Chapter 9: Physiology Today: Finding the Word in the Data
Chapter 9Physiology Today: Finding the Word in the Data
Ours is the age that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to.
– H. Mumford Jones (1892–1980)
(“Thoughts on the business of life,” Forbes 20 March 1989)
At the dawn of the twentieth century, physiology carried the disciplinary banner for research, teaching, and discourse on the living being as a system – an integrated, coordinated array of functioning entities and dynamical processes. It was ushered into the new century by such notable figures as Michael Foster (1836–1907), who was appointed to the first professorial chair in physiology at the University of Cambridge in 1883 (and whose student, C.S. Sherrington, would come to write the first modern-day biography of Jean Fernel – see Chapter 7). His Text-Book of Physiology (1877) went into multiple editions and was a standard reference in the field. Foster also founded the Journal of Physiology in 1878 and wrote one of the first modern treatises on the history of physiology, his Lectures on the History of Physiology, in 1901. As one indication of physiology’s stature at the turn of the century, “medicine or physiology” was among the select group of five subject areas chosen in the establishment of the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, as the twentieth century unfolded, the methods and concepts of the developing fields of cell biology, biochemistry, and biophysics were applied with increasing rigor to the elucidation of specific physiological operations in living...
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