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Metabolisms of Matter

Lecture series “Metabolisms of Matter”

Lecture series “Metabolisms of Matter”
Bildquelle: from Nicaise le Fèvre, A compleat body of chymistry (1664)

Eine Vorlesungsreihe des Sonderforschungsbereichs 980, konzipiert und organisiert von Dr. Carmen Schmechel (Assoziiertes DFG-Projekt „Fermentation: Eine Wissensgeschichte“)

This new lecture series is conceived as a collaboration between the Associated Project (“Fermentation: Eine Wissensgeschichte”) and the SFB 980. The series hosts topics gravitating around the issue of material change, conceived as “metabolism” in a broader sense, and how this material change was conceptualized - whether in a philosophical, medical, or chemical context.

The title of “metabolism” for such material changes stems from a physiological context, where it relates to irreversible processes such as digestion or respiration. While the physiological type of metabolism is exemplary, it has functioned as a model for many other material transformations, including beyond the animal body. Those range from the punctual and local (such as specific chemical reactions) to a wider and more speculative framework (such as cycles of life in nature). We apply it here in all of these senses.

As an interdisciplinary and longue-durée-oriented endeavor, this series brings together scholars of Classics, of medieval philosophy, of Early modern science, and historians of medicine, with the purpose of illuminating some of the ways in which material change has been understood. Our audience includes: SFB-affiliated scholars; researchers and students from the FU and other Berlin universities; the global scholarly community (historians, philosophers, philologists) in Early modern studies, but also Classics; the larger interested public, such as chemists or physicians curious about the history of their fields.

The lectures might touch on debates at the crossroads of chemistry, biology, and medicine; they might address aspects such as:

  • treatments of concrete instances of material change;
  • the temporal dimension of material change, and its philosophical treatment;
  • theories of irreversible change (“generation”) including spontaneous generation;
  • the imbrication of natural sciences with theology when it comes to medieval theories of “mixture”, the materiality of “soul”, or the action of “animal/vital spirits”;
  • theories of physiological metabolism;
  • a view of such topics from the perspective of the philosophy of science: the issue of “metabolism” as a metaphor.


While the lectures are usually per invitation, we are also open to propositions. If you are interested in presenting a lecture within this series, please contact Dr. Carmen Schmechel at transformations.of.matter@gmail.com.

Weitere Informationen

Concept and organization: Carmen Schmechel, DFG Grant no. 432256662

Format: Hybrid (per Webex)