Biological and Medical Societies and the Founding of the American Physiological Society

  • Toby A. Appel


Since its emergence as a discipline in the nineteenth century, physiology has occupied a special position as a bridge between biology and medicine. Because it stands at the juncture, its boundaries have been difficult to define and spokesmen for the discipline have long worried that it was in danger of being pulled apart, on one hand by the various clinical specialties and on the other by branches of biology.2 This “ambivalent attachment” to “two worlds” is vividly illustrated in the founding and early history of the American Physiological Society (APS). Organized on 30 December 1887, the society had its immediate origin in the medical tradition. It was a product of a conflict within the medical community between the older American Medical Association (AMA) and the more recently established and more exclusive medical specialty societies. At the same time it was the firstborn of a series of biological specialty societies, offshoots of the American Society of Naturalists, itself a specialist offshoot of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In its foundation and first twenty-five years, APS was shaped by its uneasy alliances with these two very different groups of organizations.


American Medical Association Executive Committee Medical Society American Physician American Physiological Society 
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© American Physiological Society 1987

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  • Toby A. Appel

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