/ 3

Verworn, Max Richard Konstantin - continued...

Verworn was one of main proponents of General physiology, a research field that, against the background of evolutionism, emerged between experimental physiology and cell research in the 1850s. Verworn's experimental investigations were mainly devoted to elementary processes in muscle tissue, nerve fibers, and sense organs. In contrast to physiologists such as Claude Bernard or Emil Du Bois-Reymond, who favored research in whole animal organisms and members or organs, the starting poimt of Verworn's physiology was the "elementary organism", i.e. the cells and unicellular organisms functioning as models for the cell. Inspired by Haeckel's evolutionism, Verworn assumed that "on the lowest level of life generally" all physiological phenomena one observes in the highest organisms could already be found in their simplest form. His numerous studies in protozoa, conducted partly in Jena, partly at the Zoological Station of Anton Dohrn in Naples, and partly in Egypt and elsewhere, concerned phenomena of regeneration, the relation between cell nucleus and psyche, and the relation between stimuli and reaction in the application of galvanic current.

In 1895, Verworn published his text book General Physiology [Allgemeine Physiologie], elements of the doctrine of life. Taking the cell as a starting point of all physiological research, Verworn supplemented Virchow's cellular pathology by means of a cellular physiology. The readership of this textbook extended beyond the scientific audience, also because Verworn offered clear statements on the contemporary debates about the relationship between physiology and psychology, the question of vitalism/mechanism, and the problem of monism. Building upon the research work done in his Bonn laboratory, Verworn showed later that the so-called all or none principle also applied in spinal nerves. The validity of this principle was demonstrated before by H. Bowditch with respect to the frog heart and K. Lucas with for single muscle fibers. In 1914, Verworn explained, his findings were not to be reconciled with the earlier assumption that "within the nerve fibre depending on the intensity of the stimulation, excitations of various intensities occur and are conducted." Instead, one had to assume that the weakest and the strongest stimulation provoke excitations of identical intensity. Similar findings were almost simultaneously presented by English neurophysiologist D. E. Adrian.

Reference: Schmidgen, Henning. 2004. Max Verworn. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784),