The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

William Paley, Natural theology: or, Evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity, collected from the appearances of nature by William Paley, 1802.

In 1802, Paley published a full account of his Natural Theology, in which he proposed that God could be best understood by studying the natural world. Although Paley is best known for his metaphor of God as the ultimate “Watchmaker,” the holistic economy of nature lies at the heart of his view of Nature:

“By respiration, flame, putrefaction, air is rendered unfit for the support of animal life. By the constant operation of these corrupting principles, the whole atmosphere, if there were no restoring causes, would come at length to be deprived of its necessary degree of purity. Some of these causes seem to have been discovered; and their efficacy ascertained by experiment. And so far as the discovery has proceeded, it opens to us a beautiful and a wonderful economy. Vegetation proves to be one of them. A sprig of mint, corked up with a small portion of foul air placed in the light, renders it again capable of supporting life or flame. Here therefore is a constant circulation of benefits maintained between the two great provinces of organized nature. The plant purifies what the animal has poisoned; in return, the contaminated air is more than ordinarily nutritious to the plant.”

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Lloyd Ackert
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