Saturday, 14 February 2009

Liebig's Physiological Chemistry

Air: “The little jackdaw and the big jackdaw
They sat upon a tree.”

If you please, Mr. Praeses, make use of your time,
And don’t let’s get dry in the throttle,
But take my advice, as the claret is prime,
And order us in a fresh bottle.
We’ve Liebig’s authority, well you’re aware,
That we men of the North can consume
More alcohol far that the Southerners dare,
Without being the worse for its fume*.

This Liebig has found out our life’s golden rule,
And much will it please honest people,
To find that he proves Father Mathew a fool,
And that life is maintained by the tipple.

* From Nugae Canorae Medicae
* “If in hunting or fishing we were exposed to the same degree of cold as the Samoyedes, we should be able with ease to consume 10lbs of flesh and perhaps a dozen of tallow candles into the bargain, daily, as warmly-clad travellers have related with astonishment of these people. We should then also be able to take the same quantity of brandy or train oil without any bad effects, because the carbon and hydrogen of these substances would only suffice to keep up the equilibrium between the external temperature and that of our bodies.” – Liebig, Animal Chemistry, 2nd edit., p. 22.

For by oxygenation to vapour we turn;
This, he say, one of nature’s strange laws is;
And without hydrocarbons within us to burn,
We perish by eremacausis*.

Teetotallers dabble in coffee and tea,
And think themselves wise all the while;
But if Liebig be right, these will not do for me,
For he says that they all turn to bile*.
No! a taste of the alcohol’s nearer the thing
For a man of poetic vocation;
For your bard couldn’t laugh, and still less could he sing,
Without elements of respiration*.

Thus man’s but a bit spirit-lamp, as we see;
And lamps all require you to cram ‘em

*”In the wasted bodies of those who have suffered starvation, the muscles are shrunk and unnaturally soft, and have lost their contractibility; all those parts of the body which are capable of entering into the state of motion, have served to protect the remainder of the frame from the destructive influence of the atmosphere. Towards the end, the particles of the brain begin to undergo the process of oxidation, and delirium, mania, and death close the scene; that is to say, all resistance to the oxidizing power of the atmospheric oxygen ceases, and the chemical process of eremacausis, or decay, commences,” &c – Liebig Op. cit., p. 27.
* “Without entering minutely into the medicinal action of caffeine, it will surely appear a most striking fact, even if we were to deny its influence on the process of secretion, that this substance, with the addition of oxygen and water, can yield taurine, the nitrogenised compound peculiar to bile.”, - Liebig, Op. cit., p. 180.
* “Among the elements of respiration in our food are wine, beer, spirits.” – Liebig, Op. cit, p. 96.

With plenty of spirit of good density,
In order to alere flammam.
Then keep up the alcohol stimulus all,
Thus alone you’ll preserve your condition;
Or you’ll find yourselves soon in what Bennett would call
A state of abnormal nutrition*.
*”Treatise on Inflammation, as a Process of Abnormal Nutrition. By John Hughes Bennett, MD FESE Edinburgh, 1844.”

From Daubeny, Fugitive Poems (1869), pp. 189-191.

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