Preserving the Past: An Exploration of Medical Archives
By Lisa Mix, Independent Archivist
What you can find in medical archives and who takes care of them? Medical archives document the history of health care practice, education, professional associations, and more. They tell the stories of practitioners, patients, institutions, and places. This talk will explore the vast array of treasures held in medical historical collections – the raw materials for the history of medicine. Lisa Mix will discuss the many uses of medical archives and the role of archivists in preserving these resources and making them available. She will draw upon her experience as an archivist at 3 academic medical centers on 2 coasts, and also highlight key digital resources and some local gems.
Atoms, Lies, and Hands with Eyes: Daniel Sennert’s Chymical Reform of 17th Century Medicine
By Joel A. Klein, Molina Curator for the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, The Huntington
Faced with intransigent traditionalists on the one hand and brash innovators on the other, the Wittenberg professor of medicine Daniel Sennert (1572-1637) sought a major reform of medicine rooted in alchemy, atomism, and experiments. This talk focuses on Sennert’s published works as well as his long-neglected correspondence to historicize the culture of chymical medicine at a major center of medical education in The Holy Roman Empire. Sennert – who was sometimes called the “German Galen” – has been remembered for his influential corpuscular theory, his careful description of scarlet fever, and his supervision of one of the first successful cesarean sections in Germany. He also offered one of the first courses on chymistry at a university and spent the majority of his career seeking a universal medicine and other alchemical drugs. Driven by his Lutheran faith and his belief in the public good, he clashed with secretive practitioners attempting to profit off the sale of clandestine remedies as well as charlatans attempting to defraud patients or physicians. Even so, his attempts to reform medicine led to a protracted controversy in which he was formally charged with blasphemy and heresy.