Chapter

Toward a Science of Living Things

in The Man Who Flattened the Earth

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226793603
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226793627 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226793627.003.0007
Toward a Science of Living Things

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Questions about the relation of soul to body, or mind to matter, and the definition of life itself, provided fertile ground for cultivating an identity as a savant and as a man of the world. Maupertuis's frankly speculative and eclectic writings about organic reproduction look like a discontinuity in his career and oeuvre, perhaps an interlude between the mathematical and geographical work that made his reputation and the metaphysical reflections of his later years in Berlin. Maupertuis used analogies liberally in devising a language appropriate to the actions and properties of matter at this submicroscopic level. Chemical reactions provided useful analogies for these irreducible properties, especially in the formation of complex crystals that mimicked organic structures. The subversion of natural theology reflected back on natural history as well.

Keywords: Maupertuis; life; Berlin; organic structure; chemical reactions

Chapter.  15215 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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