Tis book is about such a research programme and the people, institutionsand traditions urthering it. Yet, and more generally, the book is also about the way the organicist tradition, in its diverse orms and maniestations, inuencednew scientic problems, experimental practices and controversial results during the rst decades o the twentieth century. In drawing an intellectual map o inu-ences, connections and ideas, the book also charts the diferent ways through which an old eighteenth- and nineteenth-century organicist tradition – a Kan-tian and Romantic tradition – was ltered and re-ourished in the twentiethcentury. We will see how important Romantic naturalists and philosophers wereor the ormulation o an organismic programme; how inuential their ideas andspeculation on the nature o lie were or some twentieth-century biologists; andhow relevant their views were on how organisms had to be perceived and studied.In other words, we will explore the ramications, interpretations and multiple waves o difusion o such a Romantic, holistic bio-philosophy in England andthe United States, without overlooking its circulation in other countries.Tanks to the eforts o many historians and philosophers in the last ve dec-ades, we have a airly good knowledge about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Romantic sciences. From the pioneering work o Alexander Gode-von Aesch,
Natural Science in German Romanticism
(1941), and Stephen J. Gould,
Ontogeny and Philogeny
(1977), many more recent contributions ollowed. From the book edited by A. Cunningham and N. Jardine,
Romanticism and the Sciences
(1990),to other collections o essays and books, individual articles and companions, we are aware that German Romanticism and urther orms o Romanticism inother countries were deeply preoccupied with scientic issues.
Eighteenth- andnineteenth-century Romantic naturalists provided an important and enduring contribution to the sciences, rom physics to biology, rom geology to naturalhistory. As John Reddick emphasizes, Romantic naturalists and
‘did make a very real contribution to the development o the sciences … in particular, its dare-to-speculate mentality greatly urthered the sciences in theirquantum leap rom the physics derived xed-mechanism model o the world inthe eighteenth century, to the transormational, evolutionary model so charac-teristic o the nineteenth’.
A ew years later Steano Bossi and Maurizio Poggiollowed: in the introduction o their edited book
Romanticism in Science
they explain: ‘we want to make it very clear that the Romantic age was a greatscientical age. It is very important to underline this and to avoid all misunder-standings in ront o the widespread nostalgic attitude o those who look back tothe rst decades o the last century, in search o some mysterious, oracle-like, pro- phetic, or even catastrophical elements’.
Frederick Beiser, in a convincing attemptto evaluate
in its appropriate historical context, also recountsthat the
were not the over-speculative, anti-empirical and irra-tional ‘cranks’ that have oen been portrayed.
was considered by