Lionel S. (Lionel Smith) Beale.

Protoplasm : or, Life, matter, and mind online

. (page 4 of 12)
Online LibraryLionel S. (Lionel Smith) BealeProtoplasm : or, Life, matter, and mind → online text (page 4 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

adapted for examination. The growing extremity of the
branch is rounded, and here the process of growth is
going on with great activity. When the operation of
staining has been conducted successfully, these growing
extremities are more deeply stained than the rest of the
germinal matter. A similar fact is observed if one of the
placental tufts is submitted to examination. At the extreme
end of each tuft is a mass of germinal matter which is darkly
stained by the carmine fluid. Behind this, and growing
towards it, is the vascular loop ; but as the tufts grow, the
mass of formless, structureless germinal matter at the end of
each moves onwards, the vessels being developed in its
wake. This formless living matter moves forwards and
burrows, as it were, into the nutrient pabulum, some of
which it takes up as it moves on. It is not pushed from
behind, but it moves forward of its own accord. In a
similar manner the advancing fungus bores its way into the
material upon which it feeds, and the root filament insinuates
itself into interstices between the particles of the soil. In
the hair, the germinal matter grows and multiplies at the
base or bulb, pushing the firm and already formed tissue



before it. In the first case, the germinal matter is increasing
at the extremity of a filament which it spins behind it as it
moves on ; in the last, the tissue already formed is pushed
on by the production of new texture in its rear. The ex-
tremity of the hair is its oldest part, and nearest to the root
is the tissue which was most recently formed. But whe-
ther germinal matter moves on in its entirety, or, advancing
from a fixed point, forms a filament, a tube, or other
structure which accumulates behind it, or itself remains
stationary while the products of formation are forced on-
wards in one direction, or outwards in all, the nature of the
force exerted is the same, and due to the marvellous power
which one part of a living mass possesses of moving in advance
of another portion of the same, as may be actually seen to occur
in the humble amceba, in the mucus- or in the white blood-
corpuscle from man's organism, as well as in the pus corpuscle
formed in disease.

Amoeba. Among the simplest living things known to us
are the amoebae, which might be almost described as animate
masses of perfectly transparent moving matter. Amoebae,
fig. 4, pi. II., can be obtained for examination by placing a
small fragment of animal or vegetable matter in a little
water in a wine-glass, and leaving it in the light part of a
warm room for a few days. I have found it convenient to
introduce a few filaments of cotton wool into the water.
The amoebae collect amongst the fibres, which prevent them
from being crushed by the pressure of the thin glass cover.

The delicate material of which these simple creatures
are composed exhibits no indications of actual structure,
although it is darker and more granular in some parts than

4 o


in others. The germinal matter of all organisms, and of
the tissues and organs of each organism, exhibits precisely
the same characters. It lives, and grows, and forms in the
same way, although the conditions under which the phe-
nomena of life growth and formation are carried on differ
very much in different kinds of germinal matter. A tem-
perature at which one kind will live and grow actively will
be fatal to many other kinds. So, too, as regards pabulum,
substances which are appropriated by one form of ger-
minal matter will act as a poison to another. But the way
in which the germinal matter moves, divides and subdivides,
grows, and undergoes conversion into tissue, is the same in
all. Many remarkable differences in structure, properties,
action, and character, are associated with close similarity,
if not actual identity of composition. These must, there-
fore, be attributed not to properties of elements, physical
forces, chemical affinities, or other characters which we
can ascertain or estimate by physical examination, but to
a difference in vital power which is inherited, which we
cannot isolate, but which it would be unreasonable to

On Vital Movements. One characteristic of every kind
of living matter is spontaneous movement. This, unlike
the movement of any kind of non-living matter yet dis-
covered, occurs in all directions, and seems to depend upon
changes in the matter itself, rather than upon impulses
communicated to the particles from without.

