Article ID: CBB568193532

Internalism, Externalism and Life-Cyclism in the History of Helminthology (2019)


The history of helminthology in the Early Modern Period has been characterized as a debate between two camps, the internalists and the externalists. The internalists believed that helminths are spontaneously generated within the body of the host, whereas the externalists claimed that helminths enter the host from the external environment. According to the this account, the debate between these two camps ended in the nineteenth century with the victory of the externalist viewpoint. Here, we redefine these two terms, as well as the beliefs that the two groups upheld. We suggest that internalists were not necessarily committed to the theory of spontaneous generation, nor were externalists committed to its rejection. These terms only refer to the place where helminths supposedly originate, but not to the process by which they are generated. Thus, some internalists rejected the theory of spontaneous generation, while others held externalist viewpoints and at the same time accepted this theory. We claim that the debate did not end with the victory of the externalist camp; rather, a new position which we call “life-cyclism”, emerged and incorporated some elements of the two earlier positions.

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Authors & Contributors
Spataro, Stefano
Strick, James E.
Perru, Olivier
Generali, Dario
Russell, Nicholas C.
Bryant, C.
British Journal for the History of Science
Historical Records of Australian Science
Revue des Questions Scientifiques
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Harvard University Press
University of Oklahoma
Edizioni ETS
University of Chicago Press
Parasitic diseases
Natural philosophy
Vallisneri, Antonio
Rogers, William Percy
Huxley, Thomas Henry
Bastian, Henry Charlton
Geddes, Patrick
Hertwig, Oscar
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
20th century
Early modern
19th century
21st century
Great Britain
United States

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