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September 29, 1969

Ideas of Life and Matter: Studies in the History of General Physiology 600 B.C.-1900 A.D.

Author Affiliations

Johns Hopkins University Baltimore

JAMA. 1969;209(13):2058. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160260062030

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What distinguishes the living from the nonliving? How do the living systems maintain their organization? What is the role of psychic factors on biological phenomena? These questions, which in one form or another still concern us, have a very long history. In this book, Dr. Hall, professor of biology at Washington University, St. Louis, has summarized the various responses that have been given to these perplexing queries since the time of the pre-Socratic philosophers six centuries before Christ.

Ever since the early Greek investigators of nature, almost every generation has asked what Hall describes as classic questions. The physiologists of various periods have investigated nutrition, locomotion, sensation, and reproduction—some of the processes that distinguish life from the nonliving. One of the basic points Hall makes is that not only do the same questions recur, but also the analytical procedures for their investigation are those found in ancient Greek science. Modern