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The Book Forum
December 7, 1964

Heat and Life: The Development of the Theory of Animal Heat

JAMA. 1964;190(10):948. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070230084047

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Present-day history of science tends to emphasize the origin and development of important concepts. Dr. Mendelsohn has studied from the historical standpoint the influence of physical and chemical theories upon one particular area of physiology, namely, the theory of animal heat. The impact of the physical sciences upon biology, and the alterations in the conceptual framework produced thereby, makes a fascinating theme.

He begins his study with a brief consideration of "innate" heat, as represented principally by the doctrines of Aristotle and Galen. Then he emphasizes the changes that occurred in the 17th century, under the influence of men such as Harvey, Descartes, van Helmont, and Boyle, among others. More precise physical concepts began to replace the older idea of "vital" properties, and to establish a relationship, however vague, between the processes that occurred in the human body and those that occurred in various physical phenomena and chemical mixtures. While

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