What is physical life; its origin and nature
New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1909. 8vo. viii, [ii], 206 pp. FIRST EDITION. With half-title and 1 plate. Green cloth, gilt spine and gilt title on front cover, rear cover with some scuff marks, corners slightly bumped; text is clean and bright. A very good copy. Item #15598
First edition of an important examination of the origin of life from the perspective of a physician. With this work, Thomson intended to “show that enough has been demonstrated already to prove that the hypothesis of earthly life ever having had a spontaneous, or mechanical, or physico-chemical origin, is wholly untenable” (Preface, p. vi). Additionally, he delves into several perspectives on the question of the origin of physical life, including that of Darwin and his contemporaries, presenting as many facets as he can. He also discusses reproduction and heredity, unicellular and multicellular organisms, adaptations, and the “great food question,” in which he posits that all life requires food or sustenance of some sort. He uses Darwin’s eat or be eaten theory to illustrate his point: “It was the Food Question which set Natural Selection to shape the lion so that he would be well hid while waiting for his living meal on a gazelle, and in turn made the legs of the gazelle good for running away from him” (p. 119). Thomson’s work on the origin of physical life attracted attention in the years following it’s publication, with a lengthy article in the New York Times in 1911 in which he reiterated many of the points in this work for the general public in an attempts to demystify the mystery of life.
Thomson (1833-1918), an American physician and author born in Syria, was a respected researcher in the field of nervous and mental diseases. President of the New York Academy of Medicine from 1898-1900, Thomson was also a consulting physician at the Roosevelt Hospital, the Manhattan Hospital for the Insane, and the New York Red Cross Hospital. His primary works focused on the brain and personality, biology, and the origin of life. A man of great faith, he also authored numerous books on religion and Christianity. He was also known for publically criticizing Thomas Edison’s claim that there is no soul and no life after death.