A Survey of the Mechanical Interpretations of Life from the Greek Atomists to the Followers of Descartes

  • Mirko D. Grmek


The first consistent mechanical theory of nature was formulated by the Greek atomists, Leucippus and Democritus, and developed by their later followers, Epicurus and Lucretius. In their opinion, human and animal bodies are composed of atoms, and all life manifestations are only the results of complicated, but strictly determined, motions of these elementary particles. The heavy atoms of the body are moved by the soul. Yet this Epicurean “soul” is not a spiritual principle, but a collection of very light and small atoms. Mind is an ensemble of extremely small atoms. Sensations are born from movements and soul provokes all body motions in a strictly mechanical way.


Mechanical Interpretation Small Atom Cardiac Cavity Muscular Irritability Animal Heat 
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    That is in Autumn, 1744.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mirko D. Grmek
    • 1
  1. 1.Archives Internationales d’Histoire des SciencesParisFrance

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