John H. Zammito, The Gestation of German Biology: Philosophy and Physiology from Stahl to Schelling – University of Chicago Press, 2018 (and review at NDPR)

9780226520797.jpgJohn H. Zammito, The Gestation of German Biology: Philosophy and Physiology from Stahl to Schelling – University of Chicago Press, 2018 – reviewed at NDPR by Lenny Moss

The emergence of biology as a distinct science in the eighteenth century has long been a subject of scholarly controversy. Michel Foucault, on the one hand, argued that its appearance only after 1800 represented a fundamental rupture with the natural history that preceded it, marking the beginnings of modernity. Ernst Mayr, on the other hand, insisted that even the word “biology” was unclear in its meaning as late as 1800, and that the field itself was essentially prospective well into the 1800s.

In The Gestation of German Biology, historian of ideas John Zammito presents a different version of the emergence of the field, one that takes on both Foucault and Mayr and emphasizes the scientific progress throughout the eighteenth century that led to the recognition of the need for a special science. The embrace of the term biology around 1800, Zammito shows, was the culmination of a convergence between natural history and human physiology that led to the development of comparative physiology and morphology—the foundations of biology. Magisterial in scope, Zammito’s book offers nothing less than a revisionist history of the field, with which anyone interested in the origins of biology will have to contend.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s