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Diatribae Thomae Willisii Doc. Med. & Profess. Oxon. De febribus vindicatio adversus Edmundum De Meara Ormoniensem Hibernum M.D.
London: At the house of John Martyn & James Allestry, at the sign of the Bell in St. Paul's churchyard, 1665. First edition, extremely rare, and in an untouched contemporary binding, of pioneering Oxford physician and physiologist Richard Lower's first and rarest book. Variously known as Diatribae and Vindicatio, De febribus vindication is a strident defence of Thomas Willis's Diatribae duae medico-philosophicae (London, 1658-9), against the criticisms of Irish physician Edmund O'Meara published in his Examen Diatribae Thomae Willisii de febribus (1665). "Lower served for at least ten years as Willis's 'research assistant' ... the best testimony of their harmonious relations is to be found in the present work by Lower, which is a valiant defence of Willis, and incidentally a book of considerable interest to the historian of science since it contains a preliminary statement of Lower's views concerning the functions of the heart and lungs" (Fulton, p. 13). "Lower's book is, in fact, the repository of some of the most important ideas that fretted the minds of his contemporaries. He defended Harveian circulatory physiology, and the role of the thoracic duct in nutrition; he substituted chemical principles for the four humours and constantly upheld the experimental method in medicine. When he wrote Vindicatio Richard Lower was the leading physiologist in Oxford. He had investigated the transfusion of blood and other fluids; he had studied the difference between venous and arterial blood as well as aspects of respiration, nutrition, and body heat, all in terms of a chemico-mechanical philosophy which reached maturity in Tractatus de Corde (1669). Richard Lower's Vindicatio is a rare book. Antoine Portal (1770-3), who reviewed O'Meara's Examen, was unable to obtain a copy of Vindicatio, and in his bibliography of Lower's works John Fulton traced only eight copies" (Dewhurst, p. vii). ESTC locates copies in fourteen British and Irish libraries, and just six elsewhere (BN, Cornell, NLM, NSU, UCLA and Yale). ABPC/RBH list no copy in the past fifty years. "Boyle's chemical trials on blood, Lower's vivisectional experiments on its color, Locke's speculations about air, fermentation, and the creation of arterial blood -- all were part of a broader, emergent conception of a corpuscular and chemical approach to Harveian problems. Just as the Oxonians believed that experimental challenge best revealed nature, so were the foundations of their own Harveianism revealed in response to a challenge upon their doyen, Thomas Willis. In early 1665 the elderly Bristol physician Edmund Meara published a severe quasi-Galenic critique of Willis's ideas on blood and fever. Dick Lower, as Ward noted, responded. Lower saw Meara's criticisms not just as an affront to Willis, but as an attack upon the entire tradition to which Harvey's work had given rise. During the early months of 1665, most certainly at breakneck speed, Lower wrote out his Vindicatio of Willis's Diatribae duae, and it was published by Martyn and Allestry about early May 1665. "Although Lower's book was in format very much a page-by-page refutation of Meara, it displays an overall logic proceeding from Lower's unified conception of physiological processes. As he said in dedicating the book to Boyle, he was defending not just Willis, but the entire new way of philosophizing; in this enterprise, Lower asked Boyle, as its guardian, for his blessing. One would only be following Lower's intentions in analyzing the major themes of the Vindicatio synoptically, rather than plodding sequentially from insult to invective. Lower proved himself as much a master of the literary dagger as of the dissecting knife, but there is no need to be bound by his polemical purposes. "The book's leitmotiv was the primacy of the blood as a locus of physiological processes. Although this theme was forced upon him by the nature of the debate Willis believed fevers arose in the blood, while Meara thought they were lodged in the solids Lower soon made it clear that on this point he was defending not so much Willis as Harvey. To prove the importance of the blood, he cited again and again Harvey's proof, in De generatione, that it was the first-generated part of the embryo. The blood was the first formed, as Harvey and Willis correctly believed, because it was the vehicle of the soul; Lower, like those before him, adduced the well-worn scriptural confirmation. He even turned Meara's charge of impiety against Harvey back upon the Irishman; if the Scriptures said that the divine spark was in the blood, how could any good Christian deny it? "Moreover, Lower, in focusing on the importance of the blood, attempted to justify his analysis of blood components by appeal to Harvey. Harvey, Lower said, had given first place to the blood for good Aristotelian reasons: that it was composed of similar and dissimilar parts. Lower then made Harvey an honorary corpuscularian by interpreting this to mean that the arterial blood was a homogeneous substance, while venous blood was a heterogeneous one. This could easily be seen, Lower said, if one cut the carotid artery of a dog; the blood was the same color throughout