Timeline of how philosophers and scientists redefined the human being

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

900 BCE

The Indian philosophical text Chandogya Upanishad declares "Tat Tvam Asi" (that thou art).

Interpretation: The individual human being is essentially of the nature of existence-consciousness-limitlessness.

600 BCE

Kanada writes in the Vaisheshika Sutras, “Every object of creation is made of atoms (parmanu) which in turn connect with each other to form molecules (anu). Atoms are eternal, and their combinations constitute the empirical material world.”

Interpretation: The human body is made of small, indivisible parts.

400 BCE

Democritus writes, “By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void.”

Interpretation: The West and East seem to agree. The human body is essentially made of indivisible units. (a-tom = not-cut = indivisible)

300 BCE

Herophilus conducts systematic dissections of the human body and differentiates its organs.

Interpretation: The human body is now understood as a composition of its distinct physical organs.


Robert Hooke looks at cork through a microscope and discovers compartments he calls “cells.”

Interpretation: Living things may be made of small living compartments called cells.


Jan Swammerdam observes blood cells through a microscope.

Interpretation: The human body is observed to be comprised of cells.

Early 1800's

John Dalton conducts experiments that lead him to theorize that matter is made of discrete units (atoms).

Interpretation: The atomic visions of Kanada and Democritus are experimentally confirmed. The human body is made of indivisible matter units.


Theodor Schwann establishes cell theory: “The development of the proposition, that there exists one general principle for the formation of all organic productions, and that this principle is the formation of cells, as well as the conclusions which may be drawn from this proposition, may be described by the term cell-theory…”

Interpretation: The hierarchy of what the human body is made of is now established:

atoms → cells → organs → body


Ernest Rutherford develops the planetary model of the atom: a nucleus (sun) surrounded by electron particles (planets).

Interpretation: The human body is not made of indivisible atoms after all. It's made of even smaller sub-atomic particles.

particles → atoms → cells → organs → body.

This is generally the level at which our colleges, graduate and medical schools teach about the human body - the high school level. This is the level of understanding on which modern medicine rests today.


Davisson and Germer experimentally demonstrate that electrons also have a wave-like nature.

Interpretation: The human body is not fundamentally made of small ball-like particles:

waves/particles → atoms → cells → organs → body


Sir Arthur Eddington, an astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, writes, “The atom is as porous as the solar system. If we eliminated all the unfilled space in a man’s body and collected his protons and electrons into one mass, the man would be reduced to a speck just visible with a magnifying glass.”

Interpretation: The atomic and particulate model describes only an infinitesimal fraction of the human body.


Albert Einstein says, "We may say that, before Maxwell, Physical Reality ... was thought of as consisting in material particles ... Since Maxwell’s time, Physical Reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields ... and not capable of any mechanical interpretation. This change in the conception of Reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton."

Interpretation: The human body is not fundamentally made of atoms or particles. The human body is made of fields:

fields → waves/particles → atoms → cells → organs → body

This is the general consensus among physicists today..


Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine, publishes Introduction to a Submolecular Biology, in which he asks, “...should biologists allow themselves to be steered away from this electronic dimension because of their being unfamiliar with the intricacies of quantum mechanics?"

Interpretation: A leading scientist calls attention to the fact that biologists are not keeping up with scientific developments elucidating the nature of organisms.


John Archibald Wheeler, famed theoretical physicist, proposes that information is the basis of matter: "...every item of the physical world has at bottom — at a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that what we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe... Tomorrow we will have learned to understand and express all of physics in the language of information."

Interpretation: The human body is fundamentally informational, and the information we derive about it (field information, particle information, atomic information) appears as such because of how we pose our questions and make observations:

information → fields → waves/particles → atoms → cells → organs → body


Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins, writes, "The 1925 discovery of quantum mechanics solved the problem of the Universe’s nature. Bright physicists were again led to believe the unbelievable — this time, that the Universe is mental... But physicists have not yet followed Galileo’s example, and convinced everyone of the wonders of quantum mechanics... A common way to evade the mental Universe is to invoke ‘decoherence’ — the notion that ‘the physical environment’ is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in ‘Renninger-type’ experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The Universe is entirely mental."

Interpretation: The "physical" human body is an expression of the mind, and this mind is not located in the head of the body. Rather, the body is in the mind.

mind → information → fields → waves/particles → atoms → cells → organs → body

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© 2020 by Anoop Kumar