Korean J Med Hist.  1997 Dec;6(2):283-292.

Development of the 'Respiration' Concept in the Western World

  • 1Department of the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.


Respiration has been well known as a basic phenomenon of life since the ancient times, but the explanation of which was varied. In most theories the respiration and the body heat of animal had been different phenomena until the early 19th century. After the Lavoisier's experiments in the late 18th century, combustion and respiration came to be considered as the same phenomenon. Through many discoveries and efforts of scientists in the field of chemistry, physics and biology, Justus Liebig, a German organic chemist, established the modern theory of the respiration of animal in the mid 19th century, where respiration was viewed as the origin of all energy of animal. The more detailed biochemical mechanisms were found in the 20th century.


Concept of Respiration; Vitalism; Combustion Theory; History of Physiology
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