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The Gestation of German BiologyPhilosophy and Physiology from Stahl to Schelling$
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John H. Zammito

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226520797

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226520827.001.0001

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Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer and “an Entirely New Epoch of Natural History”

Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer and “an Entirely New Epoch of Natural History”

(p.245) Chapter Nine Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer and “an Entirely New Epoch of Natural History”
The Gestation of German Biology

John H. Zammito

University of Chicago Press

German life science developed in the last decades of the eighteenth century via a research program pursuing “life forces” [Lebenskräfte]. It drew on Haller’s irritability and sensibility and on Blumenbach’s Bildungstrieb. It was also energized by the reception of French (Lavoisierian) “antiphlogistic” chemistry and by Galvani’s “animal electricity.” The key figure in these developments was Kielmeyer. His great Address of 1793, Über die Verhältniße der organischen Kräfte unter einander, enunciated the fusion of this physiology of organic forces with ideas of paleontology and the geological development of earth into a comparative and developmental historicization of life forms to establish a unified science of life. Thus Kielmeyer produced the first “system program of biology.” He had enormous impact, launching what Schelling called “an entirely new epoch of natural history.” Others associated with the University of Göttingen in the 1790s – Girtanner, Pfaff, Link, Humboldt and Brandis – made important contributions to this endeavor. Their crucial critic and rival was Reil, who proposed an alternative grounding of life science in organic chemistry.

Keywords:   Lebenskräfte, Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer, Über die Verhältniße der organischen Kräfte unter einander, antiphlogistic chemistry, animal electricity, Christoph Heinrich Pfaff, Alexander von Humboldt, Heinrich Friedrich Link, Joachim Brandis, Johann Christian Reil

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