I have been able to watch the movements of small
amoebae, which multiplied freely without first reaching the
size of the ordinary individuals. I have represented the


appearance under a magnifying power of 5,000 diameters of
some of the most minute amoebae I have been able to
discover. (Plate II, fig. 3.) Several of these were less
than 100 1 ooTJ th of an inch in diameter, and yet were in a state
of most active movement. The alteration in form was
very rapid, and the different tints in the different parts of
the moving mass, resulting from alterations in thickness,
were most distinctly observed. The living bodies might, in
fact, be described as consisting of minute portions of very
transparent material, exhibiting the most active movements
in various directions, in every part, and capable of absorbing
nutrient materials from the surrounding medium. A portion
which was at one moment at the lowest point of the mass
would pass in an instant to the highest part. In these
movements one part seemed, as it were, to pass through
other parts, while the whole mass moved now in one, now
in another direction, and movements in different parts of
the mass occurred in directions different from that in which
the whole was moving. What movements in lifeless matter
can be compared with these ?

The movements above described continue as long as the
external conditions remain favourable ; but, if these alter
and the amoeba be exposed to the influence of unfavourable
circumstances as altered pabulum, cold, &c. the move-
ments become very slow, and then cease altogether. The
organism becomes spherical, and the trace of soft formed
material upon the surface increases until a firm protective
covering, envelope, or cell-wall results. In this way the
life of the germinal matter is preserved until the return of
favourable conditions, when the living matter emerges from


its prison, grows, and soon gives rise to a colony of new
amoebae, which exhibit the characteristic movements.

Mucus Corpuscle. Every one knows that upon the
surface of the mucous membrane of the air-passages, even
in health, there is a small quantity of a soft viscid matter
generally termed mucus. This mucus, said to be secreted by
the mucous membrane, contains certain oval or spherical
bodies or corpuscles, which are transparent and granular.
From the changes of form which take place in them, it is
certain that the matter of which they are composed is
almost diffluent. These corpuscles or cells are mucus cor-
puscles, but they have no cell-wall. They are separated
from each other by, and are embedded in, a more or less
transparent, viscid, tenacious substance formed by the cor-
puscles, and termed mucus. (Plate II, fig. i.)

No language could convey a correct idea of the changes
which may be seen to take place in the form of the living
mucus or pus corpuscle j every part of the substance of a
corpuscle exhibits distinct alterations within a few seconds.
The material which was in one part may move to another
part. Not only does the position of the component particles
alter with respect to one another, but it never remains the
same. There is no alternation of movements. Were it
possible to take hundreds of photographs at the briefest
intervals, no two would be exactly alike, nor would they
exhibit different gradations of the same change ; nor is it
possible to represent the movements with any degree of
accuracy by drawings, because the outline is changing in
many parts at the same moment. I have seen an entire
corpuscle move onwards in one definite direction for a dis-



One of the living mucns corpr.KclP! 7'pprfsentPcl
in T''iii. 1, iTiai^nified by the g\T = '.'WXi diameters,
showing alterations in form during <>\\>*

us from tli- 3 trnrhon during life,

Very TTiimUe living am;i'l,rr>, mafinifiM COM

inute partirle of iprminal maltr-r from living

x asoo.

x -000.

a pae 43


tance equal to its own length or more. Protrusions would
occur principally at one end, and the general mass would
gradually follow. Again, protrusions would take place in
the same direction, and slowly the remainder of the cor-
puscle would be drawn onwards, until the whole had
been removed from the place it originally occupied, and
would advance onward for a short distance in the mucus in
which it was embedded. From the first protrusions smaller
protrusions very often occur, and these gradually become
pear-shaped, remaining attached by a narrow stem, and in a
few seconds perhaps again become absorbed into the
general mass. From time to time, however, some of the
small spherical portions are detached from the parent mass,
and become independent masses of germinal matter, which
grow until they become ordinary mucus corpuscles. (PI. II,
fig. 2.) Are these phenomena, I would ask, at all like
any known to occur in lifeless material ?

