By Charles Bell
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2009
Online Publication Date:August 2010
Original Publication Year:1833
Subjects: History of ideas and intellectual history
This 1833 study of the hand by Sir Charles Bell, a leading professor of surgery and anatomy, is one of the Bridgewater Treatises, which arose from the preoccupation of nineteenth-century Christians with interpreting God's creation in the light of contemporary scientific developments. Bell's treatise suggests that by looking in close detail at small subjects, God's role in creation can be clearly seen, whereas more general studies of the universe and the great natural cycles of astronomy and geology can obscure the intelligence behind their specific features. Bell stresses the importance of the hand in human history, the progress of society and the development of technology and design. He considers aspects of the mechanical systems of other animals, and sees their structure as a product of their function. This comparison serves to link humans with other creatures, but also defines their superiority through the sublimity of design.