By Isaac Asimov

In four hundred B.C., whilst Hippocrates wrote a publication claiming that epilepsy, the “sacred disease,” was once a traditional ailment and never a visitation of demons, the technological know-how if biology should be acknowledged to have all started. due to the fact then, curious naturalists have studied animals and plans, medical professionals hae sought solutions to very sensible questions. The technological know-how of biology has grown—slowly at the beginning, preventing and beginning back, and construction within the final century to a crescendo that has no longer but reached its peak.

This concise, authoritative ebook lines the interesting improvement of the technological know-how of existence, from the traditional Greeks throughout the enormous success of Charles Darwin to the explosive development of molecular biology that's leading to today’s nice breakthroughs in genetics and medication. Written via Isaac Asimov, affiliate Professor of Biochemistry at Boston collage and writer of various books on technological know-how, this can be a hugely readable, brilliant creation to the historical past and ideas of biology.

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On the other hand, one can view life as highly special- ized but not fundamentally different from the less intricately organized systems of the inanimate universe. Given enough time and effort, studies of the inanimate universe will provide enough knowledge to lead to an understanding of the living organism itself, which, by this view, is but an incredibly complicated machine. This is the "mechanist" view. Han'ey's discover}' was, of course, a blow in favor of the mechanist view. The heart could be viewed as a pump and the current of blood behaved as one would expect a curis so, where does one stop?

A primitive antelope, fond of browsing on the leaves of trees, would stretch its neck upward with all its might to get all the leaves it could. Tongue and legs would stretch, too. All these body parts would literally grow slightly longer as a result, and this lengthening, Lamarck suggested, would be passed on to the next generation. The new generation would start with CLASSIFYING LIFE 41 longer parts and stretch them still further. Little by little, the antelope would turn into a giraffe. The was no good theor\' did not stand up, for there evidence that acquired characteristics could be inherited.

In his own book on medicine, he discusses the body in detail and tries to show how all its activity follows the laws of physics and chemistry— the mechanistic view. For mechanists, who held that the same laws governed both the animate and inanimate worlds, microorganisms had a special importance. They seemed to serve almost as a bridge between life and nonlife. If it could be shown that such microorganisms actually formed from dead matter, the bridge would be complete— and easily crossed. By the same token, the vitalist view, if valid, would require that, however simple life might be, there must still remain an unbridgeable gulf between it and inanimate matter.

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