Celebrating and commemorating
in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium
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This chapter discusses societies’ role in the forging of a scientific community. It focuses on society members’ engagement with commemorative practices ‒ practices that established a shared, collective memory. Such practices, the chapter shows, were highly normative: through eulogies and biographical sketches society members, in fact, reinforced common ideals of scientific study. Within a context of Belgian patriotism in the early and mid-nineteenth century such ideals were strongly connected to the young Belgian nation. The commemoration of famous ‘Belgian’ physicians from the past functioned as a means of emphasizing physicians’ contributions to this nation. This link between medicine and the nation was gradually eroded in the second half of the century. While historical references to a gentlemanly medical culture could still function as a means to criticize present-day medicine, society members increasingly constructed their own ‘scientific’ set of beliefs and norms, and sought closer affiliation to academe. Festivities were organised in honor of university professors. Mourning rituals accompanied their deaths. Through these rites, the scientific community presented itself as a ‘family’, celebrating its ‘fathers’ for their guidance and praising the ascetic life they led in the name of science.


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