Through the ages natural historians have puzzled over how animals work, wavering between a vitalist belief in a soul animating bodily functions and a mechanistic outlook in which animal body parts are seen as pieces of organic machinery.
Animal as Machine explores the life, work, and ideas of scientists who, branding themselves as physiologists, subscribed to mechanistic concepts to explain how animals acquire and process food, breathe, circulate their blood, and sense their environment. As medical physiology thrived in the nineteenth century, zoologists struggled to forge their own distinctive physiology predicated on understanding animal functions in a context of environmental adaptation and evolutionary forces. Physiological schools with distinct emphases that shaped their outlook sprang up around the world. Dividing their time between fieldwork in marine stations and laboratory experimentation, animal physiologists stood in awe of the diversity and ingenuity of the functional strategies by which animals survived.
Animal as Machine tells a remarkable and insightful story of the larger-than-life personalities and gripping historical episodes that marked the emergence and blossoming of animal physiology.
1. An Unspoken Branch of Natural History 3
2. The Uncertain Beginnings 30
3. Building Sound Foundations 53
4. The Turning Point 84
5. American Schools of Comparative Physiology 114
6. The Belgian School and the Rise of Comparative Biochemistry 138
7. The Canadian Way: Fish Physiology and Biochemistry 167
8. A Showcase of Animals Living on the Edge 195
9. Learning How Animal Brains Work 219
10. Learning How Chemicals Rule Animal Moods 251
Michel Anctil is an honorary professor of biology at Université de Montréal and author of Dawn of the Neuron: The Early Struggles to Trace the Origin of Nervous Systems and Luminous Creatures: The History and Science of Light Production in Living Organisms.