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Standstill or Death

Early modern Debates on the Hibernation of Animals

Bernd Roling

Abstract

How the hibernation of animals could be explained physically? The question troubled natural scientists already in the Early Modern period, as this study will demonstrate. After a chain of examples, taken from 16th century zoological literature, the paper presents different Early Modern explanations of animal hibernation. How the power of the vis nutritiva could be satisfied and neutralized simultaneously? A first solution was offered by the Italian medicine professor Fortunio Liceti in the early 17th century, who made especially use of Albertus Magnus. A second more complex model was developed by the Danish scholar Ole Borch a few years later. Both models agreed in the idea that the Aristotelian key qualities in the process of digestion, heat and cold, had to neutralize themselves reciprocally. As a third case the almost encyclopedical survey of theories about hibernation will be summarized, given by the German physician Karl von Bergen in 1752.

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