New Medical Challenges during the Scottish Enlightenment

New Medical Challenges during the Scottish Enlightenment

New Medical Challenges during the Scottish Enlightenment

New Medical Challenges during the Scottish Enlightenment

Excerpt

The Scottish Enlightenment continues to attract the attention of historians. Situated at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, consumer society and rise of the middle class, this period offers fascinating opportunities for detailed studies dealing with the effects of a new urban and commercial world. As pointed out by Paul Wood and Charles W.J. Withers in their recent historiographical essay, studies centred on science and medicine reached maturity in the 1970s and flourished in subsequent decades. Authors such as John Christie, J.B. Morell, and Anand Chitnis were among the first to draw the intellectual and social contours of knowledge pertaining to the 'natural' world. Subsequent contributions by Roger Emerson, Thomas L. Hankins and Christopher Lawrence placed science and medicine at the very centre of Scotland's ideology of improvement, a notion currently under challenge. In a recent essay, Richard B. Sher has attempted to define the Scottish Enlightenment as a broad cultural movement that includes all branches of polite learning, including scientific and medical aspects. Such a framework allows for a better integration of future studies in this field. Moreover, both Withers and Wood conclude their review by suggesting that work on all topics should continue to address different levels of historical analysis and contribute to a better interpretation of the Enlightenment's belief in the unity and utility of knowledge.

This collection of original essays aims to further enrich our understanding of the place and nature of Scottish health, science, and medicine. Recent authors have stressed the linkages between sites and ways of knowing. The primary focus is on Edinburgh, and the topics selected for study are expressions of its local scientific culture. Each chapter constitutes a particular window into specific aspects of the medical past based on hitherto seldom-tapped documentation: book manuscripts, consultation letters, hospital registration and management records, as well as student essays, lecture notes, and notebooks. Printed materials, including books, legal documents, and newspaper reports, supplement these sources. The resulting portraits review a number of social and scientific practices. They include charitable endeavours, debates between members of a learned society, vivisection experiments, disease construction and classification, as well as clinical management and teaching. The images conjured also display . . .

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