The world as seen through the clarifying lens of the 9th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1875-1889).

Monday, 27 October 2008

36. Wayward tendencies

Another instructive and colourful biography of a notable personage from the pages of the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. If today's theatre or the screen can offer a personality to compare I would be surprised. As the article in its original form does not appear to be found elsewhere in Interwebshire, and as it contains the phrase "a thrilling sweetness like the witchery of the finest music," I present it here in full, without apology. A comparison with what I am assuming is the eleventh edition's reworking of this piece can be made by visiting this site.

"KEAN, EDMUND (1787 - 1833), an English actor, chiefly celebrated as an impersonator of Shakespearean characters, was born at Chancery Lane, London, November 4, 1787. His reputed father was Aaron Kean, stage carpenter, and his mother was a strolling actress, Ann Carey, grand-daughter of Henry Carey, the author of the National Anthem, and the natural son of George Savile, marquis of Halifax. When only in his fourth year Kean made his first appearance on the stage as Cupid in one of Noverre's ballets at the opera-house. His fine black eyes, his bright vivacity and cleverness, and his ready affection to those who treated him with kindness, made him in childhood a universal favourite, but the harsh circumstances of his lot, and the want of proper restraint, while they developed strong self-reliance, fostered wayward tendencies. About 1794 a few persons benevolently provided the means of sending him to school, where he mastered his tasks with remarkable ease and rapidity ; but finding its restraints intolerably irksome, he shipped himself as a cabin boy at Portsmouth. Soon discovering that he had only escaped to a more rigorous bondage, he counterfeited both deafness and lameness with a histrionic mastery which deceived even the physicians at Madeira. On his return to England he sought the protection of his uncle Moses Kean, mimic, ventriloquist, and general entertainer, who, besides continuing his pantomimic studies, introduced him to the study of Shakespeare. At the same time Miss Tidswell, an actress who had been specially kind to him from infancy, taught him the principals of acting. On the death of his uncle he was taken charge of by Miss Tidswell, and under her instruction he began the systematic study of the principal Shakespearean characters, displaying even at this early period the peculiar originality of his genius by interpretations entirely different from those of Kemble. His brilliant talents and interesting countenance induced a Mrs Clarke of Guildford Street, Russell Square, to adopt him, but the unlucky remark of a visitor so touched his sensitive pride that he suddenly left her house and went back to his old surroundings. In his fourteenth year he obtained an engagement to play leading characters for twenty nights in York Theatre, appearing as Hamlet, Hastings, and Cato. Shortly afterwards, while he was in the strolling troupe of Richardson, the rumour of his abilities reached the ear of King George III, who commanded him to recite at Windsor Castle. It is affirmed that this incident led some gentlemen to send him to Eton College ; but the next three years of his life, from 1803 to 1806, are without authentic record. In 1807 he played leading parts in the Belfast theatre along with Mrs Siddons, who said that he "played very well," but that "there was too little of him to make a great actor." An engagement in 1808 to play leading characters in Beverley's provincial troupe was brought to an abrupt close by his marriage with Miss Chambers, the leading actress, and for several years after his prospects were so dark that, when contemplating the possibility of a debut in London, he was in the habit of exclaiming, "If I succeed I shall go mad." In 1814, however, the committee of Drury Lane theatre, the fortunes of which were then so low that bankruptcy seemed inevitable, resolved to give him a chance among the "experiments" they were making to win a return of popularity. His debut there on the 26th January as Shylock roused the audience to almost uncontrollable enthusiasm, and successive appearances in Richard III., Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and Lear only served to demonstrate to the fullest the greatness of his powers and his complete mastery of the whole range of tragic emotion.

