Newtonian medicine and its influence in José Celestino Mutis's General Plan for Medical Studies
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 75, Number 3, July 2020
- pp. 245-269
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This paper presents the development of a Newtonian approach to medicine in the eighteenth century by studying the case of its appropriation in the Viceroyalty of New Granada by the Spanish botanist and savant José Celestino Mutis (1732-1808). First, I briefly depict the academic milieu in which Mutis presented his ideas on modern medicine in his General Plan for the Medical Studies in 1804, claiming that they were greatly influenced by Boerhaave's appropriation of Newtonian medicine. Next, I explain in detail the emergence of this approach to medicine by considering the works of Archibald Pitcairne, George Cheyne and James Keill. Afterwards, I characterise Boerhaave's use of Newtonian physical principles for explaining both physiological and chemical phenomena. Lastly, I lay the foundations for explaining that Mutis's introduction of Newton's ideas was a complex enterprise, encompassing Newton's mathematics and physics not only as strict theoretical elements related to natural philosophy but also as they were related to the medical and chemical fields.