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Morbus-Locke's Early Essay On Disease

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John Locke engaged in a systematic study of medicine from the late 1650's. In this period he acquainted himself with the three main competing natural philosophical theories of the time-Galenism, Paracelsianism and Mechanism. He was particularly interested in the work of Sennert, Helmont and Boyle. In 1666, just after the publication of Boyle's The Origine of Formes and Qualities, Locke wrote a short paper entitled Morbus. This paper gave Locke's own view of the nature of disease. Locke went out of his way to criticise Boyle's attempts to give mechanical explanations for biological phenomena. He endorsed Helmont's theory that disease was caused by "ferments" and "Archei" and re-introduced Galenic temperaments as factors of susceptibility in seminal diseases. Locke did not endorse a mechanical corpuscularianism at this stage in his career, when his contact with Boyle was most frequent. Consequently, Locke's espousal of the corpuscular philosophy in the Essay cannot be attributed to Locke's association with Boyle at this time.


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