The component particles evidently alter their positions
in a most remarkable manner. One particle may move in
advance of another, or round another. A portion may
move into or round another portion. A bulging may occur
at one point of the circumference, or at ten or twenty
different points at the same moment. The moving power
evidently resides in every particle of a very transparent,
invariably colourless, and structureless material. By the
very highest powers only an indication of minute spherical
particles can be discerned. Because molecules have been
seen in some of the masses of moving matter, the motion has
been attributed to these. It is true the molecules do move,
but the living transparent material in which they are situated


moves first, and the molecules flow into the extended portion.
The movements cannot, therefore, be ordinary molecular
movements. It has been said that the movements may result
from diffusion, but what diffusion or other movement with
which we are acquainted at all resembles these ? Observers
have ascribed them to a difference in density of different
parts, but who has been able to produce such movements by
preparing fluids of different density ? But further, in the case
of the living matter, these supposed fluids of different density
make themselves and retain their differences in density.

Nor is it any explanation of the movements to attribute
them to inherent " irritability," unless we can show in what
this irritability essentially consists. Some dismiss the
matter by saying that the movements depend upon the
property of " contractility," but the movements of germinal
matter are totally distinct from contractility, as manifested
by muscular tissue ; since they take place in every direction,
and every movement differs from the rest, while in muscular
contraction there is a constant repetition of changes taking
place alternately in directions at right angles to one
another ; and hence, if the movements in question be due
to contractility, it is necessary to assume two very different
kinds of contractile property.*

The movements in the mucus corpuscle and in the amoeba,
are of the same nature as those which occur in the germinal
matter of many plants, as is easily observed in the cells of
the leaves of the vallisneria or the anacharis, in the chara,
and in the hairs of the flower of Tradescantia ; and the

* See my paper "On Contractility as distinguished from purely
vital movements." "Trans. Mic. Soc." 1866.


appearance of the living matter under very high powers is
precisely the same in all cases. Similar movements certainly
occur in pus, and in cancer, and probably in every kind of
living matter in health and in disease. (PI. II, figs. 5 and 6.)
In some instances the movements continue for many hours
after the living matter has been removed from the surface
upon which it grew. In other cases, and we shall not be
surprised that this should be so in the higher animals, death
occurs the instant the conditions under which the living
matter exists are but slightly modified. In many instances
no movements can be seen, but the evidence of their occur-
rence is almost as decided as if they were visible, for we
discern certain results which can only be explained by the
occurrence of such movements as have been referred to.

I have often tried to persuade the physicist, who has
so long prophesied the existence of molecular machinery in
living beings, to seek for it in the "colourless, structureless, 1 '
germinal matter. But he contents himself with asserting
that such machinery exists, although he cannot see it or
make it evident to himself or others.

Of New Centres Nuclei and Nucleoli. In many masses
of germinal matter a smaller spherical portion often ap-
pearing a mere point is observed, and in some cases
this divides before the division of the parent mass takes
places. This, however, is not necessary to the process,
for division takes place in cases in which no such bodies
are to be seen, and it frequently happens that one or more
of these smaller spots or spherical masses may appear in
its substance, after a portion of germinal matter has been
detached from the parent mass. These are to be regarded


as new centres composed of living matter. Within these a
second series is sometimes produced. The first have been
called nuclei, and those within them nucleoli. Marvellous
powers have been attributed to nuclei and nucleoli, and
by many these are supposed to be the agents alone con-
cerned in the process of multiplication and reproduction.
Nuclei and nucleoli are always more intensely coloured by
alkaline colouring matters than other parts of the living or
germinal matter, a fact which is alone sufficient to show the
difference between a true nucleus or new centre, and an oil
globule, which has often been wrongly termed a nucleolus.
I have endeavoured to show that the bodies called nuclei
and nucleoli may be regarded as new centres which have
arisen in already existing germinal matter. These new
centres may be few or very numerous, and there may be
many successive series of such centres, each, when it comes
to be developed, manifesting powers different from the
pre-existing series. And in certain cases it would appear
that as this process of formation of new centres, one within
the other, proceeds, new powers are acquired, or if we suppose
that all possessed the same powers, those masses only which
were last produced retain them, and manifest them when
placed under favourable conditions. Although nuclei and nu-
cleoli are germinal or living matter, they are not undergoing
conversion into formed material. Under certain conditions
the nucleus may increase, and exhibit all the phenomena of
ordinary germinal matter new nuclei may be developed
within it, new nucleoli within them ; so that ordinary ger-
minal matter may become formed material, its nucleus
growing larger and taking its place. The original nucleolus