"Probably the irregular habits of Kean, even from the period when he became famous, were prejudiced to the refinement of his taste, and latterly they tended to exaggerate his special defects and mannerisms. The adverse decision in the divorce case Cox v. Kean, and his consequent separation from his wife, roused against him such bitter feeling as almost compelled him to retire permanently into private life. Ultimately he was received with all the old favour, but the contrast by its effects both on his bodily health and on his feelings had made him so dependent on the use of stimulants that the gradual deterioration of his gifts was inevitable. Still, even in their decay his great powers triumphed during the moments of his inspiration over the absolute wreck of his physical faculties, and compelled admiration when his gait had degenerated into a weak hobble, when the lightning brilliancy of his eyes had become dull and bloodshot, and the tones of his matchless voice were marred by rough and grating hoarseness. His last appearance on the stage was at Covent Garden, on the 25th March 1833, when he played Othello to his son's Iago. At the words "Villain, be sure" in scene 3 of act iii. he suddenly broke down, and fell insensible into his son's arms. He died at Richmond, 15th May 1833.

"It was especially in the impersonation of the great creations of Shakespeare's genius that the varied beauty and grandeur of the acting of Kean were displayed in their highest form, although probably his most powerful character was Sir Giles Overreach, the effect of his first impersonation of which was such that the pit rose en masse, and even the actors and actresses themselves were overcome by the terrific dramatic illusion. His only personal disadvantage as an actor was his small stature. His countenance was strikingly interesting and unusually mobile ; he had a matchless command of facial elocution ; his fine eyes scintillated even the slightest shades of emotion and thought ; his voice, though weak and harsh in the upper register, possessed in its lower range tones of penetrating and resistless power, and a thrilling sweetness like the witchery of the finest music ; above all, in the grander moments of his passion, his intellect and soul seemed to rise beyond material barriers and to glorify physical defects with their own greatness. In Othello, Iago, Shylock, and Richard III., characters utterly different from each other, but in which the predominant element is some form of passion, his identification with the personality, as he had conceived it, was as nearly as possible perfect, and each isolated phrase and aspect of the plot was elaborated with the minutest attention to details, and yet with an absolute subordination of these to the distinct individuality he was endeavouring to portray. If the range of character in which Kean had attained supreme excellence was narrow, no one except Garrick has been so successful in so many great impersonations. Unlike Garrick, he had no true talent for comedy, but in the expression of biting and saturnine wit, of grim and ghostly gaiety, he was unsurpassed."

Saturday, 25 October 2008

35. ii) Sympathy with books and reading

Tedder and Thomas continue their article with nothing less than an overview of practically every library on the planet. Twenty-one pages of text are accompanied by ten pages of tables, and the mind, as the cliché goes, boggles. This article is pervaded by a proud sense of the dynamic modern phenomena of free access to knowledge and the wisdom of the ages. It is not difficult to see the parallels with this internet thing in many regards, perhaps excepting the porn and the free downloadable smileys.

The credentials given for the British Museum's library leave us in no doubt that it was the foremost collection of knowledge in the history of mankind. (A nod is made to the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, but here Blighty's pride "far excels the latter institution in the systematic arrangement and accessibility of its contents." So there.) Leaving aside the detailed description of the actual collection, which I am sure you will take for granted, there is a brief account of the "comfortable accommodation for readers" in the hallowed reading-room.

"Perhaps not the least convenient arrangement here is the presence of the superintendent, whose duty is to help readers in their difficulties ; the varied qualifications of the present holder of the office are well known. The electric light has been successfully used until 8 o'clock P. M. through the darker months from the earlier part of October. In order to enjoy the privilege of reading at the British Museum, the applicant (who must be over twenty-one years of age) must obtain a renewable ticket of admission through a recommendation of a householder addressed to the principal librarian. Formerly no person was admitted until the ticket had been presented at the entrance, but latterly this rule has been considerably relaxed."

An overview of the chief libraries of the United Kingdom and the rest of the globe should be comprehensive
enough for the casual reader, especially an overview which gives high praise to the Picton Reading Room at the Liverpool Library - which retains, I am happy to report, much of its splendour today, including a wonderful echo that continuously leads one to the temptation to slam a book shut or drop a pen on a desk to enjoy the sonic aftermath. Sufficient for the casual reader, but Tedder and Thomas have a higher standard of comprehension, although even they allow for limits.

