Physique and Philosophy
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Physique and Philosophy book
The Stuart period had, however, seen major advances in the understanding of the body's working. Its motions appeared to have become explicable, articulated in the great chain of cause and effect. The spirits, animal, vital and otherwise, might still linger on to bedevil another generation or so of medical men, but they became increasingly irrelevant as the functions of all the major physiological systems became more comprehensible. The heart, the lungs, the muscles and (at least in outline) the nerves all seemed to operate in accordance with a mechanical logic. The mysterious forces of former medical theory, with its humours and distillations, were no longer needed to explain the body's motions. The relevance of these new concepts for physical activity had been noted, even if they had not been pushed to any very far conclusion, by Fuller. He had himself made the comparison, which the early eighteenth century was to find so fascinating, between the human frame and an inanimate machine: There is the Difference between the most complete Productions of Human Artifice, and that Divine Piece of Mechanism, the Body of Man, that the former are always the worse for wearing, and decay by Use of Motion; the latter, not withstanding the Tenderness of its Contextures, improves by Exercise, and acquires by frequent Motion an ability to last the longer ... (yet) in our Considerations of the Animal Economy, we seem to regard Nature only as in a quiescent State, without a due Allowance caus'd by the Motion of the whole.' The whole medical future of physical education lay waiting for development in the line of argument enunciated by Francis Fuller in that paragraph although it was to be undeveloped until, a hundred years or so later, Clement Tissot (1750-1826) was to inaugurate the modern history of medical involvement in physical education with his `Medical and Surgical Gymnastics'.