Article ID: CBB586997935

Physiology and philhellenism in the late nineteenth century: The self-fashioning of Emil du Bois-Reymond (2020)


Nineteenth-century Prussia was deeply entrenched in philhellenism, which affected the ideological framework of its public institutions. At Berlin’s Friedrich Wilhelm University, philhellenism provided the rationale for a persistent elevation of the humanities over the burgeoning experimental life sciences. Despite this outspoken hierarchy, professor of physiology Emil du Bois-Reymond eventually managed to increase the prestige of his discipline considerably. We argue that du Bois-Reymond’s use of philhellenic repertoires in his expositions on physiology for the educated German public contributed to the rise of physiology as a renowned scientific discipline. Du Bois-Reymond’s rhetorical strategies helped to disassociate experimental physiology from clinical medicine, legitimize experimental practices, and associate the emerging discipline with the more esteemed humanities and theoretical sciences. His appropriation of philhellenic rhetoric thus spurred the late nineteenth-century change in disciplinary hierarchies and helped to pave the way for the current hegemonic position of the life sciences.

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Authors & Contributors
Finkelstein, Gabriel W.
Dierig, Sven
Gradmann, Christoph
Tuchman, Arleen Marcia
Kirschke, Martin
Rousseau, George S.
Technikgeschichte: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Technik und Industrie
Social History of Medicine
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education
Medical History
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Science in Context
Pennsylvania State University Press
University of Chicago Press
MIT Press
Discipline formation
Professional qualifications; status; remuneration
Science and society
Science and politics
Du Bois-Reymond, Emil Heinrich
Ludwig, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm
Hallier, Ernst
Kastner, Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb
Humboldt, Alexander von
Ehrenberg, Christian Gottfried
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
17th century
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
Prussia (Germany)
Berlin (Germany)
Paris (France)
Leipzig (Germany)
Anatomical-zootomical Museum in Berlin
Berlin Zoological Museum
Panepistēmio Athēnōn
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France)

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