"In compiling the following tables officials of the libraries have been personally applied to, and in most instances the information has been supplied by them. An attempt has been made to give particulars of all libraries of general or special interest in the United Kingdom. As regards those of other countries the list has been usually limited to those of 30,000 vols. and upwards, with a few exceptions."

These particulars include date of foundation, number of volumes, number of manuscripts, to whom accessible and "Special Character and Remarks." Perhaps I should find better ways to spend my time, but I find an endless fascination wandering through these bibliographic odds and ends.

Wigan's Free Public Library, for example (founded 1877 ; 27,000 vols.) understandably specializes in mining, and very intriguingly is listed as having 1 manuscript. An ancient pie recipe, perhaps. Chetham's Library in Manchester (founded 1653 ; 40,000 vols.) is noted for its "Popery tracts." That dumbing-down is not a 21st century phenomena we have the evidence of the Stadt-B. library in Danzig (founded 1580 ; 83,000 vols.) which was "Formerly learned ; now gen." The Konigl.- und Universitats-B. of Konigsberg (1534 ; 184,000 vols.) lends, to "students and others by guarantee", an impressive 25 books at one time. The University of Michigan's library at Ann Arbor by contrast (1841 ; 40,000 vols., general and reference) only lends books to professors, while the Apprentices' Library of New York (1820 ; 63,000 vols.) lends to apprentices and working women free of charge, to others for $2. As a final, sombre note, we find that the only notable collection in Peru, that of the B. Nacional at Lima (1821 ; 35,000 vols.) is "said to have been taken by Chilians to Santiago."

It would hardly be surprising if this inundation of data left you with an inclination to start a library of your own - fear not! Help is at hand : the article ends with five pages of information on Library Management, including detailed, practical advice on a wide range of relevant issues, including classification systems, the creation of a catalogue, precautions against fire, the acquisition of books, and much else besides. Some of this reads a little like Polonius :

"Practical Hints.- Collate every volume when it comes in, so as to prevent binder's imperfections ; remove plate-paper when the book is quite dry ; strings and silk registers are to be avoided, as they tear the leaves ; preserve old bindings as far as possible, and do not permit book-plates, the names of former owners, and MS. notes of any kind to be destroyed ; be careful with metal clasps and corners ; let gilding be used sparingly ; do not hurry the binder overmuch, as he may retaliate by returning his work insufficiently dried and pressed ; be careful with letterings ; index dictionaries and works of reference on the fore edges ; bind up paper wrappers ; never let a binder exercise his fatal proclivity to cut away full margins."

Please note, in appreciating the wealth of detail that the authors expend on this fascinating subject : the above advice takes up about an eighth of one page of this 40 page article.

It seems fitting to close with some of Tedder and Thomas's thoughts on the subject of librarians themselves, including some startlingly progressive remarks concerning the employment of females in that capacity.

"Without insisting on quite so wide a range of subjects as did F. A. Ebert in his Bildung des Bibliothekars (Leipsic, 1820), one may expect the librarian of a great library to be a man of liberal education, and specially endowed with sympathy with books and reading ; a practical acquaintance with bibliography, including palaeography, and bibliology, is also necessary, as well as with the theory and practice of library management. To be thoroughly qualified, a librarian should have had the practical experience of library-work which it is impossible to obtain from any amount of book reading. Besides this he ought to be a man of business and a good administrator.

"[...]Women are gradually making their way in libraries. At Manchester and elsewhere they are successfully employed as assistants ; and in several other places in England the chief charge of a library is maintained in a very efficient manner by a lady. In the United States the majority of the librarians are ladies (at the Boston Public Library no less than two-thirds of the staff), and many of the most accomplished cataloguers are of the same sex."


Friday, 17 October 2008

35. i) Dusty books and silence

Last week, here at the European Capital of Culture 2008, we were blessed by no less august a figure than Andy Burnham, the government’s Culture Secretary, outlining the glorious future for Britain’s libraries in the 21st century, “far removed from the stereotype of dusty books and silence.” Libraries, we are thrilled to hear, will be put at the very heart of communities, and all kinds of excitement and fun will be contained therein.

