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Some Contributions of Medical Theory to the Discovery of the Conservation of Energy Principle During the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries

Hall, VMD; (1978) Some Contributions of Medical Theory to the Discovery of the Conservation of Energy Principle During the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Several scholars have investigated contributions that medical theorists made during the 19th century to the discovery of the conservation of energy. This thesis investigates such contributions, particularly in Britain and Germany, in greater detail than has been done hitherto. Beginning with ideas on POW8L of 17th and 18th century British philosophers, the development of an interest in dynamics is traced through the writings of some two dozen British medical theorists between about 1760 and 1860. Gradually their ideas on power or force – these two words were usually synonymous - became sharper, and by the l830s the parallel studies on force in the physical sciences were influencing them considerably. Thus, in the 1840s William Robert Grove's (1811- 1896) formal enunciation of the correlation of forces seemed to give physiologists extra confidence in their ideas, especially on the correlation of physical and vital forces and the noncreatibility and indestructibility of power in the living organism. Two physiologists in particular have been discussed as illustrations of how readily the formally enunciated principles of the correlation of forces and the conservation of energy were applied to their physiology in the 1840s and 1850s. Part II of the thesis discusses the growth of dynamical physiology in Germany, focussing on some half dozen physiologists. Since these men were influenced strongly by 18th century German philosophy, particularly by Naturphilosophie, a chapter has been given to sketching their philosophical heritage from Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Like their British contemporaries, their dynamics were often vague, but by the l830s they too benefitted from the dynamical studies in physics. Finally, several of these German physiologists enunciated clearly their own form of the conservation principle; Julius Robert Mayer (1814-1878), Hermann Helmholtz (1821-1894) and Justus Liebig (1803-1873) are the best known of them. The conclusion of this thesis is that there were physiologists In Britain and Germany during the late 18th and early 19th centuries whose interests in the dynamics of life crystallized in the closely related principles of the correlation of forces and the conservation of energy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Some Contributions of Medical Theory to the Discovery of the Conservation of Energy Principle During the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by EThOS.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1546604
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