April 16, 2010
Carin Berkowitz, Cornell University & PACHS Dissertation Writing Fellow
Rhetoric, Reform, and Revolution: Making “British Medicine” in Early Nineteenth-Century London
Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science, Regional ColloquiumJoin scholars from the area at the Regional Colloquium in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine for a discussion of the rhetoric of reform in British medical science and education during the early 19th century.
Time: Discussion, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.,
followed by social hour and light dinner
Location: The Wagner Free Institute of Science
Please download and read the paper in advance.
Abstract. During the first three decades of the 19th century, many proposals were circulated regarding reform in medical education. These proposals became numerous and their proponents very vocal by the 1820s, in great part due to the dialogue and audience generated by medical periodicals. While historians have often recognized the radicals of the reform movement, the movement itself was broad and comprised many groups. Those that emphasized practical skills and systematic education, and that might therefore be portrayed as more conservative when compared with their more radical experimentalist brethren, had more immediate success in shaping what constituted medical science and medical education in Britain, though they have often been overlooked. This paper evaluates the rhetoric of medical reform, examining reform through the eyes of its proponents. Conservative reformers, who wanted to refashion or improve medical education in London, wanted to do so in ways they considered particularly British—by emphasizing therapeutics and practice, by continuing what they represented as British traditions of philosophical anatomy and deductive physiology, and by promoting competition among decentralized educational institutions. These conservative reformers should not be mistaken for conservative members of the establishment. They based their medicine in the classroom and in practical attainments, and they used rhetorical distinctions between revolution and reform to advocate for reform in a conservative, restrained, British fashion.