Liverpool, like most UK cities, has a splendid record of doing its very best to banish the association of libraries with mere dusty books, by selling volumes acquired at public expense off at 10p a book, at a rate sufficient to keep the city’s antiquarian book dealers in business. By rigorously applying the criteria of popularity of a given volume to determine whether it remains in the collection, libraries are managing to gradually phase out the fuddy-duddy ramblings of yesteryear with the latest Buffy the Vampire Slayer serialization. I am not complaining : recent acquisitions to the Barleycorn collection have included Nelson's Purse ("the rise and vertiginous fall of Nelson's confident, Alexander Davison") printed way back in 2004, and The Shield of Achilles : War, Peace and the Course of History (2002), which were together worth paying less than the price of a pint of milk for.

Last month The Times managed to hilariously put recent relaxations of prohibitions against food and talking to the test by sending a reporter round to various London libraries to talk loudly on her mobile phone and spill doughnut crumbs and cola on the books. What larks, Pip!

Volume 14 of the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica contains the fascinating and extensively researched article LIBRARIES by H. R. Tedder, F. S. A., Librarian, Athenaeum Club, and E. C. Thomas, B. A., Secretary, Library Association, London. As well as a history of libraries, advice on the collection and maintenance of a library, there is also a survey, accompanied by a table consisting of ten pages of statistics, of the collections of every library in the United Kingdom and the principal libraries of the rest of the world. It is impressive and striking as an attempt to provide something of an index to all the printed knowledge of the planet, circa 1882.

The historical portion of the article gives a fascinating impression given of the fragility, across the ages, of the process by which knowledge has been transferred, and a tantalising vision of all that has been lost to dust and fire.

“The researches which have followed the discoveries of Botta and Layard have thrown unexpected light not only upon the history but upon the arts, the sciences, and the literature of the ancient civilizations of Babylonia and Assyria. In all these wondrous revelations no facts are more interesting than those which show the existence of extensive libraries so many ages ago, and none are more eloquent of the elaborateness of these forgotten civilizations.

“In the course of his excavations at Nineveh in 1850, Layard came upon some chambers in the south-west palace, the floor of which, as well as of the adjoining rooms, was covered to the depth of a foot with tablets of clay, covered with cuneiform characters, in many cases so small as to require a magnifying glass. These varied in size from an inch to a foot square. […] These tablets formed the library of the great monarch Assur-bani-pal -the Sardanapalus of the Greeks - the greatest patron of literature among the Assyrians. It is estimated that this library consisted of some ten thousand distinct works and documents, some of the works extending over several tablets. The tablets appear to have been methodically arranged and catalogued, and the library seems to have been thrown open for the general use of the king’s subjects. [See Menant, Bibliothéque du Palais de Nineve, Paris, 1880.] A great portion of this library has already been brought to England and deposited in the British Museum, but it is calculated that there still remain some 20,000 fragments to be gathered up. [...]"

Complaints of cultural imperialism would be entirely out of place here, but it is kind of fun to read a throwaway contemporary reference to the British Museum's hoovering up of artifacts and antiquities.

There follows an account of the ancient Greek libraries, centering on those of Alexandria. I had a vague idea that the destruction of that renowned repository of learning was a particular and infamous event in history : it transpires that the historical truth is more complex.

