and paroxysmal, giving rise to new mountains, seas, and valleys, annihilating one set of organic beings, and ushering in the creation of another.
It will be the object of the present chapter to demonstrate that these theoretical views are not borne out by a fair interpretation of geological monuments. It is true that in the solid framework of the globe we have a chronological chain of natural records, many links of which are wanting: but a careful consideration of all the phenomena leads to the opinion that the series was originally defective—that it has been rendered still more so by time—that a great part of what remains is inaccessible to man, and even of that fraction which is accessible nine-tenths or more are to this day unexplored.
The readiest way, perhaps, of persuading the reader that we may dispense with great and sudden revolutions in the geological order of events is by showing him how a regular and uninterrupted series of changes in the animate and inanimate world must give rise to such breaks in the sequence, and such unconformability of stratified rocks, as are usually thought to imply convulsions and catastrophes. It is scarcely necessary to state that the order of events thus assumed to occur, for the sake of illustration, should be in harmony with all the conclusions legitimately drawn by geologists from the structure of the earth, and must be equally in accordance with the changes observed by man to be now going on in the living as well as in the inorganic creation. It may be necessary in the present state of science to supply some part of the assumed course of nature hypothetically; but if so, this must be done without any violation of probability, and always consistently with the analogy of what is known both of the past and present economy of our system. Although the discussion of so comprehensive a subject must carry the beginner far beyond his depth, it will also, it is hoped, stimulate his curiosity, and prepare him to read some elementary treatises on geology with advantage, and teach him the bearing on that science of the changes now in progress on the earth. At the same time it may enable him the better to understand the intimate connection between the Second and Third Books of this work, one of which is occupied with the changes of the inorganic, the latter with those of the organic creation.
In pursuance, then, of the plan above proposed, I will consider in this chapter, first, the laws which regulate the denudation of strata and the deposition of sediment; secondly, those which govern the fluctuation in the animate world; and thirdly, the mode in which subterranean movements affect the earth's crust.
UNIFORMITY OF CHANGE CONSIDERED, FIRST, IN REFERENCE TO DENUDATION AND SEDIMENTARY DEPOSITION.—First, in regard to the laws governing the deposition of new strata. If we survey the surface of the globe, we immediately perceive that it is divisible into areas of deposition and non-deposition; or, in other words, at any given time there are spaces which are the recipients, others which are not the recipients, of sedimentary matter. No new strata, for example, are thrown down on dry land, which remains the same from year to year; whereas, in many parts of the bottom of seas and lakes, mud, sand, and pebbles are annually spread out by rivers and currents. There are also great masses of limestone growing in some seas, chiefly composed of corals and shells, or, as in the depths of the Atlantic, of chalky mud made up of foraminifera and diatomaceae.
As to the dry land, so far from being the receptacle of fresh accessions of matter, it is exposed almost everywhere to waste away. Forests may be as dense and lofty as those of Brazil, and may swarm with quadrupeds, birds, and insects, yet at the end of thousands of years one layer of black mould a few inches thick may be the sole representative of those myriads of trees, leaves, flowers, and fruits, those innumerable bones and skeletons of birds, quadrupeds, and reptiles, which tenanted the fertik region. Should this land be at length submerged, the waves of the sea may wash away in a few hours the scanty covering of mould, and it may merely impart a darker shade of colour to the next stratum of marl, sand, or other matter newly thrown down. So also at the bottom of the ocean where no sediment is accumulating, seaweed, zoophytes, fish, and even shells, may multiply for ages and decompose, leaving no vestige of their form or substance behind. Their decay, in water, although more slow, is as certain and eventually as complete as in the open air. Nor can they be perpetuated for indefinite periods in a fossil state, unless imbedded in some matrix which is impervious to water, or which at least does not allow a free percolation of that fluid, impregnated, as it usually is, with a slight quantity of carbonic or other acid. Such a free percolation may be prevented either by the mineral nature of the matrix itself, or by the superposition of an impermeable stratum; but if unimpeded, the fossil shell or bone will be dissolved and removed, particle after particle, and thus entirely effaced, unless petrifaction or the substitution of some mineral for the organic matter happen to take place.
