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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Science and Nature

Marvels of Man

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -

We are indebted to a scientific contemporary for the following interesting facts: -

While the gastric juice has a mild, bland sweetish taste, it possesses the power of digesting the hardest food that can be swallowed. It has no influence whatever on the fibres of the living animals, but at the moment of death, it begins to eat them away with the power of the strongest acid.

There is dust on the sea and the land, in the valleys and on the mountain top; there is dust always and everywhere. The atmosphere is full of it; it penetrates the noisome dungeon, and visits the deepest, darkest caves of the earth. No palace door can shut it out; no drawer is so secret as to escape its presence. Every breath of wind dashed it upon the open eye, which yet is not blinded, because there is a fountain of the blandest fluid in nature incessantly emptying under the eyelid, which spreads itself over the surface of the eyeball at every winking, and washed every atom of dust away. This liquid, so well adapted to the eye itself, has some acridity, which, under some circumstances, becomes so decided as to be scalding to the skin, and would rot away the eyelids, were it not that along the edges of them there are little oil manufactories, which spread over their surface a coating as impervious to the liquids necessary for keeping the eyeballs washed clean, as the best varnish is impervious to water.

The breath which leaves the lungs has been so perfectly divested of its life-giving properties, that to re-breathe it unmixed with other air, the moment it escapes from the mouth, would cause immediate death by suffocation; while, if it hovered about us, a more or less destructive influence over health would be occasioned; But it is made of a nature so much lighter than the common air, that the moment it escapes the lips and nostrils it ascends to higher regions, above the breathing point, there to be rectified, renovated, and sent back again, replete with purity an life. How rapidly it ascends is beautifully exhibited any frosty morning.

But foul and deadly as the expired air is, nature – wisely economical in all her works and ways – turns it to good account in the outward passage through the organs of the voice, and makes of it the whisper of love, the soft word of affection, the tender tones of human sympathy, the sweet strains of ravishing music, and the persuasive eloquence of the finished orator.

If a well-made man be extended on the ground, his arms at right angles with his body, a circle, making the navel the centre, will just take in the head, the finger-ends, and the feet. The distance from “toe to toe” is precisely the same as that between the tips of the fingers when the arms are extended. The length of the body is just six times that of the foot; while the distance from the edge of the hair on the forehead to the end of the chin is one-tenth of the length of the whole stature.

Of the sixty-two primary elements known in nature, only eighteen are found in the human body, and of these, seven are metallic. Iron is found in the blood, phosphorus in the brain, limestone in the bile, line in the bones, dust and ashes in all. Not only these eighteen human elements, bit the whole sixty-two, of which the universe is made, have their essential basis in the four substances – oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon – representing the more familiar names of fire, water, saltpetre, and charcoal. And such is man, the lord of earth – a spark of fire – a drop of water – a grain of gunpowder – an atom of charcoal!