and had no darker parts, no crassamentum negrum. In contrast, blood drawn from the jugular vein and allowed to stand in a bowl acquired a thin florid top and a darker bottom, as it separated into its blood components. All of this disproved Meara's absurd four-humors theory of the blood and justified Harvey's conclusions. Lower then went on, in a lengthy "Digressio de natura sanguinis," to establish a true "anatomy" of the blood, based upon chemical and physiological experiments. These conceptions of the various fractions of the blood and their constituent particles were drawn, Lower said, from a set of lectures that Willis had given recently at Oxford. In the subsequent pages, Lower's and Willis's ideas were so intermixed that it is impossible to differentiate them. Nor is it necessary to do so. Lower and Willis had collaborated for so long that their views on blood as a particulate, fermentable substance had long since fused. "The defense of the primacy of the blood was, in Lower's mind, only part of the defense of all of Harvey's findings concerning the motion and nature of the blood. Meara accepted a kind of circulatory motion, but Lower ridiculed it not being truly Harveian. He recapitulated how the blood's motion was due to the contraction of the heart and to the arrangement of the cardiac valves. He accused Meara of being an anti-Copernican in the field of medicine, wanting to turn back the tide of recent discoveries in favor of older ideas. According to Lower, this Harveian tradition also included the discovery of the lacteals, the lymphatics, and the thoracic duct, discoveries that complemented Harvey's own of the circulation. Lower did not know that Harvey had never accepted the thoracic duct, so he righteously chided Meara for neglecting both it and the implications it had for a proper explanation of nutrition. Thus Meara still believed that the liver made blood from chyle, a position one could not maintain if one accepted both Harvey's circulation and Pecquet's duct. "Taking another page from De generatione, Lower argued through the book that the blood was the seat of heat in the body. Meara's idol, he charged, was some calidum innatum that was separate and independent from the fluids of the body. This was false. Insofar as the body had heat, it was contained in the blood. But in attempting to defend Harvey on this point, and Willis as a follower of Harvey, Lower betrayed the fact that he, under the tutelage of Willis, had evolved a system of physiological explanation that was, in many important senses, far removed from the Harveian problems and themes upon which it was based. He accepted totally Willis's idea of the blood as a fermentative liquid, composed of particles of salt, sulphur, and spirit, in a watery vehicle. This fermentation was responsible for the blood being able to convert chyle into itself. The heat in the blood resulted from this same fermentable nature. "The process by which heat was brought out of the blood, ascension, was a key concept in Lower's physiological scheme. It took place in the left ventricle of the heart, as the result of contact between the blood and a nitrosulphurous ferment. The heat forced out of the blood in this way was then, by the muscular beat of the heart, distributed throughout the body. The enkindling of the inflammable, sulphurous particles of the blood in this way constituted the flamma vitalis, a combustion that was unlike common fire in that it gave off no light or visible flame. As Willis had noted in the De fermentation, Lower said, this ascension was a sudden commotion, a sudden resolving of the particles in the blood. "Lower's ideas on blood color and on the function of respiration were subordinate to this life-giving process of ascension. Because the enkindled blood was distributed to all parts of the body, when it returned to the heart via the veins, its heat was spent. Lower even went so far as to assert that, since the true ascension of the blood did not take place until it reached the left ventricle, the blood in the lungs was the same as that found in the veins. The color and the consistency of the blood, he affirmed, depended upon the flame or ferment of the heart. Lower was later to regret his rash desire for consistency. "Lower's reflections on respiration occurred very much as afterthoughts to his more important ideas on the composition of the blood and the changes it underwent in the heart. Since the blood was, in some sense, a liquid in combustion, it needed the lungs to rid itself of its smokey wastes. This was the function of expiration: to rid the blood of vapors and effluvia. that the blood was mixed by the motion of the lungs during the pulmonary transit. This was why fish had gills as analogues to lungs. He also gave the function of inspiration in straightforward terms: "in order that the blood, in its passage [through the lungs], may be impregnated with the nitrous food of the air." The phrase that Lower used in both of his explanations of the function of inspiration, the aeris pabulum nitrosum, was the same one that Bathurst had used more than a decade previously in his lectures. "Moreover, Lower said, how much the inspired air conduced to the preservation of the vital fire of the heart could be seen in a simple experiment in vivorum animalium dissection. The experiment he related was