That there has been land as well as sea at all former geological periods, we know from the fact that fossil trees and terrestrial plants are imbedded in rocks of every age, except those which are so ancient as to be very imperfectly known to us. Occasionally lacustrine and fluviatile shells, or the bones of amphibious or land reptiles, point to the same conclusion. The existence of dry land at all periods of the past implies, as before mentioned, the partial deposition of sediment, or its limitation to certain areas; and the next point to which I shall call the reader's attention is the shifting of these areas from one region to another.
First, then, variations in the site of sedimentary deposition are brought about independently of subterranean movements. There is always a slight change from year to year, or from century to century. The sediment of the Rhone, for example, thrown into the Lake of Geneva, is now conveyed to a spot a mile and a half distant from that where it accumulated in the tenth century, and six miles from the point where the delta began originally to form. We may look forward to the period when this lake will be filled up, and then the distribution of the transported matter will be suddenly altered, for the mud and sand brought down from the Alps will thenceforth, instead of being deposited near Geneva, be carried nearly 200 miles southwards, where the Rhone enters the Mediterranean.
In the deltas of large rivers, such as those of the Ganges and Indus, the mud is first carried down for many centuries through one arm, and on this being stopped up it is discharged by another, and may then enter the sea at a point 50 or 100 miles distant from its first receptacle. The direction of marine currents is also liable to be changed by various accidents, as by the heaping up of new sandbanks, or the wearing away of cliffs and promontories.
But, secondly, all these causes of fluctuation in the sedimentary areas are entirely subordinate to those great upward or downward movements of land, which will presently be spoken of, as prevailing over large tracts of the globe. By such elevation or subsidence certain spaces are gradually submerged, or made gradually to emerge: in the one case sedimentary deposition may be suddenly renewed after having been suspended for one or more geological periods, in the other as suddenly made to cease after having continued for ages.
If deposition be renewed after a long interval, the new strata will usually differ greatly from the sedimentary rocks previously formed in the same place, and especially if the older rocks have suffered derangement, which implies a change in the physical geography of the district since the previous conveyance of sediment to the same spot. It may happen, however, that, even where the two groups, the superior and the inferior, are horizontal and conformable to each other, they may still differ entirely in mineral character, because, since the origin of the older formation, the geography of some distant country has been altered. In that country rocks before concealed may have become exposed by denudation; volcanos may have burst out and covered the surface with scoriae and lava; or new lakes, intercepting the sediment previously conveyed from the upper country, may have been formed by subsidence; and other fluctuations may have occurred, by which the materials brought down from thence by rivers to the sea have acquired a distinct mineral character.
It is well known that the stream of the Mississippi is charged with sediment of a different colour from that of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, which are tinged with red mud, derived from rocks of porphyry and red gypseous clays in 'the far west.' The waters of the Uruguay, says Darwin, draining a granitic country, are clear and black, those of the Parana, red. [Footnote: Darwin's Journal, p. 163, and edit., p. 139.] The mud with which the Indus is loaded, says Burnes, is of a clayey hue, that of the Chenab, on the other hand, is reddish, that of the Sutlej is more pale. [Footnote: Journ. Roy. Geograph. Soc., vol. iii, p. 142.] The same causes which make these several rivers, sometimes situated at no great distance the one from the other, to differ greatly in the character of their sediment, will make the waters draining the same country at different epochs, especially before and after great revolutions in physical geography, to be entirely dissimilar. It is scarcely necessary to add that marine currents will be affected in an analogous manner in consequence of the formation of new shoals, the emergence of new islands, the subsidence of others, the gradual waste of neighbouring coasts, the growth of new deltas, the increase of coral reefs, volcanic eruptions, and other changes.
UNIFORMITY OF CHANGE CONSIDERED, SECONDLY, IN REGERENCE TO THE LIVING CREATION.—Secondly, in regard to the vicissitudes of the living creation, all are agreed that the successive groups of sedimentary strata found in the earth's crust are not only dissimilar in mineral composition for reasons above alluded to, but are likewise distinguishable from each other by their organic remains. The general inference drawn from the study and comparison of the various groups, arranged in chronological order, is this: that at successive periods distinct tribes of animals and plants have inhabited the land and waters, and that the organic types of the newer formations are more analogous to species now existing than those of more ancient rocks. If we then turn to the present state of the animate creation, and enquire whether it has now become fixed and stationary, we discover that, on the contrary, it is in a state of continual flux—that there are many causes in action which tend to the extinction of species, and which are conclusive against the doctrine of their unlimited durability.
