Familiar Letters on Chemistry eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 103 pages of information about Familiar Letters on Chemistry.

A horse, for example, can be kept in perfectly good condition, if he obtain as food 15 lbs. of hay and 4 1/2 lbs. of oats daily.  If we now calculate the whole amount of nitrogen in these matters, as ascertained by analysis (1 1/2 per cent. in the hay, 2.2 per cent. in the oats), in the form of blood, that is, as fibrine and albumen, with the due proportion of water in blood (80 per cent.), the horse receives daily no more than 4 1/2 oz. of nitrogen, corresponding to about 8 lbs. of blood.  But along with this nitrogen, that is, combined with it in the form of fibrine or albumen, the animal receives only about 14 1/2 oz. of carbon.

Without going further into the calculation, it will readily be admitted, that the volume of air inspired and expired by a horse, the quantity of oxygen consumed, and, as a necessary consequence, the amount of carbonic acid given out by the animal, are much greater than in the respiratory process in man.  But an adult man consumes daily abut 14 oz. of carbon, and the determination of Boussingault, according to which a horse expires 79 oz. daily, cannot be very far from the truth.

In the nitrogenised constituents of his food, therefore, the horse receives rather less than the fifth part of the carbon which his organism requires for the support of the respiratory process; and we see that the wisdom of the Creator has added to his food the four-fifths which are wanting, in various forms, as starch, sugar, &c. with which the animal must be supplied, or his organism will be destroyed by the action of the oxygen.

It is obvious, that in the system of the graminivora, whose food contains so small a portion, relatively, of the constituents of the blood, the process of metamorphosis in existing tissues, and consequently their restoration or reproduction, must go on far less rapidly than in the carnivora.  Were this not the case, a vegetation a thousand times more luxuriant than the actual one would not suffice for their nourishment.  Sugar, gum, and starch, would no longer be necessary to support life in these animals, because, in that case, the products of the waste, or metamorphosis of the organised tissues, would contain enough carbon to support the respiratory process.

LETTER X

My dear Sir,

Let me now apply the principles announced in the preceding letters to the circumstances of our own species.  Man, when confined to animal food, requires for his support and nourishment extensive sources of food, even more widely extended than the lion and tiger, because, when he has the opportunity, he kills without eating.

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