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The Shadow of EnlightenmentOptical and Political Transparency in France 1789-1848$
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Theresa Levitt

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199544707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544707.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 January 2022

A Vital Matter: Light and Life

A Vital Matter: Light and Life

(p.105) 4 A Vital Matter: Light and Life
The Shadow of Enlightenment

Theresa Levitt

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the question of light and living bodies. Arago once again fashioned himself as a debunker, questioning the claims of the rising spiritualist movement that there exist previously unknown forms of radiation that act on living organisms. Biot, meanwhile, strove to make exactly that point: through optical activity, the world could be divided into active (living) and inactive (non-living) matter. One could only distinguish the two by the effect they had on the plane of polarization of light. Biot's work became the basis of Pasteur's anti-materialism crusade.

Keywords:   Arago, Biot, spiritualism, animal magnetism, optical activity, vitalism, Pasteur, materialism

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