There are also causes which give rise to new varieties and races in plants and animals, and new forms are continually supplanting others which had endured for ages. But natural history has been sucessfully cultivated for so short a period, that a few examples only of local, and perhaps but one or two of absolute, extirpation of species can as yet be proved, and these only where the interference of man has been conspicuous. It will nevertheless appear evident, from the facts and arguments detailed in the chapters which treat of the geographical distribution of species in the next volume, that man is not the only exterminating agent; and that, independently of his intervention, the annihilation of species is promoted by the multiplication and gradual diffusion of every animal or plant. It will also appear that every alteration in the physical geography and climate of the globe cannot fail to have the same tendency. If we proceed still farther, and enquire whether new species are substituted from time to time for those which die out, we find that the successive introduction of new forms appears to have been a constant part of the economy of the terrestrial system, and if we have no direct proof of the fact it is because the changes take place so slowly as not to come within the period of exact scientific observation. To enable the reader to appreciate the gradual manner in which a passage may have taken place from an extinct fauna to that now living, I shall say a few words on the fossils of successive Tertiary periods. When we trace the series of formations from the more ancient to the more modern, it is in these Tertiary deposits that we first meet with assemblages of organic remains having a near analogy to the fauna of certain parts of the globe in our own time. In the Eocene, or oldest subdivisions, some few of the testacea belong to existing species, although almost all of them, and apparently all the associated vertebrata, are now extinct. These Eocene strata are succeeded by a great number of more modern deposits, which depart gradually in the character of their fossils from the Eocene type, and approach more and more to that of the living creation. In the present state of science, it is chiefly by the aid of shells that we are enabled to arrive at these results, for of all classes the testacea are the most generally diffused in a fossil state, and may be called the medals principally employed by nature in recording the chronology of past events. In the Upper Miocene rocks (No. 5 of the table, p. 135) we begin to find a considerable number, although still a minority, of recent species, intermixed with some fossils common to the preceding, or Eocene, epoch. We then arrive at the Pliocene strata, in which species now contemporary with man begin to preponderate, and in the newest of which nine-tenths of the fossils agree with species still inhabiting the neighbouring sea. It is in the Post-Tertiary strata, where all the shells agree with species now living, that we have discovered the first or earliest known remains of man associated with the bones of quadrupeds, some of which are of extinct species.
In thus passing from the older to the newer members of the Tertiary system, we meet with many chasms, but none which separate entirely, by a broad line of demarcation, one state of the organic world from another. There are no signs of an abrupt termination of one fauna and flora, and the starting into life of new and wholly distinct forms. Although we are far from being able to demonstrate geologically an insensible transition from the Eocene to the Miocene, or even from the latter to the recent fauna, yet the more we enlarge and perfect our general survey, the more nearly do we approximate to such a continuous series, and the more gradually are we conducted from times when many of the genera and nearly all the species were extinct, to those in which scarcely a single species flourished which we do not know to exist at present. Dr. A. Philippi, indeed, after an elaborate comparison of the fossil tertiary shells of Sicily with those now living in the Mediterranean, announced, as the result of his examination, that there are strata in that island which attest a very gradual passage from a period when only thirteen in a hundred of the shells were like the species now living in the sea, to an era when the recent species had attained a proportion of ninety-five in a hundred. There is, therefore, evidence, he says, in Sicily of this revolution in the animate world having been effected 'without the intervention of any convulsion or abrupt changes, certain species having from time to time died out and others having been introduced, until at length the existing fauna was elaborated.'
In no part of Europe is the absence of all signs of man or his works, in strata of comparatively modern date, more striking than in Sicily. In the central parts of that island we observe a lofty table-land and hills, sometimes rising to the height of 3,000 feet, capped with a limestone, in which from 70 to 85 per cent of the fossil testacea are specifically identical with those now inhabiting the Mediterranean. These calcareous and other argillaceous strata of the same age are intersected by deep valleys which appear to have been gradually formed by denudation, but have not varied materially in width or depth since Sicily was first colonised by the Greeks. The limestone, moreover, which is of so late a date in geological chronology, was quarried for building those ancient temples of Girgenti and Syracuse, of which the ruins carry us back to a remote era in human history. If we are lost in conjectures when speculating on the ages required to lift up these formations to the height of several thousand feet above the sea, and to excavate the valleys, how much more remote must be the era when the same rocks were gradually formed beneath the waters!