PLATE 111.


varian ova undergoing <U:-

the midst of a
ed of cells. Magnified 6W

U\ arian ovum, with large terrainal vesicle.
The yolk cracked and exhibiting fissures ra-
diating outwards. Magnified 100 diameters.

Fig. 9.

Wig. lo.

>. 11.

n:il spots,
centres within them, x 1

Germinal spots, with new centres (micleoh)

witljin them, and more mmut.- -_V ruiinal soots

in the interval." between th<;m. X 500."

ICOOth of an i



now becomes the nucleus, and new nucleoli make their
appearance in what was the original nucleolus. The whole
process consists of evolution from centres, and the produc-
tion of new centres within pre-existing centres. Zones of
colour, of different intensity, are often observed in a cell
coloured with carmine ; the outermost or oldest, or that part
which is losing its vital powers, and becoming converted
into formed material, being very slightly coloured, the
most central part, or the nucleus, although furthest from the
colouring solution, exhibiting the greatest intensity of colour.
These points are illustrated in PI. VI, fig. 19, and some
other figures.

Germinal matter, in a comparatively quiescent state is
not unfrequently entirely destitute of nuclei, but these
bodies sometimes make their appearance if the mass be
more freely supplied with nutrient matter. This fact may
be noticed in the case of the connective tissue corpuscles,
and the masses of germinal matter connected with the walls
of vessels, nerves, muscular tissue, epithelium, &c., which
often exhibit no nuclei (or according to some, nucleoli), but
soon after these tissues become supplied with an increased
quantity of pabulum, several small nuclei make their appear-
ance in all parts of the germinal matter. (PI. VIII, fig. 36.)

So far from nuclei being formed first and the other
elements of the cell deposited around them, they make their
appearance in the substance of a pre-existing mass of
germinal matter, as has been already stated. The true
nucleus and nucleolus are not composed of special con-
stituents differing from the germinal matter, nor do they
perform any special operations. Small oil-globules, which


invariably result from post-mortem changes in any germinal
matter, have often been mistaken for nuclei and nucleoli,
but these terms if employed at all should be restricted to
the minute masses of germinal matter referred to.


The living matter, with the formed matter upon its
surface, whatever may be the structure, properties, and
consistence of the latter, is the anatomical unit, the elementary
part or cell. This may form the entire organism, in which
case, it must be regarded as a complete individual. Millions
of such elementary parts or cells are combined to form
every tissue and organ of man and the higher animals.
However much organisms and tissues in their fully formed
state may vary as regards the character, properties, and com-
position of the formed material, all were first in the condi-
tion of clear, transparent, structureless, formless living matter.

Every growing cell, and every cell capable of growth,
contains germinal matter. The young cell seems to consist
almost entirely of this living material a fact well observed
in a specimen of cuticle from the young frog, which may
be contrasted with more advanced cuticle from the same
animal. In the mature cells only a small mass of germinal
matter (usually termed the nucleus) remains.

