Physiology of the Fetus: Origin and Extent of Function in Prenatal Life

Physiology of the Fetus: Origin and Extent of Function in Prenatal Life

Physiology of the Fetus: Origin and Extent of Function in Prenatal Life

Physiology of the Fetus: Origin and Extent of Function in Prenatal Life

Excerpt

More than half a century ago Wilhelm Preyer published a monograph "Specielle Physiologie des Embryo" embodying not only a review of the literature of that day, but a great many new observations of his own as well. This book has occupied a rather unique position in that it was long the only source of summarized knowledge concerning the activities of embryos and fetuses of many species. That no other book has quite taken its place is not surprising because, after initial exploration of the field, physiologists turned their attention to more urgent problems concerning the adult. Within the last decade or two, interest has revived and a school of developmental physiology has come into being. Many of the subjects discussed by Preyer have been restudied profitably by experimental methods not available in his time, and new observations have added facts of great significance to our conception of life before birth. Few biologists, however, are aware of all that has been accomplished during the last few years.

My main purpose in writing the present book was to assemble and summarize scattered physiologic observations on fetuses for my own information and for that of my students. I hope that the result will be useful to others who are working in fetal physiology and perhaps will help direct attention to problems which need to be investigated. Another purpose was to provide a supplement for courses in embryology to help stress functional aspects of development; this is in line with current trends of medical teaching. Finally, I had in mind those in allied fields, especially neurology, psychology and pediatrics, who are interested in problems of behavior and who have frequent occasion to desire knowledge of prenatal physiology.

Originally I thought to produce a more comprehensive review somewhat similar to that of Preyer, but my first excursions into fields with which I had been only slightly familiar before demonstrated the futility of doing so within a single small volume. Some of the purposes of the task would have been defeated by under-

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