Brain, Mind, and Medicine: Charles Richet and the Origins of Physiological Psychology

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Charles Richet was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of medical science. He is best known for his work on the body’s immune reactions to foreign substances for which he won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1913. Richet was also a poet, playwright, historian, bibliographer, political activist, classical scholar, and pioneer in aircraft design.

Brain, Mind, and Medicine is the first major biography of Richet in any language. Wolf brilliantly situates Richet’s work in the intellectual currents of Europe during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Richet was a contemporary of Wilhelm Wundt and William James. All three considered psychology to be an aspect of physiology governed by biological laws. But while James and Wundt considered consciousness as a process influenced by experience without much reference to neural structures, Richet’s focus was on the brain itself as shaped by genetics and experience and serving as the organ of the mind.

Brain, Mind, and Medicine illuminates a significant chapter in scientific and cultural history. It should be read by medical scientists, historians, and individuals interested in medicine and psychology.

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Editorial Reviews

The first full length biography of Richet (1850-1935), a French scientist best known for his work on the body's immune reactions to foreign substances. He was also a poet, playwright, historian, bibliographer, political activist, classical scholar, and a pioneer in aircraft design. Wolf (medicine, Temple U.) focuses on Richet's belief in the biological basis of psychology, and his investigations into hypnosis, psychic research, and related areas. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher

“Wolf presents Richet’s accomplishments in a highly readable book, describing both the social and medical influences on Richet’s career… Wolf’s penetrating analysis of both the strengths and weaknesses of this highly influential polymath will engage advanced readers interested in physiology and the history of medicine.”

—G. B. Rollman, Choice

“Richet (1850-1935) was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1912 for his discovery of anaphylaxis, but his other contributions in gastric secretion, immunology, serotherapy, calorimetry and neurology, never received the recognition for originality he often thought they deserved . . . [Brain, Mind, and Medicine] contains important material... This text convinces one of the intrinsic importance of Richet as a subject of study in the history of French Physiology. The array of his work, his methods, ideas, and professional associations penetrate deeply into many aspects of the research-medical world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.”

Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

“One becomes fascinated, seduced . . . [by Wolf’s] clear and engaging style.”

—Alain Alarcan, National Academy of Medicine in Paris

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560000631
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Pages: 233

Meet the Author

Stewart Wolf (1914-2005) was professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia and director of the Totts Gap Medical Research Laboratories. Before his tenure at Temple University, he headed the department of medicine at the University of Oklahoma. He authored, edited, or co-authored numerous books, including Social Environment and Health, The Stomach, and Educating Doctors.

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Table of Contents

Richet Chronology
1 Charles Richet's Background and the Shaping of his Endeavor 1850-1869 1
2 Postrevolutionary Developments That Influenced Richet and His Work 11
3 Education in Medicine and Science 1869-1878 25
4 The Competitive Young Physiologist 1878-1887 39
5 The Young Professor 1887-1902 63
6 Achievement and Acclaim 1902-1914 101
7 The Dedicated Pacifist and Patriot 1914-1925 117
8 The Final Decade 1925-1935 129
9 Coda 145
References 161
Charles Richet Bibliography 171
Index of Proper Names 205
Subject Index 211
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