"When Caesar set fire to the fleet in the harbour of Alexandria, the flames accidentally extended to the larger library of the Bruchium, and it was destroyed. [Parthey (Alexandrinisches Museum) assigns topographical reasons for doubting this story.] Anthony endeavoured to repair the loss by presenting to Cleopatra the library from Pergamus. This was very probably placed in the Bruchium, as this continued to be the literary quarter of Alexandria until the time of Aurelian. [...] The usual statement that from the date of the restoration of the Bruchium under Cleopatra the libraries continued in a flourishing condition until they were destroyed bafter the conquest of Alexandria by the Saracens in 640 A.D. can hardly be supported. It is very possible that one of the libraries perished when the Bruchium quarter was destroyed by Auralian, 273 A. D. In 389 or 391 an edict of Theodosius ordered the destruction of the Serapeum, and its books were pillaged by Christians. When we take into account the disordered condition of the times, and the neglect into which literature and science had fallen, there can be little difficulty in believing that there were but few books left to be destroyed by the soldiers of 'Amr. The familiar anecdote of the caliph's message to his general (vol. i. p. 494) rests mainly upon the evidence of Abulfaragius, so that we may be tempted to agree with Gibbon that the report of a stranger who wrote at the end of six hundred years is overbalanced by the silence of earlier native annalists. It is, however, so far from easy to settle the question that a cloud of names could easily be cited upon either side, while some of the most careful inquirers confess the difficulty of a decision."

This underlines something brought to mind recently, when I heard on the radio some academic or politician speaking of a constant cultural effort throughout 19th century British academia to denigrate the Arabic and Islamic world. I have yet to scour the pages of Britannica for references which may support or refute this assertion ; my general impression at the time was that the statement was some way off the mark, : this article supports that notion. Elsewhere, where the authors write of libraries in the dark and middle ages, this is emphasized again. After speaking of the fragile flame of learning preserved by monastic tradition (with its own repeated outbreaks of hostility against the writings of earlier pagans), we read :

"The first conquests of the Arabians, as we have already seen, threatened hostility to literature. But, as soon as their conquests were secured, the caliphs became the patrons of learning and science. Greek manuscripts were eagerly sought for and translated into Arabic, and colleges and libraries everywhere arose. Baghdad in the East and Cordova in the West became the seats of a rich development of letters and science during the age when the civilization of Europe was most obscured. Cairo and Tripoli were also distinguished for their libraries. The royal library of the Fatimites in Africa is said to have numbered 100,000 manuscripts, while that collected by the Omayyads in Spain is reported to have contained six times as many. It is said that there were no less than seventy libraries in the cities of Andalusia. Whether these figures be exaggerated or not - and they are much below those given by some Arabian writers, which are undoubtedly so - it is certain that the libraries of the Arabians and the Moors of Spain offer a very remarkable contrast to those of the Christian nations during the same period."

Still to come : Tedder & Thomas's catalogue of the world's libraries, and how best to avoid the fatal proclivity of book-binders.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

34. Thoroughly organized, drilled, and equipped for service.

The author of the article quoted in the previous three postings is one Professor McKendrick. Britannica prints his name as M’Kendrick in each instance. I am assuming that this is following either some printing convention or personal preference, for elsewhere in Britannica Scots names are printed with the full Mc or Mac, or are likewise apostrophized. Checking the list of contributors in the Index volume, in trying (without success) to fathom if there is a discernible rule when the apostrophe comes into play, I was delighted to find amongst the many academics of Scots descent one George Brinton McClellan (given as M’Clellan).

McClellan was a Union general during the American civil war, lionized in song , but rather notoriously remembered in history as a battle-shy popinjay. Before the war he had been a successful and highly-regarded railway engineer, surely as notable a field of achievement as could be made in peacetime 19th century affairs. At the outbreak of the war, as the major-general of Ohio’s volunteers he achieved striking successes, where the Union was elsewhere suffering humiliating defeats and the threat of Washington’s capture. The handsome young general was a popular choice when promoted to commander of the northern armies.

McClellan proved to have a prodigious talent for the organization and discipline of his forces, matched by an equally prodigious inclination to avoid engaging the Confederate forces in actual combat. McClellan’s unwillingness to commit his troops in battle and his repeated habit of massively overestimating the strength of opposing forces, were knowingly exploited by wily southern generals such as Jackson and Lee. His repeated procrastination is often considered to be one of the single most significant factors in the bloody protraction of the war. Lincoln, if my understanding (based pretty much entirely on Gore Vidal’s splendid biographical fiction) is halfway correct, had no faith at all in the abilities of his well-groomed commander, and was finally able to dismiss him after the carnage at Antietam (considered nonetheless by many at the time and since to be McClellan‘s greatest victory).

