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Styles of Reasoning in the British Life Sciences: Shared by James Elwick

By James Elwick

Elwick explores how the idea that of 'compound individuality' introduced jointly existence scientists operating in pre-Darwinian London. Scientists accomplishing examine in comparative anatomy, body structure, mobile microscopy, embryology and the neurosciences time and again said that crops and animals have been compounds of smaller self sufficient devices. dialogue of a 'bodily financial system' used to be common. yet by way of 1860, the main flamboyant discussions of compound individuality had come to an result in Britain. Elwick relates the expansion and decline of questions on compound individuality to wider nineteenth-century debates approximately learn criteria and causality. He makes use of particular technical case stories to handle overarching topics of cause and clinical approach.

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Thus in 1840 one British reviewer interpreted Schleiden and Schwann as saying that organisms consisted of ‘similar elements … each endowed with an apparently independent power of growth and self-nutrition’, with the obvious implication being that ‘the organism was an aggregate of parts endowed with independent vitality’. 44 Certain Britons then repeated the view that cells were elementary individuals. John Goodsir – whom Rudolf Virchow would famously credit in his later cell researches – depicted cancerous tumours as having a few ‘reproductive individuals’ that specialized in producing new tumours.

Home Clift was just as busy as Owen at cataloguing Hunter’s collections. He worked on the more high profile osteological and teratological specimens, describing some 3,000. 72 Presumably this more senior colleague was next in line in any succession. Yet despite his later reputation for jealousy and underhand behaviour, Owen does not seem to have resented Home Clift for his future position. Owen and Home Clift became friends, sharing an interest in both music and theatre. But then their situation changed.

Its very first page insisted upon the utility of de Condillac’s method, as shown by Bichat’s successful use of it: medicine was to be reformed by ‘those rigorous methods of investigation which have already effected so much for other departments of natural science’. Quain claimed that anatomy would be made precise when one knew about the ‘textures’ that made up each organ. Analysis meant that diseases could be newly arranged ‘according to a natural method’. Hence lungs could be better understood as aggregations of three different tissues.

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