What is an "organism"? On the occurrence of a new term and its conceptual transformations 1680-1850.

History and philosophy of the life sciences

PubMedID: 21162367

Cheung T. What is an "organism"? On the occurrence of a new term and its conceptual transformations 1680-1850. Hist Philos Life Sci. 2010;32(2-3):155-94.
The essay reconstructs the occurrence of the term "organism" and the transformations of its concept from around 1680 to the middle of the nineteenth century. The different sections refer to individual authors who used the word "organism" and situate its usage in specific historical contexts. After earlier uses of the word in medieval sources, the Latin word "organismus" appeared in 1684 in Stahl's medico-physiological writings. Around 1700, it can be found in French (organisme), English (organism), Italian (organismo) and later also in German (Organismus). During the eighteenth century, the word "organism" generally referred to a specific principle or form of order, often in opposition to the order of "mechanism," that could be applied to plants, animals or the entire world. At the end of the eighteenth century, the term became a generic name for individual living entities with inside-outside-interfaces and an inner "organization" of parts. From around 1830, the word "organism" replaced the expressions "organic" or "organized body" as a recurrent technical term in the emerging biological disciplines.