To be fair to McClellan, his faults, although apparently clear enough to Lincoln, are easily marked with the historical benefit of hindsight. Had McClellan not been in the position to assemble and instill with faith and confidence such a disciplined and united army, there may have been no victory for later generals to win.

McClellan’s contribution to Britannica is, perhaps disappointingly, not a biography of some military leader of the ancients nor a treatise on keeping buttons and boots polished, but rather the entry in volume 17 for NEW JERSEY, of which state McClellan served a term as governor from 1878 to 1881. The article follows the standard format for geographical entries, describing the physical features of the state, listing its natural resources, tabulating its industry, commerce and population, closing with a description of local government, institutions and history.

Whilst otherwise devoid of material for easy interpretation, other than to confirm a love for and pride in his adopted state, there is perhaps a personal flash in the very last words of the article, describing New Jersey’s military capacity :

“At the breaking out of the civil war of 1861the number of men in the State available for military duty was 98,806 ; and during that war New Jersey organized and maintained 37 regiments of infantry, 3 regiments of cavalry, and 5 batteries. The national guard of the State now consists of 48 companies of infantry and 2 Gatling gun companies, numbering 3220 officers and men, thoroughly organized, drilled, and equipped for service.”

McClellan’s reputation for being more concerned with the parade ground than the battlefield, is not contradicted by the omission of any specific reference to the New Jersey troops being ready for action.

From McClellan‘s entry in the biographical section of volume 23‘s UNITED STATES article, we learn that he died “at Orange Mountain, N.J., Oct 29, 1885.” In his article, McClellan tells us that the post of governor is “elected by the people for a term of three years ; no one can serve in this capacity for two successive terms.” I cannot help but imagine the blue pen of an editor striking out “not even General George B. McClellan.” Death itself ruled out the possibility of a non-successive term.

Sources: EB9’s biography of McClellan is rather kind and brushes over the specifics of his defects. “The Life of Abraham Lincoln” by Henry Ketcham (1901) is widely available free of charge in numerous formats throughout Interwebshire, and has a useful chapter on the relations between the president and the general.

The current Britannica articles on George B. McClellan and the American Civil War are worth a look for a brief introduction to the modern historical perspective.

The photograph illustrating this piece comes from the Smithsonian Institution website, and shows a splendidly turned out McClellan and staff, posing for the camera, while (as one source has it) the distant sounds his fellow General Pope’s army being defeated at the second battle of Bull Run could be heard : Georgey playing his trademark hand of keeping his own forces safely unused in reserve. There are a wealth of fascinating photographs of the period, and of course much else besides, at the Smithsonian's main site.

A tip of the hat to the, well, encyclopaedic knowledge of the brains behind for bringing my attention to the matter of the apostrophization of Scots patronymics, and also for identifying the article penned by the great general.

ADDED RELEVANCY UPDATE (15.10.08): Somehow I managed to miss the news that Sarah Palin, one of the more interesting candidates to run as vice president, twice name dropped General McClellan in an interview the other week, apparently under the mistaken impression that he was leading American forces in Afghanistan.

Friday, 10 October 2008

33. iii) This intricate ganglionic mechanism

"No one now doubts that consciousness has an anatomical substratum, but the great problem of the relation between the two is as far from solution as in the days when little or nothing was known of the physiology of the nervous system. Consciousness has been driven step by step upwards until now it takes refuge in a few thousand nerve-cells in a portion of the grey matter of the brain. The ancients believed that the body participated in the feelings of the mind, and that, in a real sense, the heart might be torn by contending emotions. As science advanced, consciousness took refuge in the brain, first in the medulla and lastly in the cortex. But even supposing we are ultimately able to understand all the phenomena - chemical, physical, physiological - of this intricate ganglionic mechanism we shall be no nearer a solution of the problem of the connexion between the objective and subjective aspects of the phenomena. [...]"

