& Observationes Physicae
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Experimenta & Observationes Physicae, Robert Boyle, 1691 AD
Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
MD Oxon, FR S, natural philosopher
The Christian virtuoso. The second part. In : The works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, edited by T. Birch London, Millar, 1744 Vol. 5, p. 708
We know but very little of the nature of our own minds, though, to discover that, we need not rove into, much less wander beyond the world without us; but only reflectingly take notice of what passes within ourselves; nor need we anatomical knives, or geographical globes, or optical telescopes or microscopes, or any other material, or elaborate instruments, to investigate and detect what we seek for; the human mind being itself the subject, the object, the faculty, the organ, and the instrument, of the knowledge it should attain.
EMOTIONAL SHOCK : CAUSE AND CURE
Experimenta & observationes physicce: wherein are briefly treated of several subjects relating to natural philosophy in an experimental way. To which is added, a small collection of strange reports, 1691 London, Taylor & Wyat pp. 73-7
Among other Instances I have met with, that shew the great Power which sudden Passions of the mind may have upon the Body, I remember that a Woman of middle Age, complain'd sadly to me of the mischief, a Fright had done her; for she related to me, that having taken along with her to a Meadow by a River-side, a little Boy that she was dotingly fond of, whilst she was busie about the work she came thither for, the Child stole away from her, and went along the Bank, to delight himself with the View of the Stream ; but being heedless, it seems by Circumstances, that he set his Foot upon some piece of Ground that the Water had made hollow; upon which account, the Earth failing under the weight of the Boy's body pressing it, that, and he fell together into the River : In the mean time the poor Mother casually missing her Child, hastily cast her Eyes towards the brink of the River, and not being able to see him there, she presently concluded him to be Drown'd, and was struck with so much horror upon the sudden accident that tore from her a favorite Son, that among other mischiefs, she fell into a Dead Palsy of her right Arm and Hand, which continu'd with her in spight of what she had done to remove it, till the time she complain'd of it to me, who had not opportunity to know what became of her afterwards.
On the other side, to show that Violent Passions, and even Frights may sometimes, tho very seldom, do good, as well as harm; I shall here add a Relation that was circumstantially made me by the learned Person himself, to whom the Accident happen'd. I familiarly knew a Gentleman that liv'd to be an Eminent Virtuoso, and to oblige many by his useful Writings, who when he was a Youth, fell into a violent and obstinate Sciatica, which continu'd with him so long, that it left him little hope of Recovery; but the Devotion of this Young man's Friends invited them to make him be carry'd, since he could not go to Church upon Sundays; and there it happen'd, that the Town being a Frontier Garrison, the Guards were so negligent, that there was occasion given to a very hot Alarum, that the Enemy was got into the Town, and was advancing towards the Church to Massacre all that were in it. This so amaz'd and terrifi'd the People, that in very great and disorderly hast, they all ran out of the Church, and left my Relator in his Pew upon a Seat that they plac'd him, and whence he could not remove without help : But he being no less frighted than the rest, as they forgot him, he forgot his Disease, and made a shift to hamper off the Pew, and follow those that fled; but it quickly appearing, that the Alarum had been a false one, his Friends began to think in what a condition they had left him, and hasten'd back to help him out of the Pew, which whilst they were going to do, they, to their great surprise found him in the way upon his feet, and walking as freely as other Men. And when he told me this Story, he was above forty years Elder than when he was thus strangely rescu'd, and in all that time, never had one Fit of the Sciatica.
LETTER TO A HYPOCHONDRIAC
Letter from Sir William Petty to Robert Boyle, Dublin 15 April 1653. In : The works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, edited by T. Birch London, Millar, 1744 Vol. 5, pp. 297-8
The . . . disease you labour under, is, your apprehension of many diseases, and a continual fear, that you are always inclining or falling into one or other. Here I might tell you, the vanity of life; or, that to fear any evil long, is more intolerable, than the evil itself suffered, &c.
But I had rather put you in mind, that this distemper is incident to all, that begin the study of diseases. Now it is possible, that it hangs yet upon you, according to the opinion you may have of yourself, rather than according to the knowledge, that others have of your greater maturity in the faculty. But ad rem: few terrible diseases have their pathognomonical signs; few know those signs, without repeated experience of them, and that in others, rather than themselves. Moreover, the same inward causes produce different outward signs; and, vice versa, the same outward signs may proceed from different inward causes; and therefore those little rules of prognostication, found in our books, need not always be so religiously believed. Again, a thousand accidents may prevent a growing disease itself, and as many can blow away any suspicious sign thereof; for the vicissitude, whereunto all things are subject, suffers nothing to rest long in the same condition; and it being no farther from Dublin to Corke, than from Corke to Dublin, why may not a man as easily recover of a disease, without much care, as fall into it ? My cousin Highmore's curious hand hath shewn you so much of the fabrick of man's body, that you cannot think, but that so complete a piece as yourself will be always at some little fault or other. But you ought no more to take every such little struggling of nature for a sign of a formidable disease, than to fear, that every little cloud portends a cataract or hurricane. To conclude, this kind of vexation hath been much my portion; but experience, and these considerations, have well eased me of it.
The last indictment, that I bring against you, is, practising upon yourself with medicaments (though specisicks) not sufficiently tried by those, that administer or advise them. It is true, that there is a conceit current in the world, that a medicament may be physick and physician both, and may cure diseases a quacunque causa. But, for my part, I find the best medicament to be but a tool or instrument . . . How hard it is to find out the true vertues of medicaments ! As I weep to consider, so I dread to use them, without my utmost endeavours sirst employed to that purpose.
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