The intense cold of the Glacial period was spoken of in the tenth chapter. Although we have not yet succeeded in detecting proofs of the origin of man antecedently to that epoch, we have yet found evidence that most of the testacea, and not a few of the quadrupeds, which preceded, were of the same species as those which followed the extreme cold. To whatever local disturbances this cold may have given rise in the distribution of species, it seems to have done little in effecting their annihilation. We may conclude therefore, from a survey of the tertiary and modern strata, which constitute a more complete and unbroken series than rocks of older date, that the extinction and creation of species have been, and are, the result of a slow and gradual change in the organic world.
UNIFORMITY OF CHANGE CONSIDERED, THIRDLY, IN REFERENCE TO SUBTERRANEAN MOVEMENTS.—Thirdly, to pass on to the last of the three topics before proposed for discussion, the reader will find, in the account given in the Second Book, Vol. II., of the earthquakes recorded in history, that certain countries have from time immemorial, been rudely shaken again and again; while others, comprising by far the largest part of the globe, have remained to all appearance motionless. In the regions of convulsion rocks have been rent asunder, the surface has been forced up into ridges, chasms have opened, or the ground throughout large spaces has been permanently lifted up above or let down below its former level. In the regions of tranquillity some areas have remained at rest, but others have been ascertained, by a comparison of measurements made at different periods, to have risen by an insensible motion, as in Sweden, or to have subsided very slowly, as in Greenland. That these same movements, whether ascending or descending, have continued for ages in the same direction has been established by historical or geological evidence. Thus we find on the opposite coasts of Sweden that brackish water deposits, like those now forming in the Baltic, occur on the eastern side, and upraised strata filled with purely marine shells, now proper to the ocean, on the western coast. Both of these have been lifted up to an elevation of several hundred feet above high-water mark. The rise within the historical period has not amounted to many yards, but the greater extent of antecedent upheaval is proved by the occurrence in inland spots, several hundred feet high, of deposits filled with fossil shells of species now living either in the ocean or the Baltic.
It must in general be more difficult to detect proofs of slow and gradual subsidence than of elevation, but the theory which accounts for the form of circular coral reefs and lagoon islands, and which will be explained in the concluding chapter of this work, will satisfy the reader that there are spaces on the globe, several thousand miles in circumference, throughout which the downward movement has predominated for ages, and yet the land has never, in a single instance, gone down suddenly for several hundred feet at once. Yet geology demonstrates that the persistency of subterranean movements in one direction has not been perpetual throughout all past time. There have been great oscillations of level, by which a surface of dry land has been submerged to a depth of several thousand feet, and then at a period long subsequent raised again and made to emerge. Nor have the regions now motionless been always at rest; and some of those which are at present the theatres of reiterated earthquakes have formerly enjoyed a long continuance of tranquillity. But, although disturbances have ceased after having long prevailed, or have recommenced after a suspension for ages, there has been no universal disruption of the earth's crust or desolation of the surface since times the most remote. The non-occurrence of such a general convulsion is proved by the perfect horizontality now retained by some of the most ancient fossiliferous strata throughout wide areas.
That the subterranean forces have visited different parts of the globe at successive periods is inferred chiefly from the unconformability of strata belonging to groups of different ages. Thus, for example, on the borders of Wales and Shropshire, we find the slaty beds of the ancient Silurian system inclined and vertical, while the beds of the overlying carboniferous shale and sandstone are horizontal. All are agreed that in such a case the older set of strata had suffered great disturbance before the deposition of the newer or carboniferous beds, and that these last have never since been violently fractured, nor have ever been bent into folds, whether by sudden or continuous lateral pressure. On the other hand, the more ancient or Silurian group suffered only a local derangement, and neither in Wales nor elsewhere are all the rocks of that age found to be curved or vertical.
