Networks and collections
in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium
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This chapter highlights the role of medical societies in the circulation of anatomical objects. It shows how Belgian anatomists used societies to realize one of the most prestigious contemporary medical projects ‒ to give the young Belgian nation its own anatomical collections and traditions. Societies’ networks of correspondents allowed academics such as the Ghent professor Adolphe Burggraeve to expand their academic collections. By donating or presenting anatomical specimens, rural physicians or those from smaller cities received recognition for partaking in scientific study. In the second half of the nineteenth century, these networks changed. On the level of the participants, students and young researchers replaced private practitioners as the main providers of new specimens. In addition, an accurate scientific description was required from these providers to receive credit. Simply donating a specimen was no longer regarded as a sufficient contribution to the sciences. On the level of scientific standards, finally, the ideals of rarity, curiosity and aesthetics became superseded by accuracy and seriality ‒ a shift that reflected the growing importance of quantification in medicine as well as the rise of pathological anatomy as a scientific specialism.

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