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chicago, Sept. 14—A new “chemical tree of life” and the outlines of a new Eden in which man is to enter in the not too distant future, with chemistry acting as the gardener , was presented today before the Century of Progress meeting of the American Chemical Society by four of the world’s outstanding chemists. The new “tree of life” was pictured during a symposium on enzymes, vitamins and hormones, the three recently discovered organic substances without which the processes of life would be impossible. Those participating in the symposium are leading authorities , respectively, on these precious tiny substances. —William L. Laurence,“New‘Tree of Life’ Found by Chemists,” 1933 During the same time that Charcot and his peers were trying to sharpen their scientific understanding of hysteria, a diverse group of scientists in other disciplines were investigating a set of chemical phenomena in the human body that would soon come to be known as the endocrine system. The exact manner in which these scientists’ activities relate to hysteria is not immediately clear if we focus on the initial context of their research. However, as Serres explains in one of his discussions of topology, sometimes a point that seems far away from another point in terms of physical distance can suddenly become very close. To illustrate this concept, Serres offers the example of a handkerchief:“If you take a handkerchief and spread it out in order to iron it, you can see in it certain fixed distances and proximities. If you sketch a circle in one area, you can mark out nearby points and measure far-off distances. Then take the same handkerchief and crumple it, by putting it in your pocket. Two distant points suddenly are close,even superimposed.If,further,you tear it in certain places,two points that were close can become very distant.” Similarly, in the series of events that is narrated in this chapter and the next, we will see arguments emerging in Stasis Unsettled | The Early Twentieth-Century Rise of Endocrinology 4 19094-Koerber_FromHysteria.indd 76 19094-Koerber_FromHysteria.indd 76 1/15/18 4:41 PM 1/15/18 4:41 PM stasis unsettled 77 domains that might seem disparate and far away from the discourses on hysteria that were scrutinized in the last two chapters. However, through a series of rhetorical events that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries , these seemingly disparate sets of arguments about hysteria and hormones eventually converged. Understanding this convergence is an important part of understanding how the hysterical woman of ancient times became the hormonal woman of modern times. It also offers additional insights into rhetoric as movement . Specifically, this chapter continues the previous chapter’s focus on stasis, but the series of events that is narrated in this chapter highlights the forms of movement that can occur when a stasis begins to unsettle, when the pendulum starts to swing back and its momentum is released. As suggested in Serres’s remarks about the folded handkerchief,sometimes this movement can be incited by a collapsing or folding that brings together disciplinary approaches or insights that were previously distinct and far apart. The chapter’s specific focal point is the 1905 lecture in which Starling coined the term hormone and the series of rhetorical events, innovations, and discoveries that preceded the coining of that term. In the decades that immediately preceded Starling’s lecture, nineteenth-century experts had come to have much faith in the idea of the nervous system as the means through which the body’s organs communicated with each other. We saw some evidence of experts’ reliance on neurological explanations, for instance, in the previous chapter’s examination of late nineteenth-century discourses about hysteria. As we will see in this chapter, that same neurological understanding predominated at this time not only in the context of hysteria but also in relation to emerging explanations of normal bodily functions such as digestion and reproduction. With the discovery of hormones and the ensuing emergence of endocrinology as a discipline, however, the neurological understanding gradually gave way to a more complex model that involved both the nervous system and the endocrine system. This shift toward adopting chemical explanations of the body’s internal communication is a subject that has been critically examined in previous rhetorical and historical scholarship. This chapter extends previous inquiries into the emergence of hormones by examining the rhetorical intricacies of the scientific activity entailed in...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780271081571
Related ISBN
9780271080857
MARC Record
OCLC
1032611994
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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