Volume 15, Issue 3, 1967
Attempts at Introducing the Idea of Field into Theoretical Biology
Modern physics has recently inspired more and more repeated attempts at introducing the idea of field into theoretical biology. The hypothesis was first used in biology on the basis of embryological investigations, and was next extended to other domains of the science of life. According to some biologists the field is the factor that coordinates developmental processes and influences the formation of the structural integrity of the organism.
The paper makes a chronological review of various ideas of biological field, together with their empirical foundations. The conceptions discussed are those elaborated by A. G. Gurvitch (supercellular field theory and his later cellular fields theory) J. Winter, H. S. Burr, E. J. Lund, A. S. Presman and, the largest of all, H. Prat’s biotic field theory.
The author discusses the relationship between the biological field and the field as understood in physics. At the present stage of biological science it is not possible to answer the question whether biological field can be identified with physical field. One can only say that there is some analogy between their respective descriptions given in physics and in biology.
The idea of biological field, as first expressed in Gurvitch’s theory of super- cellular field, was associated with vitalistic theory which, however, was to be eliminated later. It diverges, too, from the mechanicistic view. The biological field is an integral system which must be considered only as a whole, not as a sum of constituents. The hypothesis of biological field seems useful especially for describing the organism in its integral aspect.