1902 Encyclopedia > Marshall Hall

Marshall Hall
Discoverer of the diastaltic nervous system
(1790-1857)




MARSHALL HALL, (1790-1857), the discoverer of the " diastaltic nervous system," was born at Basford, Notts, February 18, 1790. His father, Bobert Hall, a cotton manufacturer at that place, is well known as the introducer of the modern processes of bleaching on a large scale. Having attended Blanchard's academy at Nottingham, where Kirke White was educated, Marshall Hall com-menced in 1809 his studies for the medical profession at Edinburgh university. In 1811 he was elected senior president of the Royal Medical Society; the following year he took the M.D. degree, and was immediately appointed resident house physician to the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. This appointment he resigned after two years, when he visited Paris and its medical schools, and, on a walking tour, those also of Berlin, Gottingen, &c. In 1817, taking up his abode at Nottingham, he published his Diagnosis, in which he insisted that, before treatment, the exact nature of a malady should be ascertained. He rapidly acquired an extensive country practice, his improved method in puerperal cases and his disuse of the venesection then popular attracting many patients. In 1818 he wrote the Mimoses, a work on the affections denominated bilious, nervous, &c. The next year he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 1825 he became physician to the Nottingham general hospital. In 1826 he removed to London, and in the following year he pub-lished his Commentaries on the more important diseases of females. He pursued his studies of the effects of blood-Jetting, and his Researches (issued in 1830) were acknow-ledged by the medical profession to be of vast practical value. Much practical good also resulted from his warn-ing against mistaking exhaustion for inflammation. Hall married in 1829, and the same year he made the discovery which placed him in rank with Harvey. It is described in A Critical and Experimental Essay on the Circulation of the Blood in the Capillary Vessels, in which he showed that the blood-channels intermediate between arteries and veins serve the office of bringing the fluid blood into contact with the material tissues of the system. About this time he made his original investigations on quantity of respiration, detailed in The Inverse Ratio which subsists between the Respiration and Irritability in the Animal Kingdom, a work which led to the treatises on hibernation. In 1831 he proposed a simple and bloodless operation for the removal of vascular nsevus. His most important discovery in physiology was the "diastaltic spinal system," his views being embodied in a paper on The reflex Function of the Medulla Oblongata and the Medulla Spinalis, 1832, in which year he was elected fellow of the Royal Society, London. This paper was supplemented in 1837 by another On the True Spinal Marrow, and the Excito-motor System of Nerves, in which he explained the real classification and distribution of the entire nervous system. The " reflex function" excited great attention in Germany and Holland, and M. Flourens described it as " a great epoch in physi-ology." Hall thus became the authority on the multiform deranged states of health referable to an abnormal condition of the nervous system, and he made plain the obscure class of convulsive affections. The action of strychnia as a spinal tonic or excitant, the relief of the epileptic, trache-otomy in laryngismal epilepsy, and the "ready method" in asphyxia, were among the later objects of his investiga-tion. His " ready method"—sometimes called Marshall Hall's method—for resuscitation in drowning and other forms of suspended respiration—is perhaps the most popular of his discoveries; by it innumerable lives have been pre-served. Dr Hall lectured at various medical schools, at the college of physicians, and also at New York during his American tour. His papers in medical and scientific journals, including the Comptes Rendus, are remarkable for lucidity and brevity. He died at Brighton of a throat affec-tion, aggravated by lecturing, August 11, 1857. A list of his works, most of which have been translated into foreign languages, and details of his " ready method," &c., are given in his Memoirs by his widow, London,. 1861.








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