Imagens das páginas

might hope to attain? There is no point on which writers more widely differ. Buffon regards 90 to 100 as the natural age of man. Hufeland, after carefully examining the question, says, “ Experience incontestibly tells us that a man may attain to the age of 150 or 160 years ;” and again, “ We may therefore, with the greatest probability, assert that the organisation and vital powers of man are able to support a duration and activity of 200 years.” (Kunst das Leben zu verlängern, cap. VI.) “One may lay it down as a rule,” he says, (and in this he follows the opinion of Buffon,)“that an animal lives eight times as long as it grows. Now man, in a natural state, when the period of maturity is not hastened by art, requires full twenty-five years to acquire his complete growth and conformation, and this proportion also will give him an absolute age of 200 years,” (loc. cit.) On the other hand there are many who look upon such a mode of reasoning as absurd, and such opinions as wholly worthless. An able writer in the · Cyclopædia of Medicine,' vol. iv, p. 63, says An individual could scarcely be suspected to be in possession of common sense or information, who should hope by any mode of diet or advantage of constitution to exceed the age of 100.” He regards all such instances of longevity as decided exceptions to the general rule of maturity, in fact as abnormal; yet they are too

[ocr errors]


numerous to be altogether so considered. Haller long since stated that more than 1100 persons had been known to attain to various ages between 100 and 169. In order to ascertain, then, how long a healthy man may hope to live, let us enquire how long men have been known to live in all times, and deduce from such facts a reasonable probability.

I will enumerate (from Hufeland) a few instances amongst the ancients, as the tables hereafter given show, commence only in comparatively modern times. "Amongst the ancient Jews Abraham lived to 175 years; Jonas to 180; Jacob to 147; Ishmael, a warrior, to 137; Sarah to 127; and Joseph to 100. Moses, who speaks of the ordinary age of man as three score and ten, lived to 120; and Joshua to 110 ; Elisha exceeded 100. Amongst the Greeks, Epimenides of Crete is said to have lived to 157 years; Georgius, of Limiton, to 108; Isocrates to 98; Zenro, the founder of the Stoics, to nearly 100. Amongst the Romans, M. Valer. Corvinus exceeded 100; as did also Oribilius; Tautia, the wife of Cinna, lived to 103; Luceja, an actress, performed a whole century, and appeared in public at the age of 112; Galeria Copiola, an actress and dancer, first appeared on the theatre at the age of 90; she afterwards performed as a compliment to Pompey the Great, and again, to show her respect for Augustus Caesar.

Pliny states, from the record of a census taken during the reign of Vespasian, a source perfectly sure and worthy of credit, that there were living in the year 76, in Italy, in the district between the Appenines and the Po, 124 persons who had attained to the age of 100 years and upwards, viz. : 54 of 100; 57 of 110; 2 of 125; 4 of 130; 4 of 135-7; 3 of 140. Besides these there were in Parma 3 persons of 120, and 2 of 130; in Placentia 1 of 130; in Favalia 1 of 132; in Villigarum, a small town near Placentia, there then lived ten persons, 6 of whom had attained the age of 110; and 4 of 120." (Loc. cit.) — As to more modern times, the tables appended will show above 7000 instances of persons who lived to ages between 100 and 185 years; and the more that these and other similar collections of examples are examined into, the more will it be found difficult to say to what extent human life may endure. It is unquestionably true that many of these instances can only be regarded as exceptions to the general law of mortality, yet they distinctly show that life may extend to a very much longer period than is generally the case ; and that if 70 years be at present the usual term of life, and 80 be regarded as an instance of very old age, yet there is good reason to believe that if the attention of mankind were directed to the subject, the duration of human existence might be greatly prolonged; and I do not think it too much to assert that well made and healthy individuals, the offspring of healthy parents, who. have attained maturity in a state of health, and live in such a manner as to avoid disease, ought to regard a high degree of longevity as the ordinary rule of mortality, not as a favorable exception to it.'

1 The Carlisle tables give 9 lives in 10,000 to attain 100; but only 4727 of those attained to 40 years. It is usually considered that females live longer than males, and the government annuity tables and those of several insurance companies are based on this supposition; but although this may be true up to the age of 70 or 80 years, yet, I believe, that more men than women reach a very advanced age. Mr. Easton's list of 2170 lives exceeding 100, contains only 853 females.



What is the cause of longevity? It cannot be climate; for, although it is generally believed that cold countries are more favorable to length of life than warm ones, and although, undoubtedly, some climates may be more healthful than others, yet in no climate or country do the majority of the inhabitants attain to a very advanced age; and a glance at the tables will show that every part of the world has contributed to their formation.1

1 Dr. Bisset Hawkins gives the following as the relative mortality of various countries annually:—

France . . .1 — 40

Naples . . . 1 in 35

Wirtemberg . .1 — 33

Prussia . . .1 — 33 Lombardy . . . 1 — 28

and he rightly refers the wide difference between countries, rather to the customs and food of the inhabitants, and the advance of civilization, than to climate. This is evident from the fact, that whilst in England, in 1780 the annual mortality was 1 in 40, in 1801 it had decreased to 1 in 47; so in France, in 1781 the mortality was 1 in 29, in 1802 it was 1 in 30. In 1817, there was a great scarcity of food in Lombardy, and the deaths averaged 1 in 14. Large towns, too, differ widely from

« AnteriorContinuar »