A Medical Humanities Revival in Glasgow?

The minutes of the Society's meeting on the 13th March 1866. Courtesy of the Archives of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Jane Macnaughton writes:

As an exiled Scot – a Glaswegian in fact – I was honoured and delighted to be invited to address The Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society of Glasgow last night.  This is an historic organisation founded in 1866.   Its members are medical practitioners and there is a thriving student society whose members turned out in some numbers despite driving wind and rain.  The society’s aim (as set down in 1866) is to  ‘receive communications on medicine, surgery and collateral sciences, and to promote professional development’.  My communication was entitled ‘The Story of Medical Humanities’, and as I was putting this talk together I had the opportunity to reflect on the very significant part Glasgow had to play in the early developments of our field in the UK.  The most significant figures were Robin Downie, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, who as far back as the 1980’s was organising day conferences for a wide range of interested academics, writers, artists and practitioners on medicine and literature.  Robin worked closely with Sir Kenneth Calman, who, as Vice Chancellor at Durham, was responsible for setting up the Centre for Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine (CAHHM) and for my removal from Glasgow to Durham in 2000 to be its first Director.   I paid tribute to these figures in the talk, and intended to make a clarion call for Glasgow to revive its historic place in medical humanities.  But as it happens I had to strike that call out of my script because at lunch time yesterday I attended a meeting at Glasgow University’s College of Arts (as the Arts Faculty is now called) where they were discussing their intention to set up a Centre for Medical Humanities with two newly created posts to support its development.  This is an exciting prospect and one that I hope will lead to further collaborations between Durham and Glasgow, and –  as the exiled heart always yearns to return – more trips north!


About Jane Macnaughton

Jane is professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University and co-Director of the Centre for Medical Humanities. She has research interests in the nature of the clinical encounter and intersubjectivities within it, in the phenomenology of smoking, and in the methodology of interdisciplinarity within medical humanities. She is a also a clinician working in gynaecology. She is married to Andrew Russell, and they have a son, Euan (9), Jane's stepson, Ben (20) and a border terrier dog called Bertie.
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