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Mathématiser l’anatomie: la myologie de Stensen (1667)

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In his Elementorum Myologiae Specimen, Steno geometrizes “the new fabric of muscles” and their movement of contraction, so as to refute the main contemporary hypothesis about the functioning of the muscles. This physiological refutation relies on an abstract representation of the muscular fibre as a parallelepiped of flesh transversally linked to the tendons. Those two features have been comprehensively studied. But the method used by Steno, as well as the way he has chosen to present his physiological results, have so far been neglected. Yet, Steno’s work follows a true synthetic order, which he conceives as a tool to separate uncertain anatomical “elements” from the certain ones. We will show that the true understanding of this “more geometrico” order is the only way to avoid frequent misconceptions of the scientific aim pursued by Steno, which is neither to give a mathematical explanation of the functioning of the muscles, nor to reduce the muscles to some mathematical shapes.


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1. Early Science and Medicine 13837427 2008;Vol 13:663

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