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December 12, 1925


JAMA. 1925;85(24):1893-1894. doi:10.1001/jama.1925.02670240045018

Nearly a century and a half has elapsed since Lavoisier drew attention to the true importance of oxygen. Since that time varying conceptions have been advanced with respect to the precise function of the element in the living organism. It was early held that the life processes are essentially those of oxidation, and the obvious analogies of the respiratory exchange with what takes place in ordinary combustion were naturally much stressed. However, there is no longer warrant for assuming that oxygen is the immediate cause of the chemical transformations in the body; it is rather the metabolism that determines the amount of oxygen to be absorbed. Respiration is not the cause of the instability of materials in the tissue cells; but rather the instability of reactivity in the cells is the stimulus for the active consumption of oxygen. Furthermore, the energy liberated in the organism, as in the contraction of