Long Live the Periphery!

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI:
Long Live the Periphery!

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Marie Francois Xavier Bichat (1771–1802) focused on the role of the heart. Bichat urges us not to consider this organ, the only driving force ruling the movement in the large and small vessels that causes inflammation in them. The entire teaching of the mechanists rested, it is known, on the extreme range that they allowed the heart for its movements. The model image that Descartes had seen just 150 years earlier no longer possessed any validity for Bichat. Bichat also focused on the reality of blood circulation and announced that there was absolutely no reason to attribute a central role to the heart as Descartes had done. The German patriots instantly agreed to this announcement. Later on, Carl Heinrich Schultz (1798–1871) announced that the “peripheral system” is responsible for the entire circulation. This is where the blood is pulled up and sent back to the heart.

Keywords: blood circulation; role of heart; peripheral system; physiological treatises; Berlin Empire

Chapter.  749 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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