Fostered by the French in medical centres like Montpellier and popularized by philosophes such as Denis Diderot, vitalism gradually gained a foothold in Scotland and England, in spite of the pervasiveness of the iatromechanical model so popular among British physicians like George Cheyne and philosophers like

Joseph Priestley and David Hartley.5 Vitalism rejected the mechanistic understanding of human functions and ascribed to organic matter a force that kept it alive even under duress.6 Although necessarily retaining a materialist component by virtue of its emphasis on organic matter, vitalism nonetheless placed an emphasis upon the soul, thereby rendering it a welcome alternative to the atheistic doctrines many associated with mechanism.7 In representing nature as ‘a powerful, vital force’,8 vitalism further presented a contrast to the morbidity of mechanism, in a sense substituting a culture of life for a culture of death in the early nineteenth century.9