Monday, January 4, 2016

1665: Hook discovers purpose of respiration

Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
In 1665 Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was among the first investigators to use the compound microscope invented by Zaccharias Janssen , and this would ultimately play a significant role in both science and medicine. (11, page 256). 

In his 1665 book Micrographia "contains many fine plates, representing the histology of vegetable structures, and the first use of the term "cell" in this connection.  (11, page 250)

This book probably inspired many later investigators, including Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) who was inspired to learn about vegetable histology and physiology, and Antony Leeuwenhoek, who was to learn more a variety of microscopic animal, plant and human objects. (11, page 250, 251)

In 1667 Hooke discovered that respiration was not to maintain circulation, as had previously been thought. (7, page 474)

Interestingly, Hook took the trachea of a dog and connected it to a "pair of bellows, and the ribs and diaphragm were removed; the dog was seized with convulsions and appeared to be dying, but revived when air was blown into the lungs. (7, page 474)

Small punctures were now made into various parts of the lungs, and by means of two pairs of bellows the lungs were kept fully distended with fresh air; the dog remained quiet and its heart beat regularly. The circulation continued although there was no alternate expansion and collapse of the lungs; moreover, a further experiment showed that even when the lungs were allowed to collapse the blood continued to circulate for some time. " (7, page 474)

By his experiment, Hooke also proved that "by blowing a bellows briskly over the open thorax of a dog, that artificial respiration can keep the animal alive without any movements of either chest or lungs... The experiment proved that the essential feature of respiration is not in its intrinsic movements, but in certain blood changes in the lungs." (11, page 267)

Such investigations would inspire other researchers such as:
  • Giovannin Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679) became the first to describe muscular activity, the beating of the heart, and the function of the lungs, and digestion as purely mechanical acts, thus dispelling ancient theories. He also discovered that arteries were elastic, meaning that they could dilate and contract.
  • Richard Lower (1631-1691) performed the first successful blood transfusion in 1665, taking the blood of one animal and inserting it into the animal of another. Then, in 1669, he "injected dark venous blood into the insufflated lungs, and concluded that its consequent bright color was due to the fact that it had absorbed some of the air passing through the lungs." (11, 267-268)
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  2. Lagerkvist, Ulf, "The Enigma of Ferment," 2005, Singapore, World Scientific Publishing
  3. Potter, Elizabeth, "Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases," 2001, Indiana University Press
  4. Newman, William R, et al, "Alchemy Tried in the Fire," 2002, University of Chicago
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  10. Osler, ibid, pages 170, reference referring to William Harvey: Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus, Francofurti, 1628, G. Moreton's facsimile reprint and translation, Canterbury, 1894, p. 48. 20 Ibid., p. 49.
  11. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "Introduction to the history of medicine," 1921, London, 
  12. Baker, Christopher, editor, "The Great Cultural Eras of the Western World: Absolutism and the Scientific Revolution 1600-1720: A biographical dictionary," 2002, CT, Greenwood Publishing; Herman Boerhavve published Biblia Naturae (Bible of Nature) in 1737, which was a two volume compilation of the works of Jan Swammerdam. Can you read Latin?
  13. Garrison, op cit, 266; (Samuel) Pepy's Diary, Mynors Bright's ed., London, 1900, v, 191
  14. Bradford, Thomas Lindsley, writer, Robert Ray Roth, editor, “Quiz questions on the history of medicine from the lectures of Thomas Lindley Bradford M.D.,” 1898, Philadelphia, Hohn Joseph McVey
  15. Brock, Arthur John, "Galen on the natural faculties," 1916, London, New York, William Heinemann, G.P. Putnam's Sons
  16. "History of Chemistry,",, accessed 7/6/14
  17. Affray, Charles, Denis Noble, "Origins of Systems Biology in William Harvey's masterpiece on the Movement of the Heart and the Blood in Animals," April 17, 2009, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 10(2), pages 1658-1669, found online at,, accessed 7/8/14
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