In various parts of Europe, for example, and particularly near Lake Wener in the south of Sweden, and in many parts of Russia, the Silurian strata maintain the most perfect horizontality; and a similar observation may be made respecting limestones and shales of like antiquity in the great lake district of Canada and the United States. These older rocks are still as flat and horizontal as when first formed; yet, since their origin, not only have most of the actual mountain-chains been uplifted, but some of the very rocks of which those, mountains are composed have been formed, some of them by igneous and others by aqueous action.
It would be easy to multiply instances of similar unconformability in formations of other ages; but a few more will suffice. The carboniferous rocks before alluded to as horizontal on the borders of Wales are vertical in the Mendip hills in Somersetshire, where the overlying beds of the New Red Sandstone are horizontal. Again, in the Wolds of Yorkshire the last- mentioned sandstone supports on its curved and inclined beds the horizontal Chalk. The Chalk again is vertical on the flanks of the Pyrenees, and the tertiary strata repose unconformably upon it.
As almost every country supplies illustrations of the same phenomena, they who advocate the doctrine of alternate periods of disorder and repose may appeal to the facts above described, as proving that every district has been by turns convulsed by earthquakes and then respited for ages from convulsions. But so it might with equal truth be affirmed that every part of Europe has been visited alternately by winter and summer, although it has always been winter and always summer in some part of the planet, and neither of these seasons has ever reigned simultaneously over the entire globe. They have been always shifting from place to place; but the vicissitudes which recur thus annually in a single spot are never allowed to interfere with the invariable uniformity of seasons throughout the whole planet.
So, in regard to subterranean movements, the theory of the perpetual uniformity of the force which they exert on the earth's crust is quite consistent with the admission of their alternate development and suspension for long and indefinite periods within limited geographical areas.
If, for reasons before stated, we assume a continual extinction of species and appearance of others on the globe, it will then follow that the fossils of strata formed at two distant periods on the same spot will differ even more certainly than the mineral composition of those strata. For rocks of the same kind have sometimes been reproduced in the same district after a long interval of time; whereas all the evidence derived from fossil remains is in favour of the opinion that species which have once died out have never been reproduced. The submergence, then, of land must be often attended by the commencement of a new class of sedimentary deposits, characterized by a new set of fossil animals and plants, while the reconversion of the bed of the sea into land may arrest at once and for an indefinite time the formation of geological monuments. Should the land again sink, strata will again be formed; but one or many entire revolutions in animal or vegetable life may have been completed in the interval.
As to the want of completeness in the fossiliferous series, which may be said to be almost universal, we have only to reflect on what has been already said of the laws governing sedimentary deposition, and those which give rise to fluctuations in the animate world, to be convinced that a very rare combination of circumstances can alone give rise to such a superposition and preservation of strata as will bear testimony to the gradual passage from one state of organic life to another. To produce such strata nothing less will be requisite than the fortunate coincidence of the following conditions: first, a never-failing supply of sediment in the same region throughout a period of vast duration; secondly, the fitness of the deposit in every part for the permanent preservation of imbedded fossils; and, thirdly, a gradual subsidence to prevent the sea or lake from being filled up and converted into land.
It will appear in the chapter on coral reefs, that, in certain parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, most of these conditions, if not all, are complied with, and the constant growth of coral, keeping pace with the sinking of the bottom of the sea, seems to have gone on so slowly, for such indefinite periods, that the signs of a gradual change in organic life might probably be detected in that quarter of the globe if we could explore its submarine geology. Instead of the growth of coralline limestone, let us suppose, in some other place, the continuous deposition of fluviatile mud and sand, such as the Ganges and Brahmapootra have poured for thousands of years into the Bay of Bengal. Part of this bay, although of considerable depth, might at length be filled up before an appreciable amount of change was effected in the fish, mollusca, and other inhabitants of the sea and neighbouring land. But if the bottom be lowered by sinking at the same rate that it is raised by fluviatile mud, the bay can never be turned into dry land. In that case one new layer of matter may be superimposed upon another for a thickness of many thousand feet, and the fossils of the inferior beds may differ greatly from those entombed in the uppermost, yet every intermediate gradation may be indicated in the passage from an older to a newer assemblage of species. Granting, however, that such an unbroken sequence of monuments may thus be elaborated in certain parts of the sea, and that the strata happen to be all of them well adapted to preserve the included fossils from decomposition, how many accidents must still concur before these submarine formations will be laid open to our investigation! The whole deposit must first be raised several thousand feet, in order to bring into view the very foundation; and during the process of exposure the superior beds must not be entirely swept away by denudation.
