By Anthony Serafini
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Extra info for The Epic History of Biology
Although his reports of the various anatomical parts of the digestive processes are roughly accurate, he seemed utterly confused about the phYSiology of digestion. His analogy here was apparently with cooking, which, given the purpose of digestion, is more or less understandable. He believed that the intestines "baked" the food and that the heart aided it in this process. 38 Chapter 3 He also tried to explain the brain and nervous system, but had scant success. " He does describe the anatomy of the ear reasonably well and makes a valiant effort at describing the functioning of the eye, believing that the "moisture" of the eye acts as the target for visual impressions emanating from the environment-more or less following the lead of Empedocles here.
They appear to have been aware of the optic nerve, though they had only a hazy conception of its function. Although they knew nothing of the function of the lens, they did recognize and describe the iris and the pupil, as well as what anatomists today call the vitreous and aqueous humors. They gained the Greek Medicine 41 same level of understanding of the human ear. They knew about and described fairly accurately the auditory canal and the ear drum, but again had only the haziest understanding of their functions.
He analyzed sleep also as due to a loss of soul atoms. Consistent to the last, Democritus applied these ideas to illuminating the various diseases. He held that atoms colliding with the earth brought about epidemics and that inflammation of the nerves caused hydrophobia, an irrational fear of water. In short, Democritus was a surprisingly modern thinker. He used the scientific method and speculated about a number of biological processes-several of his conjectures being right on target, as when he expressly noted that the brain was the" organ" of deliberation and sentience.
The Epic History of Biology by Anthony Serafini