The Early History of Cell Physiology

  • Gilbert N. Ling


It was not until the early nineteenth century that physiology was thought of as the knowledge of the physics and chemistry of living functions. Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) used the term physiology in a broad sense to mean “knowledge about nature” (Rothschuh, 1973). Thales of Miletos (ca. 640–548 B.C.) tried to explain all natural phenomena in terms of variations of one single principle: water. Empedocles of Agrigentum (ca. 495–435 B.C.) believed that the world was formed from four basic elements—fire, water, air, and earth—operated upon by two opposing forces: love that unites them and hate that separates them. Both he and Hippocrates (ca. 460–377 B.C.), who founded Western medicine, considered the human body to be a microcosmos embodying the same four elements as the macrocosmic world. These, and the four opposing qualities of warmth or coldness, dryness or moisture, combine to form four humors: blood, which is warm and moist; phlegm, cold and moist; black bile, cold and dry; and yellow bile, warm and dry.


Osmotic Pressure Cell Physiology Early Nineteenth Century Semipermeable Membrane Gelatinous Starch 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gilbert N. Ling
    • 1
  1. 1.Pennsylvania HospitalPhiladelphiaUSA

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