The Practical Art of Medicine: dissection, diagnosis and disease in the Early Modern Period (Exhibition and Events, Durham University, 2013)

The Practical Art of Medicine: dissection, diagnosis and disease in the Early Modern Period is a ‘Spotlight’ exhibition in the Wolfson Gallery, Palace Green Library, Durham. It looks at the period between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries and its many advances in the study of anatomy, chemistry and physiology. Inspired by the collections of physician, historian and bibliophile Dr. C. E. Kellett (1903-1978), this exhibition draws on collections from throughout the Library’s holdings and includes work by Jean Fernel, Andreas Vesalius and William Harvey. Here is a listing of events associated with the exhibition:

 Ambroise Paré and the Origins of Forensic Medicine – show and tell by Dr. Cathy McClive
Saturday 26th January, 2pm

Strongly opposed by the conservative medical faculty in Paris, Paré’s Oeuvres were reprinted nearly a dozen times in 100 years. Containing sections on reproduction, monsters and hermaphrodites alongside more traditional surgical topics, the book also includes the first French-language medico-legal treatise, which played a significant role in the establishment of this expertise amongst European surgeons. This session will look in detail at Paré’s practical instructions for surgeons called upon to testify in the judicial arena and will compare his 1575 text with the Papal physician Paolo Zacchia’s (1584-1659) Quaestiones medico-legales.

Blood and the Practical Art of Medicine – talk by Dr. Cathy McClive
Thursday 7th February, 5.30pm

Early modern medical attitudes towards blood were often ambivalent. Feared and maligned when ‘bad’ and ‘diseased’, blood was also recognised as the source of life and the origin of milk, semen, flesh and bones. It was the most important of the four humours, containing the remaining three: phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Blood-letting was a common practice throughout the medieval and early modern periods, used both to diagnose and to treat a range of conditions. Despite being challenged by Harvey’s circulation theory, the practice remained central to the art of medicine well beyond the eighteenth century.

The Practical and not-so-practical art of Fashionable Melancholia: From Black Bile to Hamlet
Thursday 28th February, 5.30pm

Further exploring the themes of diagnosis and treatment highlighted in the exhibition, this talk will sweep through the history of melancholia from its early links with humoral imbalance to the representation of misery in the character of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and beyond. Delivered by members of the Fashionable Diseases research project team at Northumbria University, this talk promises to be fast-paced and fascinating.


Andreas Vesalius, Charles Estienne and the Art of Anatomy
– show and tell by Dr. Cathy McClive
Thursday 28th March, 2pm

Andreas Vesalius is often credited with a watershed in anatomical understanding and representation in the Renaissance, but he was not the only anatomist working in new ways in this period. This session will examine Vesalius’ text alongside that of his rival Estienne. Drawing on other anatomical texts in Palace Green Library’s Special Collections, including the earliest representation of a public dissection by Mondino da Luzzi (d. 1326) and Adriaan van de Spiegel‘s De humani corporis fabricaprinted in 1627, it will discuss the nature of pre-and-post-Vesalian anatomy in early modern European medicine and art.

About Centre for Medical Humanities

Centre for Medical Humanities
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