exactly the one that his friends, Millington and Needham, had reported to the Royal Society just a few months earlier and which had so impressed Boyle. One waited until the heart of a dissected animal had stopped beating. Then a tube was inserted into the thoracic duct, or into the vena cava, a breath of air was blown through it, and the heart's motion could be restored. The cause of this effect, Lower said, seems to be that in dying animals, the fire of life outlived the motion of the lungs and could be re-enkindled by particles of air. The increased fire in the sinus of the heart stimulated the animal spirits in the fibers of the heart, which excited a contraction and a subsequent pulse. "Such a summary of Lower's physiological ideas looks well past the polemical purposes that occasioned the Vindicatio. But that attitude is not unhistorical; Lower's contemporaries did the same. Oldenburg wrote a brief review of the work for the Philosophical Transactions of 5 June 1665 that completely neglected the invective. The book was, he said, a "small, but very ingenious and Learned Treatise," in which Lower reported on "many considerable Medical and Anatomical inquiries." Oldenburg cited certain of Lower's discussions as of greatest interest: the primacy of the blood and whether it performed the function of sanguification; whether the motion of the blood, after the heart ceased, argued that life and the pulse rested ultimately in the blood; new experiments to prove that chyle was not transmuted into blood by the liver; the nature of the blood and the difference between venous and arterial blood; and "what the uses of the Lungs are in hot animals." A man like Oldenburg, conversant with the traditions of research at Oxford, saw past the ephemeral issues of the debate. "One can see at every juncture in the Vindicatio the themes that had run through almost two decades of physiological work at Oxford: the close attention paid to Harvey's work, especially the De generatione; the importance of the blood and the reasons for the differences between its two species; the treatment of heat as a process linked to the blood and its composition; and the belief that the blood absorbed a nitrous food during the pulmonary transit. The belief in the pabulum nitrosum is especially indicative of the shared nature of conceptual frameworks in the Oxford group. Lower's Vindicatio of 1665 was the first published work since Ent's Apologia (1641) that mentioned a nitrous substance in the air that had a respiratory function. Judged by the standards of formal "publication," Lower had put forward a "new" idea in a new explanatory context. Yet he felt he was doing no such thing. The notion was simply part of the conceptual tradition of the social community within which he had come to scientific maturity. The idea, like many others, had been promulgated long before it had been published" (Frank, pp. 188-192). A second edition of Lower's Vindicatio was published at Amsterdam in 1666 (Fulton 3); this is the only subsequent edition until Kenneth Dewhurst's facsimile and English translation in 1983. Lower's defence was answered by Conly Cassin in his Willisius male vindicates sive Medicus Oxoniensis mendacitatis & inscitiae detectus, published at Dublin in 1667. The tract is referred to by Lower in the Introduction to De Corde. Richard Lower was born in 1632 into the Cornish gentry, educated by Richard Busby at Westminster School, and elected to a Studentship at Christ Church [College, Oxford] in 1649. He took his BA in February 1653, and MA in June 1655. Lower came gradually into the study of medicine, eventually accumulating his BM and DM in 1665, a few years after he had lost his Studentship at Christ Church for failing to be ordained. In 1666 Lower married a widow possessed of a neighbouring manor in Cornwall, and in 1667 settled in London. The same year he became FRS and a candidate in the Royal College of Physicians. Lower's admission as FRCP in 1675 coincided with his growing practice in aristocratic circles, and, in Wood's phrasing, 'no man's name was more cried up at court than his.' The strong Whig sympathies of Lower lost him practice in the early 1680s, but he re-emerged as a favourite after the Glorious Revolution, and remained prominent until his relatively early death in January 1691. Dewhurst (ed.), Richard Lower's Vindicatio. A defence of the experimental method, A facsimile edition, 1983; Frank, Harvey and the Oxford Physiologists, 1980; Fulton, A Bibliography of Two Oxford Physiologists: Richard Lower (1631-1691), John Mayow (1643-1679), 2 (no. 1 is the same work with A7/8 in their original state, but Fulton admits that "the original issue with leaves A7 and 8 uncancelled has not yet been found"); ESTC R3593; Wing L3308. Not in Garrison-Morton or Wellcome (the latter has the 1666 Amsterdam edition but not the first edition; the former has neither). 8vo (156 x 92 mm), pp. [xv], 194, [1, errata], including initial imprimatur (dated 22 March 1664, i.e. 1665) printed in A1v and errata on O2r, A7/8 cancels, as usual. Contemporary blind-ruled English calf, lettered in manuscript (rubbed, with splitting of upper joint and slight loss to spine at head and foot), endpapers sprung revealing printers' waste within binding. A fine and crisp unsophisticated copy.
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