Joseph Murphy

photo needed In animate thermodynamics, Joseph John Murphy (1827-1894) was an Irish poet, natural philosopher, and science and religion reconciliatory, noted for his 1869 Habit and Intelligence in their Connexion with the Laws of Matter and Force, wherein he attempts to grapple with thermodynamics and evolution.

In 1869, Murphy, in his 1869 Habit and Intelligence in their Connexion with the Laws of Matter and Force, a completely original work as he states,
he attempts to integrate the recent work of Charles Darwin (Origin of Species, 1859) and the newly-developed principles of thermodynamics (particularly the views of Hermann Helmholtz) to outline some type of laws of the habit and intelligence, as he sees things.

Murphy defines thermo-dynamics (although he doesn’t actually use this term) as the theory that proved that “heat consists in molecular motions, and that the laws of heat are only a particular case of the laws of force”, and on this definition attempts to outline a “dynamics of life”.

The book contains a number of interesting chapters for such a date, such as on topics including: chemical energy, chemical affinity, the “border-land where life comes into contact with inorganic matter and force”, among others.

Of note, Murphy compares the animal organism to the steam engine, and reasoned that a “vital energy”, a variable quantity of static actual energy, is capable of being transformed when needed either into heat or into muscular motor power. He regarded vital energy as “a distinct form of actual energy, just like heat, electricity, magnetism, or the energy of motion. [1]

In his treatise, Murphy seems to make an attempt at the phenomenon of exothermic (heat releasing) and endothermic (heat absorbing) reactions, with his notion of “thermo-positive” and “thermo-negative” compounds.

Dead matter
An updated and revises second edition was published in 1879 in an attempt to incorporated recent advances in knowledge seen in the previous decade. The revised work moves the tenuous subject of the “origin of life” into the third chapter position, opening with a query on how “dead matter” (or “dead molecules” as recent works have addressed things) give rise to “living matter” (or “living molecules”, recent): [2]

“Question whether life can evolve from matter.—We have seen in the preceding chapter that life appears to consist in the peculiar relations of the organism, or living being, to matter and energy. This however does not solve the questions, whether the peculiar vital principle is a resultant from the powers of dead matter, and whether life can be produced from inorganic matter by any physico-chemical process.”

This sticky point issue quickly rises to the fore in the works of authors attempting to reconcile religion and science; a recent example being the work of Christian de Quincey, who asks in his 2002 book Radical Nature. [3]

Murphy’s education, born into a wealthy family, was almost wholly “at home” and he had no university training, a loss due to the fact that nonconformists were then excluded from all the universities; he was always studious, and an omnivorous reader, but independent and outspoken in his judgments, sentiments, opinions, speculations. [4]

1. Murphy, Joseph J. (1869). Habit and Intelligence in Their Connexion with the Laws of Matter and Force: a Series of Scientific Essays, Volume 1 (ch. 5: “Chemical Energies”, 47-54; ch. 8: “The Chemistry of Life”, pgs. 84-89; ch. 9: “The Dynamics of Life”, pgs. 90-109). Macmillan and Co.
2. Murphy, Joseph J. (1879). Habit and Intelligence: a Series of Essays on the Laws of Life and Mind. MacMillan and Co.
3. De Quincey, Christian. (2002). Radical Nature: Rediscovering the Soul of Matter (dead, 25+ pgs). Invisible Cities Press.
4. (a) Grosart, Alexander B. (1898). “Joseph John Murphy (1827-1894)”, in: The Poets and the Poetry of the Century (editor: Alfred Miles) (pgs. 591-92). Hutchinson & Co.
(b) Joseph John Murphy –

Further reading
● Murphy, Joseph J. (1873). The Scientific Bases of Faith. Publisher.
● Murphy, Joseph J. (c.1880). Natural Selection and Spiritual Freedom. Publisher.

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