At the regrettable expense of neglecting further colourful references to vivisection (including an intriguing method of removing monkey grey matter using pressurized jets of water), we close our all too brief examination of Prof. McKendrick's contribution to PHYSIOLOGY with the above.

For all the doubtless marvellous advances made by neuroscience in the years that have followed, I have the idea that the problem of consciousness would be couched in similar terms today, and remains unanswered. Similar terms, but I would not expect the same language. There is a certain poetry in the professor's writing, coloured by a certain hint of melancholy and the macabre, and this final section somehow reminds me of Hamlet's soliloquies. George Bernard Shaw, so the Wikipedia informs us, read the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica in its entirety - excepting the scientific articles. Mr Shaw missed out.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

33. ii) More fun with pigeons

"Flourens and the older observers were aware of the fact that as successive slices of grey matter are removed from the cerebrum an animal becomes more dull and stupid, until at last all indications of perception and volition disappear. A pigeon in this condition (see fig. 29), if carefully fed, may live for many months ; to quote from Dalton -

"The effect of this mutilation is simply to plunge the animal into a state of profound stupor, in which it is almost entirely inattentive to surrounding objects. The bird remains sitting motionless upon his perch or standing upon the ground, with the eyes closed and the head sunk between the shoulders. The plumage is smooth and glossy, but is uniformly expanded by a kind of erection of the feathers, so that the body appears somewhat puffed out, and larger than natural. Occasionally the bird opens its eyes with a vacant stare, stretches its neck, perhaps shakes its bill once or twice, or smooths down the feathers upon its shoulders, and then relapses to its former apathetic condition."

Similar observations have also been made on reptiles and mammals, but the latter survive the operation for a comparatively short time. In watching such an animal it is difficult to divest one's mind of the belief that it still feels or hears. It may be observed that it rarely makes movements unless stimulated from without. Thus it may remain motionless for many hours ; but if pushed, or gently touched, it moves. As remarked by Prof. M. Foster -

"No image, either pleasant or terrible, whether of food or of an enemy, produces any effect on it, other than that of an object reflecting more or less light. And, though the plaintive character of the cry which it gives forth when pinched suggests to the observer the existence of passion, it is probable that it is a wrong interpretation of a vocal action ; the cry appears plaintive, simply because, in consequence of the completeness of the reflex nervous machinery and the absence of the usual restraints, it is prolonged. The animal is able to execute all of its ordinary bodily movements, but in its performance nothing is ever seen to indicate the retention of an educated intelligence.""

Monday, 6 October 2008

33. i) Fun with pigeons

"If the cerebellum be removed gradually by successive slices - an operation easily done in a pigeon - there is a progressive effect on locomotive actions. On taking away only the upper layer there is some weakness and a hesitation in gait. When the sections have reached the middle of the organ the animal staggers much, and assists itself by its wings in walking. The sections being continued further, it is no longer able to preserve its equilibrium without the assistance of its wings and tail ; its attempts to fly or walk resemble the fruitless attempts of a nestling, and the slightest touch knocks it over. At last, when the whole cerebellum is removed, it cannot support itself even with the aid of its wings and tail ; it makes violent efforts to rise, but only rolls up and down ; then, fatigued with struggling, it remains for a few seconds at rest on its back or abdomen, and then again commences its vain struggles to rise and walk. Yet all the while sight and hearing are perfect. See fig. 26. It attempts to escape, and appears to have all its sensations perfect. The results contrast very strongly with those of removing the cerebral lobes. "Take two pigeons," says Longet ; "from one remove completely the cerebral lobes, and from the other only half the cerebellum ; the next day the first will be firm on its feet, the second will exhibit the unsteady and uncertain gait of drunkenness.""

(from Professor J. G. M'Kendrick, M.D.'s fascinating contribution to the article PHYSIOLOGY, volume XIX of the 9th Edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1885.)