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Week 3: The Medical Renaissance, c.1500-1700

Lecturer: Michael Bycroft

This week’s lecture introduces the medical ideas of ancient Greek and Roman authors, such as Hippocrates and Galen, and describes how these ideas were challenged by certain European authors in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Important challenges came from Andreas Vesalius, who published unprecedentedly detailed descriptions of human anatomy; from Paracelsus, who maintained that chemistry was the key to understanding and curing the human body; and from William Harvey, who used experiments on live animals to show that human blood is in continuous circulation around the body. One common feature of these three authors was their emphasis on first-hand experience of the human body. All three had ground-breaking ideas, but all three were indebted to the ancient authors they challenged. Indeed, the revival and imitation of ancient authors was a characteristic feature of the medical Renaissance, as it was of the Renaissance as a whole. It was especially true ofVesalius, who is the focus of this seminar.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

What kinds of ‘medical experience’ existed in the 16th and 17th centuries?

What are the reasons for the rise of experience in medicine during the 16th century?

Did Vesalius revolutionise medicine?


Required Readings:

Dear, Peter, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and its Ambitions, 3rd ed. (Chicago, 2013), chapter 2 (pp. 29-46) [e-book]

Cunningham, Andrew, The Anatomical Renaissance: The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects of the Ancients (1997), 'Chapter Four: Vesalius: The Revival of Galenic Anatomy', pp. 88-142. [extracts]


Further Readings:

[Note: in each section the texts are arranged roughly in order of increasing difficulty]

General:

Cook, Harold J. ‘[Early Modern] Medicine’, in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science, ed. Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park (Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 407–34.

Porter, Roy, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present (London: Harper Collins, 1999), chaps. 8 and 9

Wear, Andrew, ‘Medicine in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700’, in The Western Medical Tradition: 800 BC to AD 1800, ed. Lawrence I. Conrad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 215–362.

Wear, A., R. K. French, and Iain M. Lonie, eds, The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985)

Vesalius and Renaissance anatomy:

Nutton, Vivian, ‘Introduction’, in Andreas Vesalius, De humanis corporis fabrica, trans. Daniel Garrison and Malcolm Hast. http://vesalius.northwestern.edu

Website: Historical anatomies on the web http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/vesalius_home.h

Cunningham, Andrew, The Anatomical Renaissance: The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects of the Ancients (1997), chapter on Vesalius

Park, Katharine, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (New York, 2006), Chapter: The Empire of Anatomy, pp. 207-260. (famous book with a very interesting interpretation of Vesalius’s title page).

Carlino, Andrea, Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning (Chicago: 1999)

French, Roger, Dissection and Vivisection in the European Renaissance (Aldershot, 1999)

William Harvey:

Cunningham, Andrew, chapter on William Harvey in Man Masters Nature: Twenty-five Centuries of Science, ed. Roy Porter (New York: George Brazillier, 1988).

French, Roger, William Harvey's Natural Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Paracelsus:

Dear, Peter, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and its Ambitions, 3rd ed. (Chicago, 2013), chapter 3 (pp. 47-63)

‘Paracelsus,’ article in Charles C. Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York: Scribner, 1970-80)