Article ID: CBB000770386

Transformasjon av liv? Rudolf Virchows oppgjør med teorien om livskraft og etableringen av den vitenskapelige medisinen (2005)


Dahl, Thomas (Author)

Pages: 63-85

Publication Date: 2005
Edition Details: Translated title: [Transforming life? Rudolf Virchow's critique of the theory of life force and the establishment of scientific medicine]. In Swedish.
Language: Swedish

During the 1840s, the theory of life force was met with critique from a group of young researchers in Berlin. Common to them was that they had been students of the physiologist and physician Johannes Müller. For Müller physiology was a natural science, and the methods from the natural sciences could and should be used in it. He gave induction, empirical observation, and experiment priority, and the microscope and other technical apparatus were necessary tools for the study of physiology. Among Müller's student was Rudolf Virchow, who came to be one of the most well-known and influential German physicians during the latter part of the 19th century. Although Müller demanded an empirical foundation for theories in physiology, he still claimed that life could not be fully understood in mechanical--physical--chemical terms. Many of his students, on the other side, claimed it could. They denied the existence of a life force and opposed all sorts of theories which did not relate to an empirical reality. Why could they not, as Müller was, be empirically oriented and at the same time accept the existence of immaterial principles? The article shows that Virchow opposed the idea of a life force in order to transform medical practice. The idea of a life force included certain understandings of the human being that limited the approach Virchow was propagating. This transformation brought about different concepts of the body, life, and disease. In many ways, Virchow and his approach constituted an important foundation for modern medicine. But were these concepts as neutral as Virchow believed them to be, and was his empirical reality the only possible one?

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Authors & Contributors
Breidbach, Olaf
Florey, Ernst
Hagner, Michael
Lohff, Brigitte
Métraux, Alexandre
Scheerer, Eckart
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
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
History of Science
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Science in Context
Imprensa da Universidade
Cortina Editore
Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin
University of Pittsburgh Press
Mechanism; mechanical philosophy
Virchow, Rudolf Carl
Müller, Johannes Peter
Stahl, Georg Ernst
Reil, Johann Christian
Fechner, Gustav Theodor
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
17th century
Early modern
Université de Montpellier
Oxford University

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