History and Philosophy Of Science | Of Frogs & Men: History of Physiology
X755 | 25923 | Jutta Schickore


“If the frog is the Job of physiology, that is to say, the animal
most maltreated by experimenters, it is certainly the animal most
closely associated with their labors and their scientific glory.”
This sentence, written by the French physiologist Claude Bernard in
1865, reflects the many different facets of nineteenth-century
physiology. It draws attention to the crucial importance of
experimentation in physiological research and the pitiable role that
frogs and other animals had come to play in experiments on bodily
functions. At the same time it reminds us of the fact that
physiology was one of the leading sciences of the nineteenth
century. The “glory” of the experimental physiologists was not
confined to their own field of study. Their instruments, methods,
and ideals had considerable impact on other disciplines, from
physics to philosophy to the arts.

In this course, we will trace the rise of physiology through the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will study the key
questions that occupied the physiologists in the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries and explore how new practices,
technologies and institutions helped shape the modern scientific
approach to life and the body. We will consider important
philosophical questions and debates that were fuelled by the
development of physiology, such as the mind-body problem and the
fervent controversies about animal experimentation and vivisection.
In doing so, we will examine and contrast various historiographical
perspectives on the “investigative enterprise” of physiology,
including cultural, social, and institutional histories, gendered
reflections on life and the body, and histories of experimental
practice.