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The Shadow of EnlightenmentOptical and Political Transparency in France 1789-1848$
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Theresa Levitt

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199544707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544707.001.0001

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A Vital Matter: Light and Life

A Vital Matter: Light and Life

Chapter:
(p.105) 4 A Vital Matter: Light and Life
Source:
The Shadow of Enlightenment
Author(s):

Theresa Levitt

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544707.003.0005

This chapter looks at the question of light and living bodies. Arago once again fashioned himself as a debunker, questioning the claims of the rising spiritualist movement that there exist previously unknown forms of radiation that act on living organisms. Biot, meanwhile, strove to make exactly that point: through optical activity, the world could be divided into active (living) and inactive (non-living) matter. One could only distinguish the two by the effect they had on the plane of polarization of light. Biot's work became the basis of Pasteur's anti-materialism crusade.

Keywords:   Arago, Biot, spiritualism, animal magnetism, optical activity, vitalism, Pasteur, materialism

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