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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the relationship between physics and medicine during the nineteenth century, with particular emphasis on the ways that physics contributed to the practice of medicine. It begins with a background on Elements of Human Physiology, translated by Arthur Gamgee from the fifth edition of Ludimar Hermann’s Grundriss der Physiologie des Menschen. Both texts are particularly interesting and intriguing because of the language they used to describe exchanges of matter and energy in the human body. The article proceeds with a discussion of the problem of vitalism and its connection to materialism, focusing on the phenomena of animal electricity. It also considers how the doctrine of the conservation of energy provided a new way of talking about the human body’s balances and imbalances. Finally, it reviews novel therapeutics that were developed based on the instruments and ideas ofphysics, from electrotherapy and nerve vibration to X-ray therapies.

Keywords: physics, medicine, human body, vitalism, animal electricity, conservation of energy, therapeutics, electrotherapy, nerve vibration, X-ray therapies

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