The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
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Justus Liebig, Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology, 2nd English Edition, 1842

In the 1840s, Justus Liebig complained that “in botany the talent and labor of inquirers has been wholly spent in the examination of form and structure; chemistry and physics have not been allowed to sit in council upon the explanation of the most simple processes.” He had in mind applying physiology--the application of chemistry to the study of vital processes. He did not restrict this to the workings of individual organisms, but rather had a broader perspective. Following Lavoisier and the organic chemists with whom he had studied, he thought in terms of the carbon cycle and believed that “the life of plants is closely connected with that of animals in a most simple manner, and for a wise and sublime purpose. Liebig’s work influenced a wide range of sciences, especially agriculture, to which he devoted his final energies. His large teaching laboratory in Geissen provided an exemplar for an new style of large-scale experimental research.

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