The Philosophical Origins of Mitchell's Chemiosmotic Concepts: The Personal Factor in Scientific Theory Formulation

Journal of the History of Biology 34 (3):433 - 460 (2001)
Mitchell's formulation of the chemiosmotic theory of oxidative phosphorylation in 1961 lacked any experimental support for its three central postulates. The path by which Mitchell reached this theory is explored. A major factor was the role of Mitchell's philosophical system conceived in his student days at Cambridge. This system appears to have become a tacit influence on his work in the sense that Polanyi understood all knowledge to be generated by an interaction between tacit and explicit knowing. Early in his life Mitchell had evolved a simple philosophy based on fluctoids, fluctids and statids which was developed in a thesis submitted for the Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, England. This aspect of his work was rejected by the examiners and became a tacit element in his intellectual development. It is argued from his various publications that this philosophy can be traced as an underlying theme behind much of Mitchell's theoretical writing in the 50's leading, through his notion of vectorial metabolism, to the formulation and amplification of the chemiosmotic theory in the sixties. This philosophy formed the basis for Mitchell of his understanding of biological systems and gave him his unique approach to cell biology.
Keywords bioenergetics  chemiosmotic theory  fluctoids  membrane transport,/kwd>  Peter Mitchell  Michael Polanyi  oxidative phosphorylation  vectorial metabolism
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DOI 10.1023/A:1012946715673
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