Liksom ett par nya ögon. Frithiof Holmgren och synsinnets problematik

Sammanfattning: This study deals with research on the visual organ as pursued in experimental physiology during the latter half of the nineteenth-century. In the 1850's och 60's experimental physiology developed as a new, scientific discipline within the curriculum of western medicine. By opposing the natural philosophical and vitalistic viewpoint of romantic medicine and by proclaiming measuring devices, animal experiments and a physico-chemical approach to life the cornerstones of modern medicine, experimental physiologists reshaped the study of the living organism. An important aspect of the new scientific method was the far-reaching comparison between organic functions and mechanical processes. From the middle of the nineteenth-century onward, the metaphor of the organic machine imbued the practice and rhetoric of experimental physiology. Not only was the body investigated by means of new precisioninstruments, it was also compared to a number of industrial technologies such as the steam-engine, the electric telegraph and the camera. Industrial technology offered a new set-up of codes with which the body and its functions could be reinterpreted. Beside providing a general picture of laboratory medicine and its underlying values, the study offers an insight into the work of the Swedish physiologist Frithiof Holmgren. From the mid 1860?s, when he was busy establishing the first physiological laboratory in Sweden, to the year of his death in 1897, Holmgren devoted his scientific career to problems regarding the physiology of vision. While Holmgrens early research was founded on animal experiments, his later investigations dealt with the intrinsic nature of colourblindness and colourvision. Holmgren was particularly concerned with how knowlegde about colourperception could be gained without having to rely upon the uncertain evidence of selfobservation. This proved difficult to accomplish however, since the functions of the eye could not be measured in the same way as one could measure the pulse, the heart-beat or the power of the muscle. As distinguished from these, the organ of vision was strongly associated with subjectiveness, unreliable observations and biased results.

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