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Abstract

It may be plausibly argued that the biological study of respiration dates from those prehistoric times when man first apprehended the existence in the human race, and also in the animals he hunted or domesticated, of a link between living and breathing. There are frequent allusions to this link in the most ancient literature, for example in the books of our bible and the oldest Greek writings. Singer (1931) remarks on the use in the Iliad of the word psyche in the sense of breath, and points out that in several languages the word for breath eventually came to mean life. A quotation will illustrate Singer’s thoughts on this change of meaning. “Breathing is the most obvious sign of life, and when man ceases to breath we know that he is dead. So from breath the word psyche came to mean life, then the principle of life, and then the soul or again the mind. It is interesting to observe that in other ancient languages, as for instance Hebrew and Latin, the word for soul or life has gone through exactly the same history, being gradually changed from its original meaning of breath.”

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1960

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meirion Thomas

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