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branches of literature. A tone which is
condemned as offensive in a writer of novels, is
either quietly accepted, as a matter of course,
or is positively approved as rather entertaining,
in a writer of travels. After reading
the ordinary run of books by the ordinary
run of travellers, it is a positive refreshment
to the mind to turn to Doctor Livingstone's
volume, and to follow the simpleI had
almost written the artlessnarrative of an
unaffectedly modest man. On this account,
especially, I have met with no book, for a long
time past, which, to my mind, sets so excellent
an example before other writersno
book which has stirred up within me so
strong an interest in the author, and in the
future that lies before him. None of Doctor
Livingstone's many readers more cordially
wish him success in the noble work to which
he has again devoted himselfnone will
rejoice more sincerely in hearing of his
safe and prosperous progress, whenever
tidings of him may reach Englandthan the
writer of these few lines, who now heartily
and gratefully bids him farewell.

THE VITAL POINT.

THE vital point is about the size of the
head of a pin. It is a little spot formed of
the grey substance of the nerves. The vital
spot is situated at the paint of junction
between the cerebral marrow and the spinal
marrow, The physiologist Lorry is said to
have been the first observer of this point,
probably because he was the earliest observer
who has recorded his observations in books.
Sudden death from what has been popularly
called breaking the neck seems, however, to
have induced medical men from very remote
times to suspect the existence of some such
point. Rough men have often inflicted
instant death upon children by lifting them up
by the head. Cage birds in escaping from
their cages sometimes dash their beaks
against the glass of windows and kill
themselves instantly by breaking their necks.
The bull-finch of a friend of mine, escaping
from his cage during the love season, dashed
against a pane of glass and expired instantly.
On examining the bird, I found it had
ruptured the vital point. The guardians of
lighthouses describe how, during nights of
storm and hurricane, they are continually
hearing sea-birds dashing themselves against
the strong glass of their beacons, and then
falling mysteriously down dead.

Lorry says, " This place is found in little
animals between the second and third, and
third and fourth vertebrae; and between the
first and second vertebrae of the neck, and
between the second and third in animals of
greater bulk." Legallois describes the spot
exactly: " Respiration does not depend upon
the whole brain, but really upon a very
limited spot upon the medulla oblongata,
which is situated at a small distance from
the occipital hole, and towards the origin of
the pneumogastric nerves, or eighth pair."
Legallois arrived at this discovery, which
determines the function of the medulla
oblongata, and reveals the primal motor of the
mechanism of respiration, the central point
of the nervous system, by cutting successive
slices of the brain until the section of the
origin of the eighth pair of nerves stopped
the respiratory movements.

M. Flourens has added minute precision to
the exactitude of the invaluable discovery of
his predecessors. The vital point, he says, is
situated five millemetres under the origin of
the pneumogastric nerves upon the brain of
a dog. The vital point is situated three
millemetres under the origin of the
pneumogastric nerve upon the brain of a rabbit.
The bifurcation of the bulb or medulla
oblongata, forming a V, the vital knot is located
at the point of the V. It is a grey corneous
point. This grey pin's-head-like spot is the
keystone of the fabric of life. The ancients
imagined the Fatal Sisters with the distaff,
the spindle, and the scissors, presiding
successively over the thread of life; and the
moderns have revealed a junction of the
nervous fibres which a small gimlet can scoop
out easily, changing thereby, in an instant,
life into death.

This great fact is easily demonstrated.

"I often," says M. .Flourens, " make the
experiments by transverse sections.

"If the section passes above the point, the
respiratory movements of the chest persist.

"If the section passes behind the point of
junction of the pyramids, the respiratory
movements of the face, the movement of the
nostrils and yawning persist.

"If the section passes upon the point of the
V of the grey substance inscribed upon the
V of the junction of the pyramids or pen's
nib, the respiratory movements of the chest
and face are abolished instantly and
altogether.

"I often perform the experiment in another
way.

"I use a little cutting punch scarcely a
millemetre in diameter.

"I plunge this cutting punch into the
prolonged marrow, taking great care to adjust
the instrument to the V of the grey substance.
I thus suddenly isolate the vital point, and
the respiratory movements of the chest and
the respiratory movements of the face are
suddenly abolished."

The study of the vital point clears up
many dark puzzles.

I need not point out how it explains the
cases of sudden death from what is called
breaking the neck. The hangman who
understands his business adjusts the knot so as
to dislocate the vertebrae, and tear the vital
junction asunder. The knowledge of this
point is very important to coroners and their
juries, and all persons having occasion to
distinguish between suicides and murders.

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