Johannes Muller

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In existographies, Johannes Muller (154-97 BE) (1801-1858 ACM) (IQ:#|#) (CR:27) (LH:1) (TL:28) was a German physiologist, comparative anatomist, ichthyologist, and herpetologist, noted for his 1840 two-volume Elements of Human Physiology, wherein he outlined vitalism-based physiology.


In 1833, Muller became chair of anatomy and physiology at University of Berlin.[1]

In 1833, Muller, in his Elements of Human Physiology, Volume One, which summed up all the vitalism of history, and presented a vitalism-based model of physiology.[2] Muller argued, according to Hans Driesch (1914), that there is "something else", other than "selective affinity" (chemical force), which rules in life. In 1840, in his Elements of Human Physiology, Volume One, he began to touch on mental phenomena.

Muller, in these volumes, distinguished between “vegetative power”, “motive power”, and “sensitive power”. He stated, similar to Aristotle, everything originates from the prime mover (“primum movens”), whose creations become more and more specific; the following is one example:

“All problems of physics are determined by creative activity.”
— Johannes Muller (1840), Elements of Human Physiology, Volume # (pg. #)

Muller, in short, wanted to base everything on god, using the code words "creative" and "vitalism", which are scientific god synonyms. Muller later expressed the view, which he told to Richard Owen (who told this to Darwin), that life had a special "organizing energy" that controlled evolution.[3]


Brucke, Helmholtz, Reymond

In 1838 to 1842, the students Ernst Brucke, Hermann Helmholtz, and Emil Reymond worked in Muller's laboratory, wherein he taught that the functions of an organism are due to a vital principle distinct from physiochemical forces. In reaction to this, the three of them, Brucke, Helmholtz, and Reymond, along with some other students (e.g. Carl Ludwig), signed the following pledge in blood:

“We pledge to put in power this truth: NO ‘other’ forces than the common physical chemical ones are active within the organism. In those cases which cannot at the time be explained by these forces one has either to find a specific way or form of their action by means of physical mathematical method, or to assume new forces equal in dignity to the chemical-physical forces inherent in matter, reducible to the force of attraction and repulsion.”
— Emil Reymond (1842), “Physical Chemical Force Oath” (co-author: Ernst Brucke); signed “in blood” by: Reymond, Brucke, Hermann Helmholtz, and Karl Ludwig [4]

Brucke, of note, later became the medical school advisor to Sigmund Freud, who adopted this oath.


In 1854, Ernst Haeckel, then aged 20, began to study under Muller. Reflecting on these early days, Haeckel related the following interaction, wherein Muller speaks of the great “riddle”:[5]

“I myself had a number of remarkable conversations with Muller, whom I put at the head of all my distinguished teachers, in the summer of 1854. His lectures on comparative anatomy and physiology—the most illuminating and stimulating I ever heard—had captivated me to such an extent that I asked and obtained his permission to make a closer study of the skeletons and other preparations in his splendid museum of comparative anatomy '(then in the right wing of the buildings of the Berlin University), and to draw them. Muller (then in his fifty-fourth year) used to spend the Sunday afternoon alone in the museum. He would walk to and fro for hours in the spacious rooms, his hands behind his back, buried in thought about the mysterious affinities of the vertebrates, the ‘holy enigma’ of which was so forcibly impressed by the row of skeletons. Now and again my great master would turn to a small table at the side, at which I (a student of twenty years) was sitting in the angle of a window, making conscientious drawings of the skulls of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fishes.

I would then beg him to explain particularly difficult points in anatomy, and once I ventured to put the question: ‘Must not all these vertebrates, with their identity in internal skeleton, in spite of their external differences, have come originally from a common form?’

The great master nodded his head thoughtfully, and said: ‘Ah, if we only knew that! If ever you solve that riddle, you will have accomplished a supreme work.’ Two months afterwards, in September, 1854, I had to accompany Muller to Heligoland, and learned under his direction the beautiful and wonderful inhabitants of the sea. As we fished together in the sea, and caught the lovely medusae, I asked him how it was possible to explain their remarkable alternation of generations; if the medusae, from the ova of which polyps develop today, must not have come originally from the more simply organized polyps? To this precocious question, I received the same resigned ‘Ah, that is a very obscure problem! We know nothing whatever about the origin of species’.”

In 1899, Haeckel published his The Riddle of the Universe, the title a reference to Muller's riddle.


Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Muller:

“Though there appears to be something in the phenomena of living beings which cannot be explained by ordinary mechanical, physical or chemical laws, much may be so explained, and we may without fear push these explanations as far as we can, so long as we keep to the solid ground of observation and experiment.”
— Johannes Muller (1833), Elements of Human Physiology (pg. #); influenced Emile Reymond (1838) as a student[6]
“The ‘will’ sets in activity the nervous fibers like the keys of a piano.”
— Johannes Muller (1840), Elements of Human Physiology, Volume Two (pg. #) [2]

End matter

See also


  1. Zimmer, Heinz-Gerd. (2006). “Johannes Muller” (pdf), Clinical Cardiology, 29:327-28.
  2. 2.0 2.1 (a) Muller, Johannes. (1833). Elements of Human Physiology, Volume One. Publisher.
    (b) Muller, Johannes. (1840). Elements of Human Physiology, Volume Two. Publisher, 1844.
    (c) Driesch, Hans. (1914). The History and Theory of Vitalism (translator: Charles Ogden) (§: Johannes Muller, pgs. 113-). Publisher.
  3. Humes, Edwards. (2007). Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul (pg. 115). Harper Perennial.
  4. Reymond-Brucke oath – Hmolpedia 2020.
  5. Lewis, Arthur. (1913). Vital Problems in Social Evolution (pg. 137-39). Kerr.
  6. Emile Reymond – Britannica 1911.

Further reading

  • Muller, Johannes. (1833). Elements of Physiology, Part One, Volume One (Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen) (translator: W. Baly). Taylor, 1839.
  • Muller, Johannes. (1840). Elements of Physiology, Part One, Volume Two (Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen) (translator: W. Baly). Taylor, 1842.
  • Muller, Johannes. (1840). Elements of Physiology, Part Two, Volume One (Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen) (translator: W. Baly). Taylor, 1842.
  • Muller, Johannes. (1840). Elements of Physiology, Part Two, Volume Two (Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen) (translator: W. Baly). Taylor, 1842.

External links

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