RECORD: Wilder, Burt Green. 1880. The two kinds of vivisection—sentisection and callisection. (Forwarded by Darwin) Nature 23 (30 September): 517-18.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (single key) by AEL Data, edited by John van Wyhe 10.2008. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. Wilder's letter had first been published in the Medical Record: a Weekly Journal of Medicine and Surgery, 21 August 1880, pp. 219-20. Reprinted in Science, 23 October 1880, p. 210. For further details, see Correspondence vol. 28.

[page] 517

MR. DARWIN has forwarded to us an article contributed to an American medical journal by Dr. B. G. Wilder, Professor of Physiology in Cornell University, on "The Two Kinds of Vivisection—Sentisection and Callisection;" as he thinks the suggestion therein contained deserves consideration in this country. "All well-informed persons," Dr. Wilder writes, "are aware that the vast majority of vivisections, in this country at least, are performed under the influence of anæsthetics; but the enthusiastic zoölaters, who desire to abolish the objective method of teaching physiology, practically ignore this fact, and dwell chiefly upon the comparatively infrequent operations which are attended with pain. Having read the

[page] 518

arguments upon both sides and had some correspondence with leaders of the anti-vivisection movement, I have been led to think that the discussion may be simplified, and a right conclusion sooner reached, if we adopt new terms corresponding to the two kinds of experimentation. Having waited long in the hope that some candid discussion of the whole subject might contain the needed terms, I venture to suggest that painful vivisection be known as sentisection, and painless vivisection as callisection. The etymology of the former word is obvious; the distinctive element of the latter is the Latin callus, which, in a derived sense, may denote a nervous condition unrecognised, strictly speaking, by the ancients. Some idea of the relative numbers of callisectionists and sentisectionists may be gained from the fact that I have been teaching physiology in a university for twelve years, and for half that time in a medical school; yet I have never performed a sentisection, unless under that head should be included the drowning of cats, and the application of water at the temperature of 60° C. (140° F.), with the view to ascertain whether such treatment would be likely to succeed with human beings. I think that even elementary physiological instruction is incomplete without callisection, but that sentisection should be the unwelcome prerogative of the very few whose natural and acquired powers of body and mind qualify them above others to determine what experiments should be done to perform them properly, and to wisely interpret the results. Such men, deserving alike of the highest honour and the deepest pity, should exercise their solemn office not only unrestrained by law, but upheld by the general sentiment of the profession and the public."

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