Cornhill Magazine,  2 (1860), 21–32.

Physiological Riddles. I.—How We Act  [1/4]

[James Hinton]


Essay, Serial

Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [6]


Physiology, Natural Law, Induction, Error, Vitalism, Analogy, Machinery, Physiological Chemistry, Organicism, Heat, Energy, Force, Design, Neurology, Sound, Photography, Electricity, Creation

People mentioned:

Samuel Rogers , William R Grove

Publications cited:

Grove 1846

    Attempting to establish 'physiological laws [...] based on a sufficiently wide induction to give them authority as standards, like the laws of gravitation in chemistry', Hinton firstly considers the origins of the 'active power' in animal bodies (21). He concludes that the body resembles a machine, and maintains an equilibrium between the chemical affinities of its elements and a force opposed to these affinities. This equilibrium is constantly overthrown by various stimuli, thereby inducing the performance of the body's functions. The functions of the animal body, he insists, are part of the 'ceaseless round of force-mutation throughout nature, each one generating, or changing into, the other' (23). In this view of physiology 'the vital organism ceases to be contrasted with the rest of nature, and becomes to us an example of universal and familiar laws' (32). Hinton nevertheless maintains that the complex organism is 'a divinely made machine' (24), while the laws of energy conservation are merely 'the plan on which the animal creation is constructed'. Furthermore, the action of forces 'perpetually destroyed and perpetually renewed' operates throughout the universe, and is 'the bond which ties all in one Brotherhood, [and] proclaims one Author'. (32)


Hinton 1862

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