Article ID: CBB000550897

Nicolas Rashevsky's Mathematical Biophysics (2004)


This paper explores the work of Nicolas Rashevsky, a Russian migr theoretical physicist who developed a program in ldquomathematical biophysicsrdquo at the University of Chicago during the 1930s. Stressing the complexity of many biological phenomena, Rashevsky argued that the methods of theoretical physics -- namely mathematics -- were needed to ldquosimplifyrdquo complex biological processes such as cell division and nerve conduction. A maverick of sorts, Rashevsky was a conspicuous figure in the biological community during the 1930s and early 1940s: he participated in several Cold Spring Harbor symposia and received several years of funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. However, in contrast to many other physicists who moved into biology, Rashevsky's work was almost entirely theoretical, and he eventually faced resistance to his mathematical methods. Through an examination of the conceptual, institutional, and scientific context of Rashevsky's work, this paper seeks to understand some of the reasons behind this resistance.

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Authors & Contributors
Luk, Yi Lai Christine
Sloan, Phillip R.
Zimmer, Karl Günter
Trimble, Michael K.
Timofeev-Resovskii, Nikolai V.
Sylla, Edith Dudley
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Journal of the History of Biology
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Arizona State University
University of Chicago Press
Springer International
Johns Hopkins University Press
Mathematics and its relationship to science
Mathematical physics
Discipline formation
Bradwardine, Thomas
Weierstrass, Karl Theodor
Timofeev-Resovskii, Nikolai Vladimirovich
Neumann, Carl Gottfried
Zimmer, Karl Günter
Minkowski, Hermann
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
19th century
18th century
Leipzig (Germany)
Great Britain
University of Chicago
Rockefeller Foundation
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

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