In the fully formed fat cell there is so little germinal
matter left, that it may be easily be overlooked. In disease,
on the other hand, the germinal matter may increase to three
or four times its ordinary amount, when it becomes a
very striking object. The ovum at an early period of its



h rough thick layer of epithelium covering the papillae of the tongue. sho\viu^

the germ i te formed material ot each elementary unit or e^ll In the lower

part of tb ' Inch ara closest to the nutrient matter are seen. Here there are no

trepARATF CKIT.S, but the soft formed material forma a continuous mass. 'C'hese ;t:
c-!ls, ;ind are irmltipl \ in '; in number When the formed material i '-mid the

urm:n;i'. ! : 1:1011 ceaHes. As the cells :IM

the surface, c, to take the pla moved, the formed material becomes firna aud dry, and

the remains of the germinal matter die. Magnified 700 diameters.

of an me!;


development is but a naked mass of germinal matter, with-
out a cell wall, but having a new centre and often numerous
new centres (known as germinal spots or nuclei) embedded
in it, enclosed in a capsule of formed material " cell wall."*

The mode of formation of the cell, or elemental unit,
as well as the origin from it of other units, is well illustrated
in the formation of the ovum. In PI. Ill, fig 7, the cells
constituting the tissue of the ovary of the common stickle-
back are represented, and amongst them are seen true ova
at a very early period of development. The youngest of
these differs but little from the cells amongst which it lies.
It is, in fact, but one of these which has advanced in de-
velopment beyond the rest. In fig. 8, a small but complete
ovum is seen with its germinal, or living matter, here called
germinal vesicle, surrounded by the yolk which consists of
formed matter. In the^ germinal matter are seen numerous
germinal spots, which are new living centres of growth
originating in living matter. In these are new centres, figs.
9, 10, n, and in these last others would have appeared at a
later period. In all cases the lifeless nutrient material must
pass into the very centre of the living particles, before the
peculiar vital properties are communicated to it.

On the Production of Formed Material. The processes
of growth and increase, as they occur in the tissues of all

* The cell wall (Huxley's "periplastic substance," regarded by him
as active and formative) is perfectly passive, while the germinal matter
(Huxley's endoplast of 1853, considered by him as unimportant) is
the really active and the only living matter of the cell. It is very
strange that Mr. Huxley should have so completely modified his views
upon this fundamental question, as he has done, without having offered
one word in explanation.


fully-formed living beings, may be well studied in the simple
tissue which forms the external covering of the body, and
is prolonged in a modified form into the internal cavities.
If a thin section be made perpendicularly through this,
down to the tissue which contains the nerves and blood-
vessels upon which it rests, the appearances represented
in PI. IV, fig. 12, will be observed.

In the first place, it will be remarked that in equal bulks
of the tissue there is a larger quantity of germinal matter in
the lower part, a, which is close to the vessels, than in the
upper part, <:, which is a long distance from the nutrient
surface, and that the converse is the case as regards the
formed material which gives to this tissue its properties
and physical -characters, Secondly, it will be noticed that
the individual masses of germinal matter increase in size
till they arrive at about half way towards the surface, fr, while
from this point to the surface they diminish, c; and thirdly,
that the distance between them increases on account of the
increased formation and accumulation of formed material.
By the time the cells have reached the surface, the distance
between the masses of germinal matter is reduced again, by
the drying and condensation of the formed material.

The changes which each individual cell or anatomical
unit passes through may now be considered. At the deep
aspect near the nutrient surface are masses of germinal matter
embedded in a soft, mucus-like, and, as yet, continuous
formed material, a. The masses of germinal matter divide,
and each of the resulting masses becomes invested with a thin
layer of the mucus-like matter. In this way, the elementary
parts or cells multiply in number, to compensate for



Fig. 14.

layer of the conjunctiva
iviiring the front of the eye) of a girl,
- outiuuous and not yet sept.
corresponding to each mass of germinal
there are no sej arate c-lla. X i'OO.

Superficial or older cells, from the
same specimen as Fig. 13, showing
formed material belonging to each
mass of germinal matter, giving rise
to the appearance of separate cells.
X 500.

'i-^v- jv.

mum) of a young newt, showing masses of germinal matter

some of which are dividing, at a, b, c : with form . hich is continuous throughout as

in young ..-pilhclmm. Figs. 13, at ,/, Fig. U*. p ol


the loss of those old cells which are gradually removed

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryLionel S. (Lionel Smith) BealeProtoplasm : or, Life, matter, and mind → online text (page 4 of 12)