Vibrations and Subtle Fluids

C. U. M. Smith, Eugenio Frixione, Stanley Finger and William Clower

in The Animal Spirit Doctrine and the Origins of Neurophysiology

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199766499
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950263 | DOI:
Vibrations and Subtle Fluids

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This chapter introduces the vibration theory, which was unable to dethrone the doctrine of animal spirit. It discusses Isaac Newton's “aether,” which supposedly encompassed the universe and everything in it, including all living beings. Newton suggested a neurophysiology that was based on vibrations in the aether, which were confined in the nerves' “capillamenta.” It then studies David Hartley, who adapted Newton's idea and turned it into a comprehensive and physiological psychology. This chapter stresses that the vibration theory was able to reflect a growing disillusionment with the received doctrine, but didn't find favor with mainstream physiologists and anatomists.

Keywords: vibration theory; aether; Isaac Newton; capillamenta; David Hartley; physiological psychology

Chapter.  8651 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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