13 MAY 1882, Page 13



[TO THE EDITOR Or THE " SPECTATOR...] 'SIR,—An article by Dr. W. B. Carpenter, in the Fortnightly Review for April, entitled, " Sir Charles Bell and Physiological Experimentation," has given rise to certain erroneous impres- sions regarding the accuracy and good-faith of my statements in the Nineteenth Century. I shall be greatly obliged if you will permit me an opportunity of removing this misapprehen- sion :—

1. The whole of my argument is based upon, and the cita- tions made by me are taken from, Sir Charles Bell's later works on the " Nervous System," published between 1824 and 1837. 'These are the works which alone contain an account of the dis- covery with which Sir Charles Bell's name is associated, and are, of course, the works always intended, when that discovery is named. Dr. Carpenter's article, however, deals with and

criticises only a little obscure and now unobtainable tract printed by Bell so early as 1809, for private distribution, and entitled, "An Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain." Doubtless, this tract contained important blunders ; but Dr. Carpenter must be fully aware that neither I nor any other opponent of vivisection have ever cited it or alluded to it. His

• criticism of it is, therefore, wholly irrelevant.

2. It appears, from Dr. Carpenter's own showing, that the errors in this tract were assumed to have been corroborated by the result of experiments' on animals. This fact does but con- firm the conclusion to which the author came in later years, that "the issue of experiments is affected by the preconceptions of the experimenter."

3. Mr. Alexander Walker, whom Dr. Carpenter names as the "first promulgator of the idea of the functional distinctness of the anterior and posterior roots of the spinal nerves," objected most emphatically to vivisection, as may be seen by reference to a chapter in his physiological work (1834), headed, " The Utter Worthlessness of All Experiments on Living Animals in which Functions are Destroyed or Disturbed." Dr. Carpenter, though not denying the fact that Mr. Walker was not an experi- menter, gives no hint of the very strong opinion he held on the. subject.

4. It is demonstrable, from Sir Charles Bell's own express statements, published in his "Exposition," and other works (1824 to 1837), that he did not trust, as Dr. Carpenter assumes, to the evidence afforded by experimentation on animals, in his investigations of the functions of the nerves of the head and face. He distinctly points out the fallacy of such experiments, and enforces his argument by citations—occupy- ing more than eighty pages—of clinical and post-mortem examinations on which he founded his conclusions. There is not a line in Dr. Carpenter's article in recognition either of the fact that this was the case, or that it was even possible for pathological and surgical study to afford the desired knowledge.

5. The contention between the claims of Bell and Magendie has been already ably treated by other critics, and I will not, therefore, take up your space by further comments.—I am, Sir,