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THE origin, growth, and energies of living things are
subjects which have always engaged the attention of think-
ing men. To account for them it was usual to assume a
special agent, to a great extent free from the limitations
observed among the powers of inorganic Nature. This
agent was called the vital force ,' and, under its influence,
plants and animals were supposed to collect their materials
and to assume determinate forms. Within the last twenty
years, however, our ideas of vital processes have undergone
profound modifications; and the interest, and even dis-
quietude, which the change has excited in some minds are
amply evidenced by the discussions and protests which are
now common regarding the phenomena of vitality. In
tracing out these phenomena through all their modifications
the most advanced philosophers of the present day declare
that they ultimately arrive at a single source of power,
from which all vital energy is derived; and the disquieting
circumstance is that this source is not the direct fiat of a
supernatural agent, but a reservoir of what, if we do not
accept the creed of Zoroaster, must be regarded as inor-
ganic force. In short, it is considered as proved that all
the energy which we derive from plants and animals is
drawn from the sun.

A few years ago, when the sun was affirmed to be the
source of life, nine out of ten of those who are alarmed by
the form which this assertion has latterly assumed, would
have assented, in a general way, to its correctness. Their
assent, however, was more poetical than scientific, and they

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