In the first place, the chances are nearly as three to one against the mere emergence of the mass above the waters, because nearly three-fourths of the globe are covered by the ocean. But if it be upheaved and made to constitute part of the dry land, it must also, before it can be available for our instruction, become part of that area already surveyed by geologists. In this small fraction of land already explored, and still very imperfectly known, we are required to find a set of strata deposited under peculiar conditions, and which, having been originally of limited extent, would have been probably much lessened by subsequent denudation.
Yet it is precisely because we do not encounter at every step the evidence of such gradations from one state of the organic world to another, that so many geologists have embraced the doctrine of great and sudden revolutions in the history of the animate world. Not content with simply availing themselves, for the convenience of classification, of those gaps and chasms which here and there interrupt the continuity of the chronological series, as at present known, they deduce, from the frequency of these breaks in the chain of records, an irregular mode of succession in the events themselves, both in the organic and inorganic world. But, besides that some links of the chain which once existed are now entirely lost and others concealed from view, we have good reason to suspect that it was never complete originally.
It may undoubtedly be said that strata have been always forming somewhere, and therefore at every moment of past time Nature has added a page to her archives; but, in reference to this subject, it should be remembered that we can never hope to compile a consecutive history by gathering together monuments which were originally detached and scattered over the globe. For, as the species of organic beings contemporaneously inhabiting remote regions are distinct, the fossils of the first of several periods which may be preserved in any one country, as in America for example, will have no connection with those of a second period found in India, and will therefore no more enable us to trace the signs of a gradual change in the living creation, than a fragment of Chinese history will fill up a blank in the political annals of Europe.
The absence of any deposits of importance containing recent shells in Chili, or anywhere on the western coast of South America, naturally led Mr. Darwin to the conclusion that "where the bed of the sea is either stationary or rising, circumstances are far less favourable than where the level is sinking to the accumulation of conchiferous strata of sufficient thickness and extension to resist the average vast amount of denudation." [Footnote: Darwin's S. America, pp. 136, 139.] In like manner the beds of superficial sand, clay, and gravel, with recent shells, on the coasts of Norway and Sweden, where the land has risen in Post-tertiary times, are so thin and scanty as to incline us to admit a similar proposition. We may in fact assume that in all cases where the bottom of the sea has been undergoing continuous elevation, the total thickness of sedimentary matter accumulating at depths suited to the habitation of most of the species of shells can never be great, nor can the deposits be thickly covered by superincumbent matter, so as to be consolidated by pressure. When they are upheaved, therefore, the waves on the beach will bear down and disperse the loose materials; whereas, if the bed of the sea subsides slowly, a mass of strata, containing abundance of such species as live at moderate depths, may be formed and may increase in thickness to any amount. It may also extend horizontally over a broad area, as the water gradually encroaches on the subsiding land.
Hence it will follow that great violations of continuity in the chronological series of fossiliferous rocks will always exist, and the imperfection of the record, though lessened, will never be removed by future discoveries. For not only will no deposits originate on the dry land, but those formed in the sea near land, which is undergoing constant upheaval, will usually be too slight in thickness to endure for ages.
In proportion as we become acquainted with larger geographical areas, many of the gaps, by which a chronological table, like that given at page 135, is rendered defective, will be removed. We were enabled by aid of the labours of Prof. Sedgwick and Sir Roderick Murchison to intercalate, in 1838, the marine strata of the Devonian period, with their fossil shells, corals, and fish, between the Silurian and Carboniferous rocks. Previously the marine fauna of these last- mentioned formations wanted the connecting links which now render the passage from the one to the other much less abrupt. In like manner the Upper Miocene has no representative in England, but in France, Germany, and Switzerland it constitutes a most instructive link between the living creation and the middle of the great Tertiary period. Still we must expect, for reasons before stated, that chasms will for ever continue to occur, in some parts of our sedimentary series.
