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c h a p t e r s i x The Structure of Glands and the Problem of Secretion 6.1 Different Perspectives on Glands Glands were at the same time the central element and one of the most obscure features of mechanistic anatomy. Following Wharton’s Adenographia of 1656—a text reprinted in 1659, 1664, and 1671—glands became a major topic of investigation in the works by Steno and Malpighi. No chapter-length study could do justice to the size of the literature and complexity of themes in the study of glands from the second half of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century. Moving chronologically and conceptually beyond the period and topics discussed in chapter 4, we will investigate some key aspects of the research on glands around the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Relying on the combined perspectives offered by the Bibliotheca anatomica and Malpighi’s correspondence and investigations, I discuss the discovery of new glands and renewed studies and debates on their structure and mode of operation. Several factors affected the understanding of the structure and operations of glands in the last decades of the seventeenth century. Some anatomists conceived glands as a filtration or separation device of something preexisting in blood rather than a site of production or synthesis of something entirely new; others, however, understood the glands’ operations in terms of fermentation, involving an elaboration or rearrangement of the constituent parts of a fluid. A major demarcation concerned the role of the soul and its faculties, with some, like Malpighi’s Bologna colleagues Mini and Sbaraglia, arguing that structure alone was insufficient to understanding glands because nonliving matter could not effect the required separations. Additional differences concerned the source of the secreted juice: we have seen that Wharton identified it in the nervous fluid, whereas Steno believed arterial blood to be the likely source; Anton Nuck tested those views experimentally. Further, conglobate glands were interspersed in the lymphatic system, but their role was unclear; there was no agreement as to the source of lymph, in terms of both the fluid whence it originated The Structure of Glands and the Problem of Secretion 151 and the location where secretion occurred. Lastly, there were two main positions on the structure of glands: the first, with Malpighi as the main proponent, according to which the blood vessels enclosed a follicle or vesicle that was the actual site of the separation of the fluids; the second—initially defended by Bellini for the kidneys and later by others—according to which glands consisted merely of blood vessels. The vascular view of glands became especially prominent in the Netherlands. Section 6.2 explores the work on the intestinal glands carried out in Leiden by Pechlin and by the Schaffausen group around Johann Jakob Wepfer, including Johann Conrad Peyer, Johann Jacob Harder, and Johann Conrad Brunner. The discovery of new intestinal glands was not merely another addition to a long list, but had profound implications on recent debates on digestion, the role of the pancreas, and therapy. Brunner developed a novel—if cruel—method of inquiry by excising the pancreas in order to investigate its purpose: his conclusion, much like Pechlin’s, was that the intestinal glands served a purpose akin to that of the pancreas by secreting a similar juice; therefore, the pancreas was not indispensable to life. Section 6.3 takes the lead from Malpighi’s reply to a request by Bellini about recent studies on the nature of fluids and especially their separation inside the bodies of animals. Bellini mentioned among the authors already familiar to him several mathematicians. By contrast, Malpighi relied on the anatomical, surgical, and medical literature: his reply outlines the state of the field and provides a useful guide to our investigation. Section 6.4 is chiefly devoted to the circumstances of composition of Malpighi’s 1689 De structura glandularum and an analysis of this treatise, in which he proposed a structural identity between conglobate and conglomerate glands. Once again, his correspondence with Bellini provides valuable insights, showing that Malpighi’s work was a response to the attack at a public anatomy by his rival Sbaraglia. Malpighi’s correspondence with Bellini contains additional valuable material, such as Bellini’s report of his discussion of glands in the anatomical theatre and a synoptic view of glands. Lastly, section 6.5 examines later studies of glands by Nuck, who provided a classi...


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