London, 1843, p. 17f
The oxygen taken into the system is taken out again in the same forms, whether in summer or in winter; hence we expire more carbon in cold weather, and when the barometer is high, than we do in warm weather; and we must consume more or less carbon in our food in the same proportion; in Sweden more than in Sicily; and in our more temperate climate a full eighth more in winter than in summer.
Even when we consume equal weights of food in cold and warm countries, infinite wisdom has so arranged that the articles of food in different climates are most unequal in the proportion of carbon they contain. The fruits on which the natives of the South prefer to feed do not in the fresh state contain more than twelve per cent. of carbon, while the blubber and train-oil used by the inhabitants of the arctic regions contain from sixty-six to eighty per cent. of carbon.
It is no difficult matter, in warm climates, to study moderation in eating, and men can bear hunger for a long time under the equator; but cold and hunger united very soon exhaust the body.
The mutual action between the elements of the food and the oxygen conveyed by the circulation of the blood to every part of the body is the source of animal heat.
All living creatures whose existence depends on the absorption of oxygen possess within themselves a source of heat independent of surrounding objects.
This truth applies to all animals, and extends besides to the germination of seeds, to the flowering of plants, and to the maturation of fruits. It is only in those parts of the body to which arterial blood, and with it the oxygen absorbed in respiration, is conveyed that heat is produced. Hair, wool, or feathers do not possess an elevated temperature. This high temperature of the animal body, or, as it may be called, disengagement of heat, is uniformly and under all circumstances the result of the combination of combustible substance with oxygen.
In whatever way carbon may combine with oxygen, the act of combination cannot take place without the disengagement of heat. It is a matter of indifference whether the combination takes place rapidly or slowly, at a high or at a low temperature; the amount of heat liberated is a constant quantity. The carbon of the food, which is converted into carbonic acid within the body, must give out exactly as much heat as if it had been directly burned in the air or in oxygen gas; the only difference is that the amount of heat produced is diffused over unequal times. In oxygen the combustion is more rapid and the heat more intense; in air it is slower, the temperature is not so high, but it continues longer.
It is obvious that the amount of heat liberated must increase or diminish with the amount of oxygen introduced in equal times by respiration. Those animals which respire frequently, and consequently consume much oxygen, possess a higher temperature than others which, with a body of equal size to be heated, take into the system less oxygen. The temperature of a child (102 degrees) is higher than that of an adult (99.5 degrees). That of birds (104 to 105.4 degrees) is higher than that of quadrupeds (98.5 to 100.4 degrees), or than that of fishes or amphibia, whose proper temperature is from 3.7 to 2.6 degrees higher than that of the medium in which they live. All animals, strictly speaking, are warm-blooded; but in those only which possess lungs is the temperature of the body independent of the surrounding medium.
The most trustworthy observations prove that in all climates, in the temperate zones as well as at the equator or the poles, the temperature of the body in man, and of what are commonly called warm-blooded animals, is invariably the same; yet how different are the circumstances in which they live.
The animal body is a heated mass, which bears the same relation to surrounding objects as any other heated mass. It receives heat when the surrounding objects are hotter, it loses heat when they are colder than itself. We know that the rapidity of cooling increases with the difference between the heated body and that of the surrounding medium--that is, the colder the surrounding medium the shorter the time required for the cooling of the heated body. How unequal, then, must be the loss of heat of a man at Palermo, where the actual temperature is nearly equal to that of the body, and in the polar regions, where the external temperature is from 70 to 90 degrees lower.
Yet notwithstanding this extremely unequal loss of heat, experience has shown that the blood of an inhabitant of the arctic circle has a temperature as high as that of the native of the South, who lives in so different a medium. This fact, when its true significance is perceived, proves that the heat given off to the surrounding medium is restored within the body with great rapidity. This compensation takes place more rapidly in winter than in summer, at the pole than at the equator.
Now in different climates the quantity of oxygen introduced into the system of respiration, as has been already shown, varies according to the temperature of the external air; the quantity of inspired oxygen increases with the loss of heat by external cooling, and the quantity of carbon or hydrogen necessary to combine with this oxygen must be increased in like ratio. It is evident that the supply of heat lost by cooling is effected by the mutual action of the elements of the food and the inspired oxygen, which combine together. To make use of a familiar, but not on that account a less just illustration, the animal body acts, in this respect, as a furnace, which we supply with fuel. It signifies nothing what intermediate forms food may assume, what changes it may undergo in the body, the last change is uniformly the conversion of carbon into carbonic acid and of its hydrogen into water; the unassimilated nitrogen of the food, along with the unburned or unoxidized carbon, is expelled in the excretions. In order to keep up in a furnace a constant temperature, we must vary the supply of fuel according to the external temperature--that is, according to the supply of oxygen.
In the animal body the food is the fuel; with a proper supply of oxygen
we obtain the heat given out during its oxidation or combustion.