Concluding remarks on the consistency of the theory of gradual change with the existence of great breaks in the series.—To return to the general argument pursued in this chapter, it is assumed, for reasons above explained, that a slow change of species is in simultaneous operation everywhere throughout the habitable surface of sea and land; whereas the fossilisation of plants and animals is confined to those areas where new strata are produced. These areas, as we have seen, are always shifting their position, so that the fossilising process, by means of which the commemoration of the particular state of the organic world, at any given time, is effected, may be said to move about, visiting and revisiting different tracts in succession.
To make still more clear the supposed working of this machinery, I shall compare it to a somewhat analogous case that might be imagined to occur in the history of human affairs. Let the mortality of the population of a large country represent the successive extinction of species, and the births of new individuals the introduction of new species. While these fluctuations are gradually taking place everywhere, suppose commissioners to be appointed to visit each province of the country in succession, taking an exact account of the number, names, and individual peculiarities of all the inhabitants, and leaving in each district a register containing a record of this information. If, after the completion of one census, another is immediately made on the same plan, and then another, there will at last be a series of statistical documents in each province. When those belonging to any one province are arranged in chronological order, the contents of such as stand next to each other will differ according to the length of the intervals of time between the taking of each census. If, for example, there are sixty provinces, and all the registers are made in a single year and renewed annually, the number of births and deaths will be so small, in proportion to the whole of the inhabitants, during the interval between the compiling of two consecutive documents, that the individuals described in such documents will be nearly identical; whereas, if the survey of each of the sixty provinces occupies all the commissioners for a whole year, so that they are unable to revisit the same place until the expiration of sixty years, there will then be an almost entire discordance between the persons enumerated in two consecutive registers in the same province. There are, undoubtedly, other causes, besides the mere quantity of time, which may augment or diminish the amount of discrepancy. Thus, at some periods a pestilential disease may have lessened the average duration of human life; or a variety of circumstances may have caused the births to be unusually numerous, and the population to multiply; or a province may be suddenly colonised by persons migrating from surrounding districts.
These exceptions may be compared to the accelerated rate of fluctuations in the fauna and flora of a particular region, in which the climate and physical geography may be undergoing an extraordinary degree of alteration.
But I must remind the reader that the case above proposed has no pretensions to be regarded as an exact parallel to the geological phenomena which I desire to illustrate; for the commissioners are supposed to visit the different provinces in rotation; whereas the commemorating processes by which organic remains become fossilised, although they are always shifting from one area to the other, are yet very irregular in their movements. They may abandon and revisit many spaces again and again, before they once approach another district; and, besides this source of irregularity, it may often happen that, while the depositing process is suspended, denudation may take place, which may be compared to the occasional destruction by fire or other causes of some of the statistical documents before mentioned. It is evident that where such accidents occur the want of continuity in the series may become indefinitely great, and that the monuments which follow next in succession will by no means be equidistant from each other in point of time.
If this train of reasoning be admitted, the occasional distinctness of the fossil remains, in formations immediately in contact, would be a necessary consequence of the existing laws of sedimentary deposition and subterranean movement, accompanied by a constant dying-out and renovation of 'species.
As all the conclusions above insisted on are directly opposed to opinions still popular, I shall add another comparison, in the hope of preventing any possible misapprehension of the argument. Suppose we had discovered two buried cities at the foot of Vesuvius, immediately superimposed upon each other, with a great mass of tuff and lava intervening, just as Portici and Resina, if now covered with ashes, would overlie Herculaneum. An antiquary might possibly be entitled to infer, from the inscriptions on public edifices, that the inhabitants of the inferior and older city were Greeks, and those of the modern towns Italians. But he would reason vary hastily if he also concluded from these data, that there had been a sudden change from the Greek to the Italian language in Campania. But if he afterwards found three buried cities, one above the other, the intermediate one being Roman, while, as in the former example, the lowest was Greek and the uppermost Italian, he would then perceive the fallacy of his former opinion, and would begin to suspect that the catastrophes, by which the cities were inhumed might have no relation whatever to the fluctuations in the language of the inhabitants; and that, as the Roman tongue had evidently intervened between the Greek and Italian, so many other dialects may have been spoken in succession, and the passage from the Greek to the Italian may have been very gradual, some terms growing obsolete, while others were introduced from time to time.