Article ID: CBB171973362

Reproduction Without Polarity in the Work of Johann Wilhelm Ritter (2020)


The theories of reproduction that emerged at the end of the eighteenth century exhibited a range in experimental thinking about concepts of gender and sexuality. This essay focuses on the work of a writer who proposed an unusual alternative to polarity-based ideas of reproduction. Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776–1810) was a physicist and friend to the German Romantics and someone whose writing also shares many interests with German Naturphilosophie. The essay discusses how, inspired by ideas from the alchemical tradition, Ritter challenged conventional thinking about reproduction in two significant ways: by linking it to the idea of rotation, and by using the figure of the androgyne to understand reproductive models in terms of triads, rather than oppositional pairings. A further objective of this essay is to consider which aspects of the alchemical tradition proved the most useful for Ritter’s experimental thinking and to show how he integrated them with reflections on contemporary scientific developments around 1800.

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Authors & Contributors
Holland, Jocelyn
Chang, Ku-Ming (Kevin)
Doyle, Nora
Yann Piot
Cipolla, Cyd
Janelle Lamoreaux
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Sudhoffs Archiv: Zeitschrift fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Social History of Medicine
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, Fachgruppe Geschichte der Chemie
University of Exeter (United Kingdom)
University of Washington Press
University of North Carolina Press
Ritter, Johann Wilhelm
Stahl, Georg Ernst
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Friedrich Wilhelm I, King of Prussia
Winterschmidt, Georg
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
16th century
Early modern
21st century
United States
Great Britain

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