Virchow: The Man of Death as the Interpreter of Life

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:
Virchow: The Man of Death as the Interpreter of Life

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Rudolph Virchow (1821–1902), a physician who had made the assessment of death the focus of his daily routine, was the first to interpret life. Renato G. Mazzolini, a historian, addressed Virchow's question on an extent to which the sociopolitical ideas influence the development of scientific theories. Virchow regarded the body as a facility of a social kind, where a mass of individual beings depend on each other so that every element has a special task of its own, and each element, though it may get the impetus for its task from other parts, makes the actual achievement itself. Virchow's political ideas determined the development of his biological theory but the theory was justified only by plausibility. He could not have derived it from the reality of the body. He could not prove his claim about multicelled organisms and it was merely a hypothetical idea that stood in opposition to other theories of the structure of the so-called organized body.

Keywords: sociopolitical ideas; organized body; scientific theories; biological theory; new medicine

Chapter.  3203 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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