By Lois N. Magner
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Extra resources for A History of the Life Sciences
This caused him to develop dropsy. Seeking aid from doctors, he tested them with a riddle. Because they could not answer him, Heraclitus rejected their medicines and buried himself in a cow stall. Theoretically, the heat of the decaying manure should have evaporated the pathological accumulation of water, but it did not. And so the philosopher died, buried up to the neck in cow manure. This bore out his statement that it is death for souls to become water as well as his comment that corpses are more worthless than dung.
According to the Ayurvedic classics, living creatures fall into four categories as determined by their method of birth: from the womb, from eggs, from heat and moisture, and from seeds. Within the womb, conception occurred through the union of material provided by the male and female parents and the spirit, or external self. The development of the fetus from a shapeless jelly-like mass to the formed infant was described in considerable detail in association with the signs and symptoms characteristic of the stages of pregnancy.
Because of the paucity of sources, we undoubtedly have a greatly distorted view of their real accomplishments. The emphasis on the traditional Western heritage from Greek culture has resulted in the neglect of earlier civilizations and other traditions. India and China have been virtually excluded, except for the notice of certain exotic medicines and the invention of printing and gunpowder. Many important discoveries in pharmacology and nutrition could be listed as contributions to the history of biology, but to merely pick out a few items that have found acceptance in the West is a totally inadequate treatment for complex civilizations that, over the course of thousands of years, have developed unique approaches to fundamental questions about the nature of human